Tuesday, 11 October 2011
“Two boys the trademark muscular built and tight shirt, dancing like they do on marriages and singing song for a girl who was sitting alone waiting for someone, at a public restaurant.”
Most of us have been writing articles and posts on the sexual harassment, but wrote very little on this issue. This phenomenon of eve-teasing stands for public harassment, teasing and molestation of women by men. The term may not be found in European and American literature much, but the process takes place even in western cultures too. The semantic roots of the euphemistic term basically originate from Indian English language. The strangest thing about eve-teasing is that it’s a much difficult crime to prove, as compared with the sexual harassment. The Indian government has taken measures and steps against this thing by establishing women police stations and anti eve-teasing cells. Eve-teasing starts with some street molestation and can go up to a severe crime, like acid throwing. The eve-teasing that results in death of the victim can ultimately be linked with a crime. For example the death of Sarika Shah and Pearl Gupta, who both died as a result of eve-teasing, raised the issue to be thought provoking. The women rights organization helped to pass ‘The Delhi Prohibition of Eve-teasing Bill 1984′.
Whatever I found on eve-teasing issue, were the laws and punishments by the Indian government. The National Commission for Women proposed No 9. Eve Teasing (New Legislation) in 1988. According to Indian Penal Code, a man found guilty of passing comments, remarks, making obscene gestures and singing vulgar songs, can be sentenced to imprisonment for three months. The section 292 clearly spells that the man showing pornographic material to a girl or woman would be fined Rs. 2000 with an imprisonment of two years for first offenders and in case of repeated offense, could be sentenced to a fine of Rs. 5000 with five years of imprisonment. ‘The Black Noise Project’ is yet another initiative by Jasmeen Patheja taken against eve-teasing.
The psychology of eve-teasing is not that simple. Some people hold a myth that because of their, attractive looks, dress and make-up, eve-teasing comes up. But, some women covering themselves completely and without any make-up even reported it. Even the girls wearing Hijab and Abaya complained of it. People hold a second myth to it that women should not go out and stay at home. What would happen to working widows and single moms, who have to earn and raise their children? If they stick to their homes, who is going to feed their kids? The same applies to college and university students. The myth states that they should bid adieu to their studies forever. A third myth associated with eve-teasing is that only young and beautiful college girls are victims of it. Not only college girls are the victims, but some senior 40+ aged women are also molested. School girls, college students, working women regularly go through mortifying comments by the disruptive men at public places.
The similar phenomenon has been described as “Chikan” in Japanese culture, with a little variation in it. The kind of sexual antagonism is even harder to define in every culture. It’s just not a street gesture but a social evil and lethal crime. Even the term originates from India, but the phenomenon is experienced a lot in Pakistan and Bangladesh too. In Bangladesh, they recently observed “Eve Teasing Protection Day” on 13th June, 2010. In Pakistan, we see so many cases and examples of it at schools, cinemas, universities, bus stops, college gates, cinemas, shopping centers, NGOs, Malls, concerts, cafes, restaurants and even business centers aren’t free of this rampant evil. You would find groups of boys trying to attract or gather a female’s attention, by singing songs, passing comments and staring badly at times. Eve-teasing has its own objectives and it’s strange to note that the teasers and victims are ordinary people. The eve teasing cases are usually ignored. But the eve-teasing cases that lead to the suicide and death of the victim cannot be ignored at any cost, because sometimes it overlaps with sexual harassment. How would one define eve-teasing by the recruitment manager of a company, who saves cell number from electronic CV of a female candidate and then makes dumb unwanted phone calls? (Text eve-teasing)Even if someone covers herself the calls would still be there. How would you define cyber eve-teasing? One can only feel cyber eve- teasing. Eve teasing in the corporate world is both unethical as well as unprofessional.
Most people define and would take it as fun. But the same teasers would react badly and would be ready to kill someone who teases their siblings. One must know and understand that this is not just an ordinary joke but it has serious ramifications. What shocked me more was that India and Bangladesh are raising awareness among people on this social evil. I didn’t see any research work, article or any kind of awareness campaign in Pakistan regarding this issue. Though on sexual harassment, there are many articles and blogs. Even the sexual harassment bill is in its implementation phase and doldrums. Is it because of the reason that we perceive ‘eve teasing’ as sexual harassment or we never bothered to raise any awareness on this topic? Is ‘eve-teasing’ as a soft way of describing blatant harassment that ranges from verbal to physical abuse, may be facial at times? We have been talking about sexual harassment, but talked nothing about ‘eve teasing’? Does it need a law in a situation like where women, who dare to come out on the streets are subjected to unconcealed sexual harassment and catcalls by men, a behavior that would be highly punishable by jail-terms in most of the western countries. The recent chopping off nose of a teaser isn’t the right solution nor is the beating up the culprit is the right one. Instead of treating it as a social evil, would make some sense. It has become a sadistic cycle. If India and Bangladesh are taking measures on this issue, why can’t we do the same? I would simply shun out the critics who talk about Adam-teasing, since Eve-teasing is more rampant. Apart from being a crime, it damages the self esteem and dignity of a woman publicly. Avoiding this issue may not serve as a remedy. A civilized society must not afford to disregard such an important issue, since it makes parents insecure. It deserves to be handled keenly. Eliminating eve-teasing would help women visit public places without any fear, boost their self esteem and will further gender equality.
