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We’re delighted to announce Hollaback! Fridays in partnership with Vivanta by Taj – Connemara, Chennai. We officially launched last Friday (14 June) with a performance by Pitch Four at Distil. A wonderful evening, great music and an opportunity to tell people all about Hollaback! Watch this space for updates on future editions of Hollaback! Fridays in Chennai.
Below: Pitch Four performs!
In January, I met with a group of non-privileged teens who, after having suffered the misfortune of being abandoned by their parents, live at Aarti Home in Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh. As part of the New York based Women’s Education Project, I was leading a series of classes on women’s rights, human rights and children’s rights (although actually this was my 6th visit to the Home as I am a frequent visitor and year-round volunteer fundraiser). I turned to ihollaback.org for a set of helpful exercises to think about the problem of street harassment. The students particularly liked the exercise of “pretending to make a film about harassment” and drawing a world without street harassment (see sample drawing).
Although nearly everyone understood the learning objective, one student drew a picture of a few ants, clustering around sugar. Underneath it said “when beauty is there, the ants are drawn to it.” The older students, called me over. They said scoldingly, “This is not right.” I let it go. Later when we discussed some of the most compelling drawings, I brought it to their attention and asked them why it was not fitting. They said, “What do ants have to do with it?” The artist said, giggling apologetically, Men can’t stay away from beauty. It’s in their nature.” I said, “Beauty is not the issue. Maybe some people get more harassment than others, but it is not a compliment. It is not a sign of your beauty. And men don’t have to do this biologically.” Ants may like sugar and men may like women, but verbal harassment is not an ok way to show liking someone. I think the majority understood what I was saying.
I remember an awkward – and illuminating – moment near the end. When discussing street harassment, an older volunteer called out, “You see, women don’t get harassed on the streets in the West. So it is a problem that can be solved. Why must our men do this? Women are beautiful there too, no? But they don’t get harassed.” I felt weird because I immediately had to correct her. Me: “Oh, they do. I was harassed and called all sorts of names when I was younger. Mainly in major cities…. Perhaps it is not as frequent as in India but it occurs.” Both she and the teachers looked a little shocked and a few people basically said that they did not believe me. I said,”I got these exercises from a US group called hollaback.org (as I had already told them). Why do you think the US group formed in the first place? Because they were experiencing harassment and wanted to make people aware of the size of the problem.”
Altogether it was a satisfying session of awareness-raising, and I am very grateful to hollaback for their extensive website and helpful suggestions.one comment
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!
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”
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
How does it feel to notice the same person waiting every single day on the railway platform to board the same train as one does, board the same share-cab as one does and walk down the same lanes as one does? Sheer co-incidence you might say if it was once in a blue moon , but every single day and the same pattern for few weeks?
I couldn’t take it anymore. I was patient initially, I missed trains only to notice him doing the same and boarding the same train as I did. He made sure that he’d board the same share-cab as I did and walk through the same lanes which lead to my workplace. I was patient again, but after few days it just got too creepy. I found that he went till the end of the street where my work place was and later turned to walk back in the same street.
How many days is one expected to do the same? And I found it irksome. Early in the morning I can’t be anticipating a stalker. It was emotionally traumatizing. I usually rant a lot on twitter, but I was very silent about this because I had fear of mockery , and also I din’t want an image as a damsel in distress.
A boy who looks barely out of college and with a face like a innocent teenager. Looks are for sure very deceptive.
And one fine day I decided I will do something about this,I couldn’t cringe anymore. I was angry. This was the time when I spoke with Hamsini Ravi of Hollaback! Chennai and I told her that I wanted to confront him but was also scared. And I did what Hamsini suggested.
He was in the same train, same share-auto and while he was walking on the lanes, I made him stop , I also made sure that the area was not deserted. There was a shop near-by and I asked him why was he following me? He was not taken aback, it looked as though he was expecting it. And barely 5 seconds of questioning he started to get defensive, he blurted that he has some work here and started acting all busy by using his phone. And the funniest part was he actually said ‘I won’t come from next week’ , I felt pointless talking to him after this.
I just walked away and that particular day I did not see him waiting in the street end or turning to walk back, and also did not find him in the train the next day!
I do not know if it is the end of my story.
Hi,I am living in Perambur,Chennai.I have already shared my story here.In this connection,i have given a written complaint to the police.The inspector came to my house and enquired.what he asked you know why you alone harassed and you are alone complaining about them.They wont do like that and they are maintaining law and order in this street.See the ladies who are running the petty shop telling they are all good guys.Next day he enquired the drivers before my husband.The drivers told we didnt even see this lady before.the inspector is telling that my father was also a driver they are insane and instructed the drivers not to go near our house even murder has happened.After some days the lawyer of those drivers approached us and they are ready to give money as compensation.we told filing FIR is the only compensation for us.During night patrol the cops are drinking liquor and playing cards with them. One cop stood before my house and telling inga irunthu pesina unakku vettukulla kathu katkuma , pattu padina ketkuma like that in tamil.in tamil there is an old saying,valiyae payirai mainthathu pole.Now i complained and appealed to the CM cell. I got signature from five houses against them and sent that also. Iam 45 years old.I will fight against those evil forces and set right them.one comment
Susanna Myrtle Lazarus
I am and always have been an independent girl/woman. I have travelled alone by trains since I was in class five, and I have always vouched that they are safer than most modes of transport.
I have travelled as late as 10PM alone by suburban EMUs without incident.
Late last year, I promised my cousin that I would stay over at her place in Mudichur. I live in Purasaiwalkam. Since my parents were going as far as Nanganallur that evening, I got dropped at Palavanthangal station. The time was around 8.15PM (which I do not consider late at all).
