|Streets, bus stands, railway stations, parks and other public places should be for everyone to access and enjoy. Yet for many women they are the scenes of harassment. Everyday women face systematic assault on their fundamental right to free movement and personal dignity.
As Seema walks down the street, a group of men makes comments about her face and figure–“Hey, what a figure!” “Is it 32 or 36!” She walks on without comment annoyed at the intrusion. Then the comments get nasty–“you bitch!”
Sudha is standing in a queue for a bus. Suddenly she feels a hand grab at her breast. She looks around but isn’t sure who did it. She feels violated and too stunned to say anything.
Kavitha notices a man following her on the way home from work. He stays quite a distance back but is there day after day. One day he comes closer and calls out. She is afraid and changes her route and travel time to avoid him.
Sexual harassment at public places is unwelcome, unsolicited behavior of a sexual nature including staring, gesticulating, touching, passing comments, trailing. These may not seem to be a big problem, but they can be quite upsetting. It makes women feel ashamed, humiliated or frightened.
Myths associated with sexual harassment at public places:
|Wearing certain kinds of clothes lead to sexual harassment
This is a myth. Several studies done around the world show that women of all ages and wearing all kinds of clothes are vulnerable to harassment.
A study done by NIPPCID for Delhi Police showed that 82% of the women who were part of the survey were wearing everyday, non-provocative clothes when they were harassed (salwar kameez, trouser –top, saree)
Is harassment only done by some kinds of people
This is a commonly held perception. The issue is not of one’s class but of one’s mindset, which allows one to harass women believing that women are easy targets
How to deal with sexual harassment:
It is not possible to have one single strategy to address this. It is important to make a judgment on the spot depending on the context.
Learn to say ‘NO’ loudly and clearly. Prepare a stock sentence (like “Stop staring at me”) and practise saying it to yourself until it becomes a reflex. If you are harassed, repeat it again and again till you feel confident to use in public place.
Learn to communicate confidence in yourself. Look straight at people who accost you and speak clearly and calmly in response. Show others that you are aware of your rights and space.
If you are in a bus the driver & conductor can be approached for complaints. As per law they should assist the victim by accompanying them to the nearest police station.
Carrying with you safety pins and learning self defence techniques can be helpful.
If you are being harassed regularly it is better if you inform the same to your parents/friends. It can be therapeutic and supportive. Many women face this problem and understand what you are experiencing.
What men can do to stop harassment