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Earlier this month, thousands of people from around the world, including activists against sexual harassment, campaigners for gender justice and ordinary citizens, came together to celebrate International Anti-Street Harassment Week (7-13 April 2013). This annual global movement, spearheaded by the advocacy group Stop Street Harassment, seeks to end the silence around street sexual harassment, and to make public places safer for women, for sexual minorities, and for anyone who has felt unwelcome and excluded in these spaces.
In keeping with the spirit of this campaign, we would like to reacquaint you with our work at Hollaback! Chennai, and to outline our plan of action for the future. Hollaback! Chennai was launched in December 2011 (part of the global Hollaback! movement to end street harassment) by Prajnya, a Chennai-based non-profit working towards peace, justice and security. Our aim is to end the pervasive silence surrounding street sexual harassment, by providing a platform for victims to speak out. We do this through our website, where those who have been targetted can write about their experiences, and where they can find support from a community of non-judgmental individuals. In the long-term, we hope that this initiative, and others like it, will allow everyone to make an equal claim to public spaces.
This has not been an easy task; of the plethora of crimes that fall under the scope of ‘gender violence’, street harassment continues to be one of the most underreported. This is because the perpetrators of these acts are often strangers, because they can usually escape with relative ease, because women are socially conditioned to stay silent about this abuse and because there is a general distrust towards the institutions that are meant to deliver justice. Yet, street sexual harassment, which includes catcalling, lewd remarks, deliberately brushing against someone, or touching them, or groping them, flashing private parts, stalking, or outright sexual assault in a public place, is a terrible offence, which leaves victims traumatised, despondent, and worst of all, ashamed. The prevalence of these crimes, which are euphemistically referred to as ‘eve-teasing’ (for more on the importance of language in reporting and discussing gender violence, read Nilanjana Roy’s thoughtful 2009 blog post), is infuriating and disturbing, and we cannot afford to stay silent any longer.
Over the next few months, we hope to expand the scale and reach of Hollaback! Chennai. We will be more active on our social media platforms, so do follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. We are also planning to launch our website in Tamil, and to publicise the Hollaback! mobile app for smartphones that will allow those who experience harassment, as well as witnesses, to immediately document and record these incidents, thereby placing them in the public domain. We will continue to conduct workshops at local colleges, which we have been doing since our launch, and talk to young women (and men) about street harassment, about their legal rights (Tamil Nadu being the only state in India with specific legislation on street sexual harassment, the Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 2002, which was passed in response to the murder of Sarika Shah) and about ‘bystander intervention’, or responding as a witness to these offences.
It is important to remember that sexual harassment, in any form, has nothing to do with sex, or lust, or attraction; it has everything to do with power and control. By staying silent, by not calling out our abusers on their actions, we are letting them continue to control us. We are letting them get away with it. We are letting them win.
So be brave. Stand up. And HOLLA BACK!
I was walking to the bus stop from my class at 2 in the afternoon when a man on a kinetic honda coming from the opposite side groped me! i was too shocked to react. It was broad day light, there were other people on the road and there was absolutely nothing that I or anyone else did! All i noticed was tn 01 on his bike but where was that going to help me? Even worse was after this i had to get into a sweaty yucky chennai bus where there is practically no separation between where men stand and where women stand! I cannot believe the transport ministry has done nothing to improve this condition.
Why is it that we feel sick to our cores when it should be the man who is ashamed?
How is it that women are nearly always well behaved and men are nearly always pigs?
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, fair or dark, foreigner or native, married or unmarried, dressed in a salwar kameez or a jeans and t shirt, there will always be a large group of men out there who take pleasure (literally) in making you miserable, because you are after all a woman.
I wish there was more we could do than just recounting these incidents.
The Justice Verma Committee Report 2013 on sexual offenses against women is now online. Read it here
Do send us your comments and reactions to it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
A while ago, Thoughts on Sale did an interview with us.
To read the complete interview go here.
This post was originally published here.
I would normally not write about something like this. Definitely not on my blog. And most definitely not when I am writing a post after two months.