So I buy my ticket, and settle down on one of the benches to wait for the next train to Tambaram. I was wearing jeans and a short kurta, along with a huge stole I always carry to imply KEEP AWAY.
A while later, I noticed this guy loitering around. Well dressed, well groomed. Full formal wear. And he was staring at me. In a way that made my skin crawl. Did I mention he was shorter than I am? I’m only five foot four. I had felt stares before, but this was on another level.
Anyway, I glared and turned away even though I could feel the look on me still. Thankfully, the train came within a couple of minutes, and I jumped into the ladies compartment. Listening to music and enjoying the cold November breeze on my face, I soon forgot about the guy. The train rolled into Tambaram station around 9PM, and me being a fast walker, quickly climbed the stairs and reached the pedestrian subway.
I don’t know how, but I realized that the guy was following me. And I stopped smack-bang in the middle of the crowded subway, and waited for him to pass. Yes, I read too many mystery novels.
The cheek of him – after he figured that I am waiting for him to leave, he too stops, turns and looks me full in the face. With a sneering look. Challenging me. That did it. I thought, “Screw you man.”
Rushing past him, pushing other pedestrians out of the way, I raced to the share auto stand. By the time I found one to get into, he had reached. Now I had no wish to go the last six kms of my journey with him (which also included a short walk through a dark road from the main road to my cousin’s house).
The second I saw him peering into each auto looking, something inside me snapped. I started walking around looking for the policeman who is usually posted there. I saw him, and I yelled, I pointed at the creep and generally made a lot of noise.
The guy took to his heels. The cop took a few easy strides and collared him. Dragged him to the Tambaram police station.
The next half hour was the time I have felt most empowered as a woman. Not because the police thrashed the guy in front of me. Not because he went from saying, “I never saw your face.” (I told him if he had seen only my face I would not have had a problem.) Not because he then literally begged for my forgiveness.
But because I took my safety into my own hands. I stood up for myself. I refused to be cowed down. And it felt so damn good.
It was not the first time. Granted, I had screamed holy murder when a man on the bus squeezed my breast when I was in class VIII. I loudly, and in local Tamil lingo, told off the guy who was leaning on me with a sickeningly dreamy look on his face in an empty bus when I was in college.
There have been other times I have been helpless.
Like the time I was around 10 years old and a man in a minivan put his hand up my skirt, and caressed my thigh. The thought of that feeling nauseates me to this day.
Like the day some guy flashed me in Kasturibai Nagar station. I have not travelled by MRTS since that day.
Like the day I was walking near Kathipara junction and a man on a cycle out his hand out and damn near pushed me down with the intention of groping me. I do not walk in situations where that can happen to me.
Not out of fear, mind you. I just don’t want to be in the same situations again. It irritates me, and I would rather remove myself from the source.
Going back to the smartly dressed creep. I did my own bit of drama, threatening to file an eve teasing case even though I had no intention of doing so. Flashing my press card at the cops, who were doing their whole good cop bad cop routine (it does exist!).
My dad offered to come, but I refused. My friends and family were worried and kept calling every two minutes. I did not back down. After speaking to the Inspector, I left. He promised to hold the guy back for half an hour and then let him go.
I gained some respect for the police force that day. Women, go to them if you need help. Be frank. They appreciate it, and they are helpful.
I got a share auto and while going to my destination, I called my aunt and recounted the adventure of the evening to her. And I could feel the man sitting next to me inching away from me. I literally LOL’d.
As I share this, I feel good. As I read other posts here, I wish we did not have such sad stories to share. Oh to live in a city where I could walk freely.2 comments
This week, as we observe Anti Street Sexual Harassment Week, we’re inviting you to Hollaback! in a slightly different way than you’re normally used to. Take a look, and head over to our Facebook page to post or email us on email@example.com comments
I don’t remember the first time I was groped but then, you don’t remember the first time you ate breakfast either. Being given the once-over and getting groped are pretty routine if you happen to live in a country where people believe dupattas can prevent rape. But I do remember this one incident because that was the day I stopped feeling afraid.
I was in middle school back then, around eleven years old. One day, after school, I went to the Connemara library to get some books. I was in my school uniform and barely five feet tall. The library was near empty. I was enjoying the quiet and browsing through books when I suddenly saw a man behind a shelf watching me. I moved away, hoping that he would stop staring. But to my uneasiness, he began following me around. There was something strange about him; he wasn’t like the usual guys who ogled or even groped. The furtive expression on his face sent alarm bells ringing in my head and I felt panicked. But before I could make up mind on what to do, the man unzipped his pants and held out his erect penis.
I was horrified to say the least. My legs told me to run and not be a fool. I could feel my face going hot and a scream forming in my throat. I glanced at his face and I saw an expression of eagerness light up his leering eyes.
That’s exactly what he wanted.
Something went off in my eleven-year-old head. Rage. I decided that I wouldn’t give him the pleasure of making me feel shamed. I would feel no guilt. I would not be afraid. I looked at him in the eye and said, ‘Zippa podu’ [Zip up, in Tamil] and then, I proceeded to stare at him coolly. Suddenly, the man was confused. Suddenly, from being a powerful harasser, he’d turned into a comic character who was caught with his pants down. He didn’t know what to do and I stared him down till he zipped himself up and walked away. Double-quick.
I did not complain to the librarian or even tell anybody about this incident. But that wasn’t because I was afraid. It was because I wasn’t afraid any more. It was because I finally felt like I could protect myself, depend on myself, and handle any situation when required. Instead of answering endless questions on the position of my dupatta and feeling like a victim, all I had to do was make a switch. Put myself as the person in command. It worked then and it has worked ever since.
I stopped visiting Connemara library soon after. But that was only because they had a terrible children’s books section.2 comments