women harassment

Date: New Year’s eve more than a decade ago

City: Bangalore

Event: Catching a movie at a high-end Mall by a family of three.

The movie wound up by 11.45 pm and all of us made our way back to our parked cars. Mine was parked about 200 m from the mall. As we descended down the escalators, huge streams of men were seen coming up. Considering that most outlets in the mall were closed by then, it was clear that they were just drunk, in huge numbers and looking for some kind of revelry. The mall was packed in no time.

We got out on to the street just like many other families. The roads were jam packed with people. Huge crowds on the streets – screaming and making merry. That is when this rush of men came towards me. One of them groped me and quickly moved on. I experienced shock and felt really sick. I wanted to hit out but they had moved on very quickly. No one could do anything. My mood deflated from happy to dejected in one moment. And in case you are wondering, I was dressed from head to toe. It is quite chilly in Bangalore in December.

Feeling quite gloomy, we made our way to the car. En route home, our car was stopped twice by drunk men who blocked our way. Short of running them over, we had no choice but to stop. They had beer bottles in their hands and were grinning. I barely saw any police presence on the road. We stopped our car and luckily for us those guys just said Happy New Year and then gave us way.

It was nerve wracking and we just wanted to reach home. Once home, I pledged never to go out to a public place on New Year’s Eve. I don’t ever want to face that kind of fear and revulsion ever again. Not that I am a party animal anyway.

Truly sad, isn’t it? And if you want to give me a lecture on why I should teach them a lesson by going out, go ahead. I will just say to you — make the city safe first, then we will talk.

Recent furore over groping incidents on Brigade Road in Bangalore brought back these ugly memories for me. These packs of perverse men who prowl the streets on New Year’s Eve target women simply because they see strength in number and most importantly fear no action from law enforcement. It is not new. It doesn’t mean Bangalore is now equal to Delhi or some such. It just means that it is same tale across every city in India.

I am curious to see if any will be put behind bars and will actually be punished now that they have video evidence.

It is shameful that in an India as progressive as today’s, I have to think multiple times before walking on the streets or taking my car out at night. Every woman and girl has faced this kind of harassment in some form. From lewd comments, stares to groping and molestation, we tolerate it on a daily basis. Yes, we do give back at times when possible.

Even my sons have noticed this. When I drive with them or go for a chore, they have seen men stare or pass lewd comments. This desperate, sexually frustrated creed will go to any lengths for some perverse pleasure.

Yes, I carry a pepper spray with me now and I do avoid going out on certain occasions and times. It is unfortunate that I have to do that for my safety.

Because the state, its ministers, its police force and sometimes even its citizens are not doing enough to safeguard me. Instead, I hear the same victim blaming and shaming even from women.

#NotAllMen understand the harassment women face almost on a daily basis. I am touched by all the stories I’ve read of women sharing their experiences and solutions. That so many of us are standing up to this.

Will there ever be an end to this?

This is not a battle of genders. It is an issue that our girls and women face and it is important that we pay attention to it at all levels of the society.

From making our police force more sensitive to gender crimes to making our law machinery more efficient, from bringing our sons up right to teaching our girls self-defense and how to protect themselves in such situations, from starting a dialog on the level of society to bringing in change leaders and celebrities to continue the discourse, a lot needs to be done!

We don’t need a cycle of outrage and name calling that dies down. We need sustained effort and continued discourse.

Can we do it? 

Image courtesy: EAK MOTO on Shutterstock

Comments

comments

62 Thoughts on “When Will Harassment of Women End?

  1. These incidents scare me when I have to go to some other city. Thankfully not so bad in Mumbai though it has its own share of shameful incidents. I remember I used to take a bus home some time ago. I had to get off at the last stop and most of the times I am the last passenger. Believe me, I would pray to all Gods to keep an eye on me. It was never late night, covered from head to toe and am middle aged too. But still, the fear is always there.