But I have to say what I have to say.
So the last weekend saw me going to Madurai to meet my sister’s edible and possibly the cutest twin babies on the planet, G and N. No cannibalistic tendencies but honestly they are SUCH cute kids that one just wants to stuff them between two slices of bread and have them for breakfast. Om nom nom.
Now that you are sufficiently disgusted let me continue.
As the trip to Madurai was about as efficiently planned as the errr… most unplanned trip to Madurai ever, I just went to Koyambedu and took one of the many buses leaving for Madurai
What follows is not something which is happening to me for the first time. It has happened to me before, has happened to ALL women/girls I know and very sadly will continue to happen till, well, we wipe men out from the planet. Which by the way is SUCH a good idea. Just freeze a couple of million good sperms (only if you want to that is. Because then we would have boy babies and after G was born I feel kindly towards boy babies so we can’t really kill the boy babies you know. I would feel bad ), wipe out the men and there you go – world peace, no strife, no hunger problems, no rape, no molestation, no dowry deaths, no need for contraception, no population explosion, no wet towels on the bed, no…
But I digress. More on this later.
So you might ask me why I choose to write about this particular incident when there have been so many.
Because I am proud of myself. So proud that I kicked a man in his balls in front of a bus full of men, who *might* be potential molestors themselves. Proud of the fact that there is now one man in Tamil Nadu who will DEFINITELY think twice before he even touches his own wife.
I shall not go into the gory details of what happened but in the middle of the night, I shouted at a bastard, swore at him in my most galeej tamil, poured a litre of water on his head, woke up everyone on the bus, confiscated his voter id card, kicked him in his b*lls…Thrice, made a co passenger slap him on his face, twice, and then waited till the bus reached the middle of nowhere, asked the bus to stop and made him get down.
I wish I had pepper spray. So I could have made his life more miserable but man! I am so proud of myself.
I also threatened to publish his photo is all the local newspapers that I know of and put it in public forums so people KNOW who he is. Which I have not been able to do. Because I don’t know how to go about it. And also because if newspapers started carrying pictures of molestors, then well, there would ONLY be pictures of molestors in papers and little else.
So I shall share his picture and details here. And hope that the few good people who do visit this blog shall tell me how I can go about making his life miserable. Please give me really good ideas to make him regret his birth on this planet.
P.S: So a funny thing happened. When I shouted at this man and asked him how he DARE put his loathsome effing hand on me, he replies saying “I am a decent man. I did my engineering”
By Aishwarya S
The Guwahati molestation incident confirms the fact that no part of India is safe for women. While one of the main offenders has absconded, a Minister from Madhya Pradesh said on Saturday(21st July) that girls must “dress respectfully” and that problems such as molestations can be avoided if they women dress properly. There is also news floating around that the whole incident was fabricated by a news channel. I can’t even get myself to read this article fully.
Whatever the case was, a young girl was molested in public and there was no one around to stop it. The occurrence of yet another case of molestation case and the continued lack of safety of women in India seems to have shaken everyone up. On the internet, outrage is often restricted to a couple of status updates and tweets, but this particular episode has pushed everyone to the edge. There has been a flurry of articles and blogposts from a large number of people. Several women have written about their own harrowing experiences. Men too have come forward with wonderful and sensitively written posts.
Here is a list of some of the posts and articles that have appeared over the last two weeks.
‘The harsh realities of sexual violence: Guwahati and beyond’ by Natasha Badhwar is a moving piece where recounts an incident from her post-graduate days. As she says in the end, “Stand up and speak up, we are all in this together.”
Supriya Nair in this compelling read talks of how ‘patriarchy’s self-defences are complex and endlessly adaptable.’
Harini Calmur in her column, calls for a harsher punishment.
Titled ‘Grope’, Nandita Iyer writes about an experience that is almost 25 years old – “all it takes to be molested, raped, abused is to be a woman”
And then there is The Local Tea Party’s excellent post ‘Can we end this?’
