Against Sexual Harassment; woes of women in Nepal
It’s the same story every day. You step on the street in the morning and jump out of your skin as a car hurtles towards you and swerves just before smashing you to a pulp. The driver laughs evilly and you’re still cursing him under your breath. As you pass a group of men standing at the corner, they burst into cat calls. You pretend not to hear and get into a cab. (Let me not even start about the horrors of traveling in a micro or a bus and the daily fight against being groped.) The driver adjusts his rear view mirror to get a better look at you, and you sit with your files and bag clutched close to your chest as you avoid eye contact with him through out the journey. Two men on a VR peek into the cab, decide they like what they see and follow you around for a few minutes) staring lecherously and giggling excitedly till the driver takes pity on you and waves them off.
As you complete your work and return, a ruffian whistles and another one passes a bawdy remark. Another speeding vehicle with its underage driver listening to ear-blasting music hoots as he passes by; you mutter inside, feel irritated, you hurriedly enter your gate and bang it shut as loud as you can.
And it’s just another day…..
Even if you fall prey of any harassments, some do not dare to report it to the police in fear that such a report would inevitably spread bad rumors about your chasity and morality and give you a bad name. Add to this, even if you are among those brave girls who want to nab the teaser and hold him down, the casual and indifferent attitude of the constable you take your complaint to is enough to hold you back. He looks at you with a smirk, chews on his filthy red thing and the look in his eyes is enough to express that he does not believe a word of what you have said or better still, does not care!
Covert or overt, direct or indirect, visible or invisible, structural or social, women are always both targets and victims of violence across the world. The eyes of the man who accosts a woman with evil intentions will be extracted, wrote a famous personality some 200 years ago. But still she is not spared of the evil intentions of men. It is obvious that females face difficulties, much more than her male counterpart, from birth to death, in this uneven world. uneven world. Dowry, harassment, etc… The list doesn’t stop. These unjust crime bothers me deep within as I look around my society. I feel its tentacles reaching out to myself, my friends, cousins, aunts and co-workers especially when I see them cringe with fear and shrink in humiliation closing their eyes in hopes of blocking that invasion.
From derogatory remarks to outright groping, females have been a victim of it in one way or another. When you stop for a roadside snack, the vendor begins humming a lewd song. Many a times you encounter roadside Romeos who pass obscene remarks at you, make indecent gestures or postures, loutish proposals, or annoys you in a way that outrage your modesty. If it has been the same in your case then, you have just been a victim of ‘eve teasing’. In reality, women are subjected not only to remarks, songs and gestures laden with awful innuendo as stated above, but rather to actual physical molestation. It’s a common sight – a bunch of men sit at the street corner, smoking or drinking or doing both. They are definitely an unpleasant street accessory we can do well without. Most of them I term as jobless and hopeless forms of life that haven’t contributed any good to the society, just like the cockroaches that lurk in our kitchen.
Don’t you think its hard being someone who is stared at, sneered at and laughed at by these jerks? And they think they are being very funny when they behave badly. I have never been bold enough to slap a guy or confront him for giving a detailed description of my anatomy. ‘Look away and ignore’ is what I was taught as a young girl. But Eve teasing is embarrassing for the victim. I think it’s an emotional torture where someone messes with you brain. You hear things you don’t want to hear – especially from a creep who has no right to judge you. Then there is also the physical abuse of pinching, bumping, groping, stroking and other unmentionable offensive behavior. None of these are something any one enjoys from a complete stranger.
Many of us try very hard to discourage this type of daily approach. We avert our gaze to avoid eye contact. We carry books, wear headphones, and make fake cell phone calls. But unfortunately, some guys refuse to be deterred and it definitely feels exhausting to have to deal with the constant ambush of attention!
Gender segregation and ‘boys will be boys’ attitude furthers this behavior. Innumerable movies show that eve teasing eventually ‘wins’ a girl’s attention. Changing this behavior is easier said than done. However, if things are left alone, they could hardly get better. In a society like ours where male domination is ensconced in our hierarchy, the concept of ‘masculinity’ is usually equated with patriarchy. Even from my girlhood, I have learned from my surrounding that being a male means ‘powerful’, while a female means the ‘weaker sex’.
Most males (be it young boys or grown ups) take eve teasing as a joke or prank and claim that they just do it for ‘fun’, and do not mean anything serious by it. But let me ask them, would they stand quietly at the sidelines when their own kith and kin are going through such street harassment, or would they stand up against it? Or for that matter, if they themselves are subjected to the same kind of behavior by a group of rowdy young females, would they not feel pestered?
One must understand that this is not just an ordinary prank. It has serious repercussions.
Males must be made to realize that their actions to tease and harass females carry dire consequences, not just for the individuals but for everyone. I say, females do not need to wallow in self-pity, being the ‘oh so poor victims’.
We need to take firm steps to overcome this problem. We have to make ourselves to be heard; we cannot let the system discourage us. I believe that if ten of us raise a voice today, it will certainly make things better for the eleventh person tomorrow.
It is of no use recounting tale after tale of the victims, for in this case only the names change — the suffering caused is common, the inaction as horrendous and dreadful “for being a woman”…If people keep running a blind eye to this phenomenon on the streets, in the neighbors, in public transportation, in the market places, at work or other social venues, this eve teasing will just be a part of so called “normal social routine behavior”, when in reality it is definitely not the case, at least not in a healthy and safe society. We should all start from today to speak up without being afraid and fearlessly say ‘NO’ when we are waylaid by a wink, a whistle, a lewd comment, an obscene bruising of limbs and make it known to the assaulter that such behavior is not acceptable to the least, feeling secure in the knowledge that our ‘NO’ has the strength and backing of our family,community and our society.
Till now we have just been uttering big things like women‘s liberation, empowerment, and equality. We have only been dreaming big with least in practice.
We need to change ourselves and Redefine our moral Code of Conduct.
After all we gender sisters have to stand up for each other. Change has to be invited, let us be the first one to usher it in”
- Kanchan Amatya