The horror of eve-teasing first hit me at the age of thirteen. I was in the middle of a crowded market, when a man walking towards me tried to squeeze my thigh. I elbowed him in the stomach with all the strength I could muster, and he walked away quietly, shamefaced. Yet I suddenly felt sick, petrified and edgy, afraid that what had happened once could happen again. I also developed a dislike for crowds
Then dawned the realization that this was not my problem alone. Talking to friends and classmates I realized that that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach that happens when one is forced to be in a congested place is something most young girls and women share.
A piece of advice given to most of us was that as long as an eve-teaser is at a physical distance from you, ignore him and his comments. “Don’t go looking for trouble. If someone is staring at you, pretend like you haven’t noticed. If there are catcalls, let them go. You never know what someone might do if you respond with anger or annoyance.” Does it sound like something you’ve been hearing too? If you’re female, and anywhere between 15 and 50 in age, chances are that you have, more than once.
The biggest problem with eve-teasing and molestation is that victims seldom report incidents, so the perpetrators of these crimes are rarely prosecuted. This leads to a belief amongst them that no action will take place against them, and so they continue to sexually harass women. To understand why many victims don’t speak up, take action or file complaints, one must first understand the psyche of community at large. Instead of pinning the blame squarely where it belongs, on the shoulders of the eve-teaser or molester, it views the victim critically. It alleges that her clothing, gait, behaviour or character was provocative and “immoral” and thus she was asking for it. Often, the victims too blame themselves and believe that some flaw within them led to the molestation. This attitude leads the victim to a sense of shame, and she feels that perhaps it is better to keep quiet about her trauma.I could tell you hundreds of stories I’ve heard from dozens of women; of having to hear lewd comments from men zipping by on bikes as you walk on the side of a road, of the frustration of them zooming ahead before you have a chance to yell back, of being groped in the Metro, of lewd stares from men in cars or on bikes when your car or auto stops at a traffic signal, of people ‘accidentally’ pushing up against you in a DTC bus. But chances are, you may have your own story to tell. Don’t let it remain just a story. Women – please, speak up now, don’t be mute sufferers. Men – please treat women with the dignity they deserve, and stop being mute spectators when a woman is being harassed. Everybody – do not accuse the victim of having brought it upon herself. No woman asks to be attacked, physically or mentally. We want to be able to live without fear, to go to work, college or just a market, without feeling abused. Join our struggle and help all women, to help every woman you know.
Another problem is that amongst those who witness such incidences, there is a reluctance to rescue the victim or become involved in any way. This attitude of turning a blind eye to any problem one doesn’t consider one’s own further compounds the victim’s dilemma about speaking up, as she can never be sure whether anyone will come to her aid or she’ll be left alone to tackle with the unpleasant and perhaps even dangerous molester.
Eve teasing is a euphemism used in India and sometimes Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal for public sexual harassment,street harassment or molestation of women by men, with Eve being a reference to the biblical Eve.
Considered a problem related to delinquency in youth it is a form of sexual aggression that ranges in severity from sexually suggestive remarks, brushing in public places, catcalls, to outright groping. Sometimes it is referred to with a coy suggestion of innocent fun, making it appear innocuous with no resulting liability on the part of the perpetrator.Many feminists and voluntary organizations have suggested that the expression be replaced by a more appropriate term. According to them, considering the semantic roots of the term in Indian English, eve-teasing refers to the temptress nature of Eve, placing responsibility on the woman as a tease, as though the aggressive response of the males was normal rather than criminal.
Eve-teasing has been a notoriously difficult crime to prove, as perpetrators often devise ingenious ways to attack women, even though many feminist writers term it as "little rapes", and usually occur in public places, streets, and public transport.
Some guidebooks to the region warn female tourists that eve teasing may be avoided by wearing conservative clothing, though eve teasing is reported both by Indian women and by conservatively-dressed foreign women.