Lavanya Mohan writes a well intentioned post about What You can do about it where she asks women to react immediately and to stand up for themselves, though her sweeping generalizations about how 95% of molesters are illiterate and statistics about how rape is less common than sexual assault are less than accurate.
And finally a fine article by Nitin Pai, although a yea r old, still applies – Get basic policing right first to ensure rule of law.
I went through a rather nerve racking experience today and realised the importance of communicating with one’s elders and friends.Being an audit assistant, visiting client places becomes part of my job description. It’s all about interacting with people to get your work done. It had been a couple of months since I had worked on this particular client. And then, out of the blue, I receive this mail from a clerk who works there. He had stated that he wanted to speak to me personally, asked for my contact details and had mentioned it was about a marriage proposal. It would be an understatement to say that I was freaked. I had never encountered such a thing ever.
And going by what I see around me, girls generally tend to ignore such creeps. That, or worse, respond to them. I did not want to do anything foolish. I find that ignoring them only encourages them. The first thing that popped into my head is to make sure that one of my colleagues was also aware of this situation. Once I had shared this with my friend, I proceeded to write to my higher authorities. This is probably the best thing to do. Sexual harassment has to be nipped in the bud and to do it single handedly is quite a task. I’d rather not stay quiet or keep issues like these to myself. Approaching someone with authority and responsibilty will ensure action against the offenders. This could be your parents or your boss. And my boss did take this matter up with the creep in question. After denying sending such emails, he eventually broke down and apologised. I could not be more happy about the promptness and seriousness with which the matter was dealt. As later was told to me, “90% of guys are too afraid. Show them their place and they won’t pursue you.”
The major flaw in a modern day woman is basically lack of courage. Or at least, all of the ones I’ve met seem to hesitate. If there is one thing to remember, it’s just that these guys’ only motive is to make us feel low. We should give no room for that. Even as I did consider ignoring that mail, I thought about my responsibilty to hollaback. I had to stand up for what I believed in. It gave me the courage to tackle the issue head on. And when we get bold, it scares these people away because we’ve just shown them that we aren’t afraid. Fear is the only weakness. Don’t be too afraid. Fight back. And most importantly, never be too shy to approach people who can help you.
Note: While this issue isn’t strictly connected to street harassment, we thought it was important to post, given that D had taken the effort to email us. We do hope that this post will be of use to women experience sexual harassment in the workplace- Team Hollaback! Chennaione comment
I have always been escorted by my parents or a trusted auto driver whenever I had to go out to school, tuition or any outing in general. Later, I had a two-wheeler and so as a school girl, I was fortunate enough to escape from perverts.
However, I moved to Chennai after college. I was working in a software company. I had to travel by bus and train – that in itself was a new experience to me. I felt very lonely and paranoid about travelling alone in the bus and to admit the truth, since I had been in Coimbatore for 4 years, I found the Chennai bus crowd very hostile.
One weekend, I had to go to the Koyambedu bus stand to get a bus to Anna nagar. The bus was late as usual, so there was a big crowd waiting to board the bus the moment it came to a halt. I got caught in the middle of the moving wave of humanity and was pushed in the general direction of the bus.
I don’t like crowds primarily because one has to endure being jostled about by others. So needless to say, I was trying to wade through and get into the bus safely. I felt someone groping my back and I thought it was the lady near me trying not to fall down. So I endured it and tried to worm away every time. But the hand was relentless and I felt very uncomfortable, irritated and all those wordless things you feel when you hate something. I finally got too irritated and turned and what do you know! It was not the lady but a shady looking middle-aged guy.
My blood boils even as I type this now. I can’t put my anger into words. Anger. Revulsion. I just hit him. Hit his bloody hand that was audacious enough to grope me. He left me alone. I had not made a scene, but had just given a tiny fraction of what the rascal deserved.
Throughout the rest of the journey I stood near the driver and kept throwing nasty glares at the guy and finally he got down after 2 stops. I was still shaking inside, but he did not know that.
I have never thought of myself as a person strong enough to stand up to a strange, big guy. But that day, I knew I was. All of us are.no comments