Over the last couple of days, I was going through various posts in the Blank Noise Project. There were a few things that struck me after going through a fair number of posts.
– Almost every woman in India has faced Eve Teasing at some point or another in her life.
– Most women are angry about it. Very few have given it back.
– Very few women, even after all the eve teasing, actually consider all men as perverts.
– Very few posts actually provide the possible reasons behind eve-teasing, and even fewer posts provide ideas about how it could be reduced and gradually eradicated.
So, here’s my humble take on it all. I will not call it eve teasing, it sounds too simplistic. Lets call it Sexual Harassment.
Sexual harassment is present in almost every country of the world, in almost every society of this world. The one in India is of a peculiar kind, and quite different from the type found in say a US, a Europe of a Brazil.
In India, harassment is more about leering at women, mouthing lewd phrases/words/songs at women, groping them when no one is watching, accidental brushes while walking or in public transport, and so on. There is also another kind, slightly rarer than the one I just described, and found mostly in northern parts of India, particularly Delhi and surrounding regions. Here, the harassers are not afraid, they almost take it as their right to harass women. They do it in full view, in crowded areas, in broad daylight.
There could be varied reasons for such behaviour of a substantial portion of men in Indian society. One could be the conservative social ambience that most Indian men grow up in. Most boys, while growing up, never get a chance to date. Its considered bad, and hence they never think of asking a girl out. The only way most men can have sexual encounter is after marriage. So even a casual brush with a woman in a crowded bus is a significant titillation for them. Second is, the lack of education, specifically sex education. Because of this, they dont understand their own body and a female body. They dont know what happens to them in puberty, and how to handle those situations. Third is the skewed sex ratio in most parts of India. Women in general in India, have a better chance to find the preferred man (if given the liberty), than the other way round. In many north Indian villages, you have to pay to get a bride.
I believe the two types of people have to be dealt differently. Here’s what I think could be done to tackle the situations of sexual harrassment.
As for the former type, they are mostly cowards. Uneducated(not necessarily illiterate), sexually frustrated/deprived, conservatively bred men, who see women as just objects of sexual gratification, and hence try to get whatever they can. A mere brush with a woman, or whistling at her, singing latest item numbers or groping her in crowded places titillates such people, and gives them a sort of sexual release. I believe the best way to deal with them is to confront them then and there. Usually such people run away at the first sign of resistence. Even better, to attack them physically, shouting out loud. If you are the shy kind, and dont want others to know that you have just suffered from sexual harassment, just start screaming that that person was trying to snatch your purse, or bag, or something. Mostly they will get a good pasting from the crowd. (However, do try to make sure that it was not just an accidental brush, otherwise a poor innocent chap could get beaten up).
The second type, one needs to guard against. They wont be thrown off by a stare or a kick. In some cases, they would go as far as abduction, assault or even rape. For such people, you need to be prepared in self-defense. You need to know karate/taekwondo/kungfu or any other self defense art. Carry a pepper spray, pocket knife with you. If can afford, carry a cellphone with emergency numbers handy. And most important of all, prepare yourself for encoutering such people. Visualize that you are going through a empty lane at midnight and there is a guy sitting at a corner. Think about those scenarios, and how you should attack him, if he were to try anything crazy. This would help you not get paralyzed when you actually face such a scenario (I learnt this from one of the fire-drills in my previous organization. The instructor told us how so many people who are aware of extinguishers, dont actually know how to use them in case of a fire. He asked us to try it out atleast once every six months.) I guess same applies for sexual harrassment too. You need to prepare yourself mentally to face such situations, before you can successfully handle them in real life.
And as far as eradicating this menace from Indian society is concerned, I guess the only solution lies in education. The more and more educated people become, the more open they will become in terms of their thinking (take the case of most big cities). This would open them up to free interactions between boys and girls, which would reduce the ‘taboo’ factor associated with sex. The more sexually aware the next gen Indian boys are, the lesser the chance of them groping at a woman in a bus/metro for a momentary titillation. Also, I guess some sort of law is needed to bring down an abrupt change in the attitude of Indian society towards sexual harassment.