Keep your hands off us

Raise your hands everyone who has been groped, whistled at, followed, leered or worse whilst on the streets of our cities? Is it a full house? I would suppose so.
From travelling in crowded public transport, where an elbow digs into one’s breasts, or a hand roams over your behind, to being followed on the road with cat calls and leery queries, every woman learns to put her head down and walk quick in public spaces and not react. Reacting could lead to worse. And what is worse is that no one will dare intervene. Intervene is risky. Boys have got knifed to death for yelling out street harassers. Remember Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes? Yes. Three auto rickshaws full of men with weapons returned to take them on after they slapped a drunk man who banged against the girls they were with. The case caused outrage for a while, and like most other such cases, inspired many a television debate where wise folks give their carefully considered opinions on the subject and the case for justice actually goes on till all public interest dies down.
Then there is the Guwahati molestation, where a girl was filmed being molested on a road, and the camera person actually trying to get a clear shot of her face and asking her her name. Worse were the revelations later that the entire molestation was staged by the channel that aired the footage in order to garner TRPs. In an effective use of social media though, faces of the perpetrators were circulated, they were nabbed and though I don’t know what eventually happened, I hope they’ve received a sentence of sorts. Most men don’t. They get away with it. With treating every woman walking on the streets as their private object of lust, and feeling entitled to misbehave with her.
We have the guardians of Indian morality theorising about how Western clothes are provoking the men to such behavior. Police chiefs, women in senior positions in the NCW, university faculty, ministers, all quoted as saying women need to wear ‘decent’ clothes. Victim blaming. From personal experience I can say I have been harassed, back in those days when I did get harassed, the incidents were always worse when I was ‘decently’ dressed in a churidar kurta or a salwar kameez. I think I was perceived as less likely to retaliate than when I was wearing trousers.
I recently read about a girl who set a harasser’s bike on fire and applauded her in my head. I read about college girls who have started an initiative called Chappal Marungi. I can see more of this coming about. I see women who are now determined and feisty and not willing to play victim anymore. With the authorities unable to contain this menace, women will have to step up, learn the art of self defence, standing up for themselves. I see a change of attitudes happening. I’m hoping the current generation of mothers and fathers are raising their sons to grow to respect women as individuals, and not to treat them as mere flesh and blood objects meant to pander to some perverted concept of male power. I hope our movies stop that ridiculous depiction of wooing a woman which definitely falls into the category of street sexual harassment, which gives men in small towns and certain socio economic backgrounds with no other parameters by which to understand relationships between men and women, the concept that this is THE way to woo a woman.
For every woman who has faced street sexual harassment, I would like to say, no. It isn’t your fault. It is not what you wore, said, did, walked like, looked, nothing. Don’t ever believe it is.

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About Kiran Manral

Author of The Face At The Window, ( 2016), Karmic Kids, All Aboard (2015) , Once Upon A Crush (2014) and The Reluctant Detective (2011).
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3 Responses to Keep your hands off us

  1. Pingback: Keep Your Hands Off Us by Kiran Manral | Violence Against Women 2011

  2. Khan Mukhtar says:

    It is the sick mentality of sick people who venture into the misbehavior mode the movement they find a lonely female on roads and forget that they are here in this world by virtue of a women( in the form of a mother). It has nothing to do with the dress of women but it has to do with the cheap mentality. I too raise my hands against the harassment of women on roads in buses in offices or anywhere else inside or outside homes.

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  3. Aurat Jab se Ghar se nikalte hai
    Uski Neeyat aur Imaan
    Koi Nahi Dekhta
    Sirf Yehi Dekhta hai
    Ki woh Akeli Hai.

    Besides I think the type of Himmat you have have described can be used in only few of the cases in few cities. Why not all, atleast a big section of the women decide not to pose for advertisements or shows unless women is shown in respectable dress or attire. Why some of the actors/stars behave as if they have nothing to wear. The fear of the women in India rather sub continent is historical when any good looking women was taken away without any protest .Do you remember A Mughal King fell for some good married woman. Her husband divorced her to present her to the King.
    I do not see any remarkable change in the attitude of men towards women in the last 60 years atleast, and whatever is, is mainly because of brave women like you.

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