Though Indian law doesn't use the term 'eve teasing', victims usually seek recourse through Section 298 (A) and (B) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which sentences a man found guilty of making a girl or woman the target of obscene gestures, remarks, songs or recitation for a maximum jail tenure of three months. Section 292 of the IPC clearly spells out that showing pornographic or obscene pictures, books or slips to a woman or girl draws a fine of Rs.2000 with two years of rigorous imprisonment for first offenders. In case of repeated offence, the offender may have a fine of Rs.5000 with five years imprisonment imposed. Under Section 509 of the IPC, obscene gestures, indecent body language and acidic comments directed at any woman or girl carries a penalty of rigorous imprisonment for one year or a fine or both.
The 'National Commission for Women' (NCW) has also proposed No 9. Eve Teasing (New Legislation) 1988.
‘Fearless Karnataka’ or ‘Nirbhaya Karnataka’ is a coalition of many individuals and groups including ‘Alternative Law Forum’, ‘Blank Noise’, ‘Maraa’, ‘Samvada’ and ‘Vimochana’. After rise of eve teasing cases in 2000s, it organized several public awareness campaigns, including 'Take Back the Night’, followed by another public art project titled, The Blank Noise Project, starting in Bangalore in 2003.A similar program to fight eve-teasing was also hosted in Mumbai in 2008.
In Delhi, one of India's most dangerous cities for women,the Department of Women and Child Development established a steering committee in 2009 to prepare the city for the Commonwealth Games to be held in 2010.
In Mumbai, Ladies Special trains have been introduced to allow women working and studying in the city to travel without the fear of eve-teasing, for the length of the journey at least. With the number of women needing to travel doubling since 1995, there is a very strong demand for these kinds of services. Today "Ladies Special" Compartments are present in all local trains of the big cities. In other trains, ladies are advised to travel in AC Coaches as these would be free of the economically poor and socially backward eve-teasers.
Traditionally, Indian cinema has depicted eve teasing as a part of flirtatious beginnings of a courtship, along with the usual accompaniment of song and dance routines, which invariably results in the heroine submitting to the hero's advances towards the end of the song, and young men tend to emulate the example, depicted so flawlessly on screen and which gave rise to the Roadside Romeo which even made it a film version in Roadside Romeo (2007) (Starring Saif Ali Khan).It also has been popularly depicted that when a girl is teased by eve teasers, the hero will come and beat them up, such as in the Telugu films Madhumasam and Magadheera and also the Hindi film Wanted. Nowadays, this issue is also featured in Indian television Soaps.
Though the problem received public and media attention in 1960s, it was in the following decades, when more and more women started going out to colleges and work independently, which means they are often no longer accompanied by a male escort as had been a norm in traditional society, that the problem grew to an alarming proportion. Soon theIndian government had to take remedial measures, both judicial and law enforcement, to curb the menace and efforts were made to sensitize the police about the issue, and police started rounding up eve teasers. The deployment of plain-clothed female police officers for the purpose has been particularly effective,other measures seen in various states were setting up of Women's Helpline in various cities, Women Police stations, and special anti-eve-teasing cells by the police.
Also seen during this period was a marked rise in number women coming forward to report incidence of eve-teasing like cases of sexual harassment due to changing public opinion against eve teasers. In addition, the severity of eve-teasing incidences grew as well, in some cases leading to acid throwing, which in turn led to states like Tamil Nadu making eve teasing a non bailable offense. The number of women's organization and those working for women's rights also saw a rise, especially as this period also saw a rise in reports of bride burning. The increase in violent incidents towards women meant previously lackadaisical attitudes towards women's rights had to be abandoned by law makers. In the coming years, such organizations played a key role in lobbying for the eventual passing of legislation designed to protect women from violent eve-teasing, including 'The Delhi Prohibition of Eve-teasing Bill 1984'.
The death of a female student, Sarika Shah, in Chennai in 1998, caused by Eve-teasing, brought some tough laws to counter the problem in South India.After this case, there has been about half-a-dozen reports of suicide that have been attributed to pressures caused by eve teasing. In 2007, an eve-teasing resulted in the death of Pearl Gupta, a college student in Delhi. In February 2009, female students from M.S. University (MSU) Vadodara assaulted four young men near the family and community sciences faculty, after they passed lewd comments on a girl student staying in SD Hall hostel.
Many other cases go unreported for fear of reprisals and exposure to public shame. In some cases police let the offenders go, after public humiliation through the murga punishment. In 2008, a Delhi court ordered a 19 year old youth, after he was caught eve teasing, to distribute 500 handbills, detailing the consequences of indecent conduct, to youngsters outside schools and colleges.