  2. It feels so disgusting and utterly frustrating to be molested like that. That feeling stays life long. I wonder if men ever had to feel that helpless would they do it. Will they think that this is a battle of gender? It’s just about being human and considerate. I can’t believe a city as progressive as Bangalore is regressive to this level. I am sorry you had to experience this and I can completely understand how you must have felt.
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    • I don’t think men who do this ever actually introspect. I agree. It is just basic human courtesy to not treat another human being in this manner. But then these men are perverts.

  3. So very sorry to hear about your experience, Rachna. The really sad truth is that it’s almost universally accepted that all women will experience this at some point in their lives. And that’s what angers me the most. That I have to tell my daughter to be wary, to be on guard every single time. I agree with you that we must be careful. I don’t take cabs alone after 7 pm. It’s scary and I can’t function without fear if I do. What a state for us to live in, isn’t it? And I am completely with you that temporary outrage will not serve much purpose. We need sustained discourse, decisive action and punitive measures that will strike fear into any creature who even dares to raise a finger against a woman. That’s when we can be safe.
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    • Thanks, Shailaja. I am totally in sync with your thoughts. Just the entire incident made me feel so mad. But I know that this situation will not change unless there is a sustained effort. Let’s hope and pray that something is done.

  4. Sorry to hear about your experience, Rachna. It is indeed sad that we have to guard ourselves in this manner for no apparent fault. The issue has to be tackled at multiple levels like you’ve rightly mentioned. But first and foremost the laws will have to be made swift and tough. It then comes to changing the mindset of people which will take a longer while. I believe our generation as parents have the power and tools to raise our sons differently, by teaching them to respect the other gender and showing them their boundaries too.
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  5. So sorry to hear about your experience Rachna. I have had my share of such experiences too and sadly it is never ending. What happened then and what happened now shows that nothing is being done to address such issues. The woman is continued to be blamed and called names. Today’s paper tells that the women asked for help, but did not say they were being harassed. I was like WTF! Also, no one has filed a complaint until now and the same cops who claimed to have helped the women said that no CCTV camera around captured the molestation. What do you say to such a thing?

    I used to be proud of being a Bangalorean and thought this city is safe. I no longer do. I carry a pepper spray and a sharp file with me all the time. Now, you can never be too safe.
    Soumya recently posted…Book Review: Salvation Of A SaintMy Profile

    • You are right. Excuses everywhere. The cops can file a case even if no victim comes forward. It’s not as if they’ve made it easy for women to approach police and law and order. The thing is that after every such incident, everyone goes into a defensive mode and the real issue gets buried under charges and counter-charges.

      While women and girls continue to suffer. Nothing is improving.

  6. It’s really sad and shameful. What makes it even more unfortunate is its prevalence. It’s unfair that women need to compromise on their rights, freedom and desires.

    ‘Justice/punishment’ delayed is equivalent to ‘no justice/punishment’. And, then our society being judgmental. Sadly, these are the main problems in our country.
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  7. So sorry to hear about your experience, Rachna. It is sad that these things keep on happening and nothing happens to the perpetrators. They are not scared. I don’t know how things will change and if things will change. I’m always worried about my sister because of this and now M. I just feel so angry and depressed.
    Nabanita Dhar recently posted…#Women – We Have All Been Abused At Least OnceMy Profile

    • I can imagine, Naba. We all worry. We know how our public spaces are not as safe as we’d like them to be. And sadly after the outrage dies, things are back to being the way they were.

  8. This is very very disturbing the way things are shaping up. The festivals have become nightmare for few. Thanks for writing this and more power to women like you.
    I will be a keen observer on how things shape up in Bangalore and how Police and the custodians of the law take up the case
    Anindya Sundar Basu recently posted…Varanasi Ganga Aarti in evening through my camera and photography tipsMy Profile

    • Thanks, Anindya. It is very disturbing to any decent human being. You are exactly right, any large social gatherings like festival crowd, New Year, Holi etc. sees such pervs take advantage. When we were younger kids, our parents stopped us from celebrating Holi in public places for this reason. We would celebrate only with know family and friends. Such men take advantage of crowds to satisfy their perversion.

