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Street Harassment: The old face of abuse

I would like to start this contribution by sharing a personal experience. Every morning on my way to work, I walk through a railway market. Depending on the time of day you pass by, this market is either flooding with people or there are just the normal traders around. It was razed down by a big fire some years back and the government of the state has been building a modern one in its place which is near completion.

Passing by this market everyday is usually the worse part of my day. Why? Every time I pass through, I get harassed by traders peddling their wares. They grab you, pull your bag, touch you, or block your way so you are forced to either side step into the road or brush past them. And they do this to women and girls! Weather or not you look in their direction, they will accost you. They crowd the road side so its either you pass by them or take your chances with on coming vehicles.

What can we do as women to stop this obvious harassment in the guise of trading? If you ignore them, they just keep following you. If you shout at them, three more will gather from around and shout you down. I have once been threatened with a beating when I confronted one of these street harassers who had held my arm. The worse part is no one even paid attention. They all went their merry ways. Once I had stood up for a school girl who was being taunted by two guys who were pulling her to buy curtains (what would a school girl of maybe 13 want with curtains?), and they asked what business of mine it was, even passer-bys!

Street harassment occurs on a high rate in cities today. Many women have been approached on streets while walking home from work, market, a friends place, etc by strangers who start their conversation/ verbal assault with 'baby, what's up' or 'fine girl'. Many of these harassers wait at corners waiting for any female to pass by so they can shout rude comments at them, some walking up to the women and invading their space. It is even more dangerous when this happens at night as it could lead to physical assault if the lady the harasser approached shuns him or replies rudely.

In my opinion we cannot keep ignoring this growing menace of public harassment. Everyday I see women and girls go through humiliation when walking down the street and are harassed by touts, commercial drivers and conductors etc because of the way they dress, their size or for no good reason at all, and people just ignore what is going on. I believe if enough attention is drawn to this, we can stop being afraid of passing through a market, or through a garage because of street harassment.

Comments

loretta's picture

Now I understand.

Much as I won't mention Nationalities, but now I understand something I have been asking myself why? You find men standing at street corners or just in the middle of a pavement and they won't make way for you, certainly I do understand now.

I found that so rude and so uncultured, I really used to wonder, but your post has answered my question. My twins attend school in Pretoria. They once told me how rife pick-pocketing is on Pretoria trains and how unheeded it is by other commuters.

I found that very funny because in Soweto trains pick-pocketers ae dealt with very harshly. A pick-pocketer seldom gets away with a crime, unless it was subtly and the victim never notices until very late.

I believed when both my girls were robbed of cell phones, one in the train and the other at the station on the platform. In full view of other commuters, both incidents. People fear or ignore such atrocities simply because they don't want to be victimised or simply because it's not done to them.

I applaud your defending that school girl, sometimes it takes one person's actions to turn things around for the better. Be careful though, but don't give up. I believe that everyone has a right to walk whereever they need to walk, if they can stand there and peddle their wares, who do they expect to buy from them if they mistreat others?

God bless you, keep safe. I feel your pain and anger.

Loretta.

Loretta.

A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others throw at her. Author Unkown.

Rhoda Robinson's picture

Thank you for the support

I hope your girls were ok after the incident. It is amazing that people can watch without concern when atrocities are being committed.

One of the most disappointing aspects of my experience was that the location of this market is by a police and army barracks. If our security personnel fail to notice and respond to these incidences, it gives the perpetrators courage to continue without fear that they will be brought to justice.

I hope to be able to bring more attention to this and have more people get tired of ignoring the obvious so they can shout till it stops.

Rhoda Robinson
Director, Adminsitration
Coordinator, Hands up for HER Campaign
www.hacey.org
handsupforher.wordpress.com

loretta's picture

True!

You're welcome, they were okay, shaken though fine. They were simply thankful to be alive.

When people don't see anything wrong, in their own opinion, they don't care. The police and soldiers are men, aren't they and the culprits are men? See the equation.

But you will win in the end. Keep well.

Loretta.

Loretta.

A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others throw at her. Author Unkown.

estelle's picture

Hello

Its always about women being the victims of such violence and abuse. That is why we are her at WP to bring out those untold stories abt ourselves with that voice.

Yosra Akasha's picture

Well said

Dear Rhoda

I think harassing women in the streets is a kind of punishment for them leaving the house and intimidating the pulbic area which men think they are mastering
In Egypt there are groups of volunteers in the areas which harassment are more likely to happen. Those groups defend women and link them to support groups if they need counselling.
I think such experience need to be highlited. Please visit harassmap.org for further information

Yosra Akasha, Sudan

Yosra Akasha's picture

Well said

Dear Rhoda

I think harassing women in the streets is a kind of punishment for them leaving the house and intimidating the pulbic area which men think they are mastering
In Egypt there are groups of volunteers in the areas which harassment are more likely to happen. Those groups defend women and link them to support groups if they need counselling.
I think such experience need to be highlited. Please visit harassmap.org for further information

Yosra Akasha, Sudan

Rhoda Robinson's picture

More of this needed

Dear Yosra,

I went through the site it was of much help, especially this law:

Article 306

“Any person who exposes another to indecent assault publicly via words, actions o gestures shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than 6 months and not exceeding 2 years,"

If laws like this can be passed, and more importantly implemented in cities, more women will feel safer walking on the street. Another aspect we have to work on is making access to help for women who are harassed easier.

