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NO MORE EVE TEASING PLEASE

Eve teasing is a common phenomenon in India; and quite disturbing, many girls acclimatize themselves to it thinking it to be inevitable.

In an evening, during my way back home from office in a not-so-crowded city bus, I saw a girl, not more than sixteen years of age, sitting just in front of my own seat, discomforted by something. A middle-aged man was standing beside her, throwing rather culpable glances at her. On a deeper observation,

I noticed the man was intentionally trying to throw the weight of his body on her, and dared to thrust his lower intimate part against her arm. I realized what was going on; but before raising a voice myself, I thought I should wait for the girl to protest. Unfortunately, she could not. All she did was to fret in her body language, giving nervous glances at the man now and then. Unable to tolerate anymore, I had to come to the girl’s rescue, bashing the man hard in front of all the passengers in the bus. It’s a different thing that all I could hear from the co-passengers were murmurs instead of a loud protest. But the most disturbing thing that affected me was the fear in that girl’s eyes.

Every girl I approached during that video shoot had a shameful story to tell, and almost all of them were boiling with complains and grievances. Be it at the public places, streets or public transport, girls are harassed everywhere with demeaning remarks, hoots, whistles, and even physical violations, which often go overlooked in the crowd.

Eve teasing is a common phenomenon in India; and quite disturbingly, many girls acclimatize themselves to it thinking it to be inevitable. While doing a shoot for a youth-based television show, when I asked young girls about the kind of harassment they face when they walk out of their homes, almost all of them sung in unison the elegy about the derogation and mortification that they face, which is controversially known as ‘eve teasing’. I call the term controversial because ‘eve’ means a temptress, someone who provokes. So the elaborate meaning that is literally derived from this expression is that eves tempt men for vulgar comments and behaviours.

Every girl I approached during that video shoot had a shameful story to tell, and almost all of them were boiling with complains and grievances. Be it at the public places, streets or public transport, girls are harassed everywhere with demeaning remarks, hoots, whistles, and even physical violations, which often go overlooked in the crowd. However, except for a handful, none of the girls showed me the guts and the grit to fight someone who tried to violate their integrity and disrespect their womanhood. Parinita, a student of medical science said: “I really feel filthy being passed remarks at. But I am scared of protesting loud in public fearing that I might not be supported by the people around.” Although she is right to a good extent about the public support, but keeping quiet just because you don’t have the confidence to defend yourself on your own isn’t justified.

I know a lot many girls would still be apprehensive about the possibility of the culprit hitting back or reacting hard leading to the girls’ public humiliation; but only if you could trust me when I say that guilty people can never dare to hit back in public.

Going back to my teens, I can roughly recall I was twelve or hardly thirteen when I faced the first incident of eve-teasing in my life. And call it an irony it was in a crowded city bus of course. I turned rock hard and ice cold. On getting down the bus, I started trembling with fear and angst. I won’t be exaggerating if I say that was one the most harrowing evenings during my teenage. Unable to keep it to myself anymore, I decided to tell my mother about it. And thank God I did! She reacted in such a calm manner as if she knew it had to happen. And what she told me that time was surprising, but fructifying: “You are a big girl now. You will be facing a lot more of such things in the days ahead. But do not be scared; and don’t wait for me or your Dad, or for anyone to protect you. We are always there for you. But you have to learn to defend yourself. Don’t hesitate to burst out aloud or print a tight slap on the face of anyone who tries to touch you, or hurt your dignity verbally.” I still remember those words, and how much of an impact they had on me. I was a different girl from the next day, believing in myself, and loving myself and my dignity all the more. My Mom was right. I did face a lot of eve-teasing; and I face it even today. But I don’t keep quiet because when you keep quiet you feel like losing your own worth. Be it a sly remark, a witty verbal insult, a slap on the face, or (if things are heated up beyond the line) a kick on the groin, I make it a point to convey my vexation and my disgust at the downright cheap gestures and behaviours of the culprit. And now I exactly know what I have to tell my daughter when she grows up.

I know a lot many girls would still be apprehensive about the possibility of the culprit hitting back or reacting hard leading to the girls’ public humiliation; but only if you could trust me when I say that guilty people can never dare to hit back in public. So the next time you walk out of your house, walk fearlessly, in absolute confidence, never tolerating any sort of teasing that hurts your dignity and gives you a depreciating feeling of a loss of worth. Remember that no matter whether the world can protect us or not, we are modern women who are strong and intelligent enough to protect and defend ourselves. So please never bow down to anything immoral assuming that we are the weaker sex, because we are not.

by Satarupa Mishra

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