  9. Rickie Khosla on January 5, 2017 at 3:42 pm said:

    OMG…I am horrified! And one doesn’t forget such things for the rest of one’s life, I am sure. Very sorry you had to go through this.

    • Thanks, Rickie. These incidents haunt you for life. They are much more common than we know, sadly. It took me more than a decade to speak about it. Even today, I feel upset when I remember. And then is anything really getting better? We have better technological aids yet no punishment for such pervs. But then I know how the legal system here works. Just sad at all levels.

  10. Sad. The top cop has not even acknowledged that it happened. When there is no acceptance, any action is unlikely. It’s not exclusive to Bangalore. A few years ago, this happened on Gurgaons MG Road too. Which is why we have stopped going out on New Year Eve and Holi. But it is so sad that families can’t go out because some rowdies cannot behave and the police cannot control them.
    We need to talk about responsible drinking too. Forget thinking straight, many men in the video couldn’t stand straight.

    • Oh yes, Alka. I have seen that drinking is a real issue as well. Most of the maids I’ve had have had abusive husbands who are alcoholic. Men get aggressive after drinking and when in a group and of a perverse nature, it is a recipe for disaster.

      It is just so sad that we start withdrawing because some men just don’t know how to behave and have no fear of the police or the law.

  11. That must have been such a dreadful experience Rachna! And even sadder is that fact that nothing has changed even today. In fact it’s become even worse a prospect to venture out without the fear of being attacked or molested. Really when will we ever feel safe? Sigh!

  12. That’s an unfortunate incident, and sadly, it’s one that most women would have faced. The trauma is real, and resurfaces whenever these incidents happen again.
    Modern Gypsy recently posted…The WordMy Profile

  13. It must have been such a horrifying experience for you, Rachna! So sorry to hear you had to go through it! Such incidents can leave scars on our psyche for the rest of our lives! We all go through such things, sadly, and unless some serious steps are taken by the law as well by us citizens, the beasts that roam about freely will not stop wreaking terror. Let’s hope the future beings about some improvement…let’s hope we have some hope in the future!

  14. Roshni on January 6, 2017 at 2:47 am said:

    Sadly, I don’t know a single girl who has not experienced street harassment. It’s so tiring to see the debate degenerate to accusing women or outsiders or the particular cities when we all know that this happens everywhere

  15. I don;t think there’s any girl or woman who hasn’t ever been groped or commented upon. One cannot even begin to imagine what that feels like – how it scares you and pulls down your happiness so completely – even though you know you are not at fault. This time it was specially worrisome because it happened on a crowded street not in some deserted gali.
    Obsessivemom recently posted…International Blog Delurking WeekMy Profile

    • And that’s just so sad that we have suffered these incidents when we were children and continue to do so. While so much has changed, this aspect has barely seen much change. As a matter of fact, I have traveled alone late at night back in my college days. But I don’t dare now. Have things gotten worse? Like you mentioned, they scar your thoughts and suck away your happiness.

      When you can’t feel safe among people, how can you feel safe alone?

  16. Tulika is right, we all have faced this in some form or the other at least once in our Lifetime. Yet, we remain strong- That’s the beauty of womanhood. I am sad to hear your experience Rachna. I am more worried to imagine our Kids witness these things. How would they feel and what picture of Society will form in their tender minds. I agree we cannot fight back always but yes, when we can we should.

    • Thanks so much, Upasna. I am sensitising my sons to the reality on the roads for women. In a way, they will be better raised to understand first hand what a woman experiences on a daily basis just because men feel it a right to stare, harass and molest. But yes, initially I used to feel very embarrassed.

  17. That must have been really horrible. I remember the first time I faced molestation when I was in class 8. Can’t even begin to describe the absolute sense of revulsion that overpowers you. I don’t know when the time will come, when we can walk without fear at anytime of day or night.
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    • It was. So sorry to hear about your experience. I faced one way back in school too. And it took me years to speak about it to my loved ones. Just one incident can scar your memories.

      I also wonder when I will not worry venturing out just because I am a woman.

