You are walking on a busy road and somebody passes a lewd comment as you walk past them. What would you do? Would you shoot a dirty look at the offender that communicates your displeasure and continue walking? Or would you simply ignore the offender in the hope that you don’t call attention to yourself or encourage him further? Or would you look him in the eye and bring him to task in front of an audience?
What if it were some other lady that was being eve teased? Would you speak out or would you walk past – it’s not your problem anyway! And what if it were your mother or your sister or your friend? What would you do then?
Getting whistled at, being felt up on public transport or just being stared at – every woman in India is bound to have been at the receiving end of some form of eve teasing or the other. And more often than not, society, including the person being teased, turns a blind eye. Whether we like admitting to it or not, eve teasing is a rather ingrained way of life for many men in Indian society, and consciously or unconsciously, society encourages this type of behaviour by letting it simply happen. So what can one do?
One of our readers, A C Rekha wrote to us describing an incident that took place near her home in Telecom Layout, Dr Shivarama Karanath Nagar. It will do each of us good to take a leaf out of her book.
On the morning of October 15th, Rekha’s maid called her asking for help as there was a man who was passing lewd comments as she walked past him. Rekha immediately rushed to her maid’s help, with her five month old baby in tow. On reaching the point where her maid was, Rekha says that she saw the man had parked his bike, and was acting as if nothing had happened.
She called out to him and asked him what he was doing in the area. The man replied stating that he had stopped to answer nature’s call and that he worked in a lane a kilometer away. She then proceeded to reprimand him, for both feeling the need to urinate in public and for using foul language against a woman. While the man denied the charges initially, once Rekha took his picture and threatened to notify the cops if she saw him in the vicinity again, he apologised and then left.
Rekha says, “I am incredibly proud of my maid. When I reached, she was holding a stone in her hand to defend herself since it was a rather vacant spot. She also had the courage to reach out for help.” She adds, “When we see someone asking for help, there is no need to think twice about helping. Everyone sits at home and mulls over societal evils. As women, we need to be powerful, we need to handle the situation and we keep it in our control. At the end of the day, it is our country, our people. How many days are we going to be scared? Each of us must realise that it is important to speak out, especially when it is called for. If we don’t, what kind of example are we setting for our children?”
Rekha further adds, “I wanted to share this so other women who find themselves in a similar situation fight back.”
Speak out for yourself and others!
The next time you are made to feel uncomfortable or are subject to an unsavoury remark or lewd behaviour, or happen to find some other woman in an unpleasant situation, there is nothing stopping you from calling out that it is wrong. Speak out for yourself and for the women around you!
Three things are bound to happen when you do so.
You are bringing an offender to task and letting him know that what he has done is wrong. This could very well make him think twice the next time around.
Secondly, you will be empowering the lady, who may for some reason have been apprehensive about speaking up for herself – in all likelihood, she is bound to stand up for herself, or perhaps even another person in the future.
Finally, you might very well motivate those who have gathered around at the time of such an incident to be intolerant towards eve teasers and give them the inspiration to deal with a similar situation in the future.
Kudos Rekha, from all of us at Citizen Matters, for speaking out against eve teasing. May your tribe grow!