When it know that if you harass a woman, you WILL go to jail, there will be a drastic reduction, if not total eradication of street harassment.

Rhoda Robinson
Director, Adminsitration
Coordinator, Hands up for HER Campaign
www.hacey.org
handsupforher.wordpress.com

Les femmes sont devenues victimes de harcellement surtout dans notre pays la R D congo.
cette situation nous preoccuppe

BRIGITTE MAWAZO

otahelp's picture

You are right

These things happens every time and not just in market places, even on the street where these street traders are gathered or traffic jams, when people are forced to slow down both vehicles and pedestrians. The used unimaginable excuses to touch you, drag your bag and sometimes outright dragging your hands. I feel irritated when these things happen. Sometimes, you simply ignore them and at other times you shout and scream and everybody is like is a normal thing why is this woman making issues out of nothing.

thank you for bring it up. We have to really talk about it some more.

Kudos Rhoda

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Initiative
Lets keep the light shining

Therese kasindi's picture

Women again!

These things happened every where in the world. We must pay attention because I think there is a great ghost in men mind and our country need deliverance in that side. It's not normal that a human being do such things to his brother or sister. Everywhere it's only women who cries, that's impossible! Why? Why men?

Thanks my siter Rhoda, we think so solution will come very soon.

THERESE( Maman Shujaa, Drc)

susanncruz's picture

Men must get involved

Street harassment is a widespread problem. I have been subjected to it in the U.S. and in Latin America, to varying degrees. I think it is very important to involve the men of the community. How do the fathers of those girls like to have their daughters groped and cornered? Do they like to have their wives, mothers, sisters to be harassed like that, or is it ok as it is not someone they don't care about? That's the key: what do they CARE about? If they are told that harassing girls and women is bad for business, they might pay attention because they care about their profits. I also believe that authority figures, elders and perhaps law enforcement should be a part of the conversation.

Susan Cruz

I grew up in Venezuela where street harassment is prevalent, I had the same experience as you every morning on my way to work... and I assumed it was quite normal, just the way things were, that they would never change, maybe even rationalized it by convincing myself it was alright, a way of being acknowledged by men, feeling attractive to someone, perhaps it was low self-esteem.

I read in someone else's journal post about her friend being beaten by her husband. When he became born again and stopped, she panicked because she had grown so accustomed to his beatings that she assumed he had stopped because he no longer loved her. She rationalized, expected and accepted his abuse.

Have most of us women done that in regards to street harassment??

I certainly did in the past. When I moved to the US, men didn't even look at me on the street. I wondered if there was something wrong with me, I felt I was no longer liked or attractive, at least to Americans. American culture is not as conducive to that type of street harassment. I then rationalized that as just being a "cultural" difference. Now I know better.

You make a strong case for the need to bring this issue into all societies' consciousness, so they know once and for all both men and women that it's not ok, and that it CAN be different.

We're not having it, We're not taking it anymore.

valerie camila rhodes

Monica09's picture

Start a petition

Dear Rhoda,

Greetings from Bangladesh!

I faced sexual harassment in a store but since it was in a public area and I was accompanied by friends and relatives, it was easier for me to protest.

In your case, since protesting is risky, I would suggest you to attract attention to this issue. I am glad you posted here and shared your fears in this thriving community. As a next step, how about starting an online petition and gathering signatures/pledges so that it attracts attention of your government and maybe gets discussed in the national parliament? You could also resort to mass media, such as TV interviews and print articles, or social media, such as opening a page on Facebook. Have you and others tried seeking the assistance of law enforcement agencies in your country? What was the response?

I think what is really important in this case is a united protest movement. Gather support of other women and protest because you or anyone else cannot really fight this menace alone.

Best wishes,
Monica

radiocami's picture

Hey All, I found a great

Hey All, I found a great article on this topic... If you're interested check it out here..

http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/05/what-men-can-do-street-harassment/?u...

AND here's an organization devoted specifically to this issue... It might give us all some information we can use in our communities to help make the change.

http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/

Thank you all for disseminating this information and it's inevitable change.

valerie camila rhodes

Rhoda Robinson's picture

Thanks for sharing

Dear Camila,

Thanks for sharing the link and the website, they were really insightful.

Rhoda Robinson
Director, Adminsitration
Coordinator, Hands up for HER Campaign
www.hacey.org
handsupforher.wordpress.com

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