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.