Sadly, it’s a situation we are all familiar with: the cat-calls, the wolf-whistles and the lewd suggestions. Most young women have fallen victim to this unwanted harassment while committing no greater crime than walking along the street. In India, however, the problem has become so prevalent that it has sparked several high profile campaigns calling for renewed respect for women and an end to this so called “Eve-teasing.”
The term “Eve-teasing” does not really do justice to the traumatic experience that Indian women are experiencing and there is a campaign to change the terminology used by the media when reporting this kind of harassment. The situation in India escalated towards the end of last year when two young men were killed when coming to the aid of female friends suffering this “teasing.” Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes left a restaurant in Mumbai with a group of friends when several men began harassing the women in their group. Santos and Fernandes came to their friends’ defence and confronted the men. Initially the men were intimidated and ran off, however they quickly returned and attacked the pair. Both later died from their injuries.
This tragic incident occurred in a busy area of the city and there were several bystanders who saw the whole incident and did nothing to help. Regrettably, this is not an uncommon situation. The majority of “eve teasing” happens in broad daylight and in busy areas. The victims do not fit the stereotypical profile of those who some men consider to be “asking for it” – the women are more often than not modestly dressed – and even young school girls have been affected.
Similarly, those committing the “teasing” offences are also from varied backgrounds. The reluctance of bystanders to come to the defence of women has only encouraged their behaviour. There have even been reports of groups of young boys emulating their elders by harassing women in broad daylight.
The government is trying to counter this disturbing trend. Undercover police officers, both male and female, patrol the busiest areas attempting to protect women and identify offenders. There are also calls for changes of policy in how cases of sexual harassment are handled, including an end to the right of the accused to drastically alter their appearance before formal identification by witnesses. Action must be taken. This unacceptable behaviour is now being learned by the next generation and, if left unchecked, it will mean a big step back for women's rights in India.
Girl Museum Inc.