  18. Sorry to hear about your experience, Rachna! Every girl/ woman has faced some sort of harassment, so much so that it is considered the women’s responsibility to be wary all the time.
    The first time I was touched indecently was in a crowded train when I was barely 9 or 10 years old, by a man who was perhaps older than my father. I can still feel the shame and helplessness of that incident. I can talk about it now but at that time I was not able to tell my parents and it bothered me for many days.
    We are quick to judge women on their choices. So, something happened because the girls were wearing skirts or they went out at the wrong time. What about incidents which happen to women clad from top-to-toe and within their own homes!
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    • Thanks, Priya. The sad part is that these incidents are not one-off. So sorry to hear about what you had to go through at that young age. I had a similar experience in school though I was in my early teens then. Just like you, I clamped up. Could not tell anyone for years. Just makes me so angry even today.

      Absolutely! Does it really matter what women wear? These men will molest any woman who comes their way. Just so sickening!

  19. I have to admit that such incidents aren’t a rarety anywhere. But I do feel that the school kids are the ones who are mostly targetted. Who would come for their rescue, if they aren’t counselled enough to speak out when they are molested? We need to create more and more awareness on the issue.
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  20. Yogi Saraswat on January 9, 2017 at 2:44 pm said:

    मुझे लगता है कहना , सुनना , लिखना , बोलना सब बहुत हो गया रचना जी ! ये एक्शन का समय है , क्यों मेरी बेटी , मेरी बहन , ये सोचकर चले कि रोड पर कुछ गुंडे बैठे हैं ? वो क्यों डरे ? वो भी हर उस आदमी की तरह स्वतंत्र है जो वहां बैठा है !

  21. The challenge is everybody wants ” Teach girls how to defend themselves, teach girls how to dress modestly” and all other nonesense. But we should be teaching our boys = ” Learn to respect women”,
    ==No means No.
    == The movie hero teasing a girl to get her affections is an eve teaser and not your role model.
    With more women being aware of what they faced growing up , I am sure they will be raising better boys. I have never met your sons but I am sure they are going to be much better citizens and human beings being raised by a mother who understands the real issue. I am hopeful the next generation will be much better as the girls and boys both are aware much better today what is right and what is wrong.
    desi Traveler recently posted…What happened on desi Traveler Blog in 2016 ?My Profile

    • And I don’t mean to say that raising kids is just a women’s responsibility with no inputs from father, but all I mean is that a mother who is aware of what is right and what is wrong is better positioned to teach her sons about gender-related matters.
      desi Traveler recently posted…What happened on desi Traveler Blog in 2016 ?My Profile

    • I do share your angst, Prasad. I feel furious too when my freedom is curtailed. But I also inhabit the real world with its dangers and taking a few precautions is certainly not foolish. I don’t wish to be a hero at the cost of my safety. Of course, I teach my kids to be sensitive, to understand what consent is but people around us come from different strata of society. Some of them come from deeply patriarchal setups or are sexually frustrated. We hardly have control over how each person around us behaves. This issue is so complex on so many levels.

  22. Dont worry…nothing is going to change, surprised?
    actually so far i have come to know that not a single person has reported this incident in Police station, no one has filed a case…and this is the reason i said nothing is going to change, until the victims and the general public becomes united and start to protest against such brutal activities, the difference between the hooligans and the gentle people is hooligans have more unity than other one.

    • I understand your angst. But you must be aware that the police can file a case even if no victim comes forward. Besides not every case of molestation has video evidence to back it up. In crowd situations, the women sometimes don’t even see the face of the perv.

  23. I remember that New Year incident of yours very well. Donno why. I don’t know what to say. Having a teen and a soon to be man in the raising, I feel I am living on an edge. Though I have a son and daughter, though I talk to my son about everything and teach him good vs bad, yes vs no, as a mom I incline on teaching my daughter to be extra careful. I know it is sad to be doing that way…but it is what it is. No matter where you are, we have to take that extra step to be cautious.
    Here, we don’t have a fear like that but there are certainly other fears. Let’s hope things will get better with the next gen.

  24. I just returned from Bangalore today. I found the crowd on the road a bit too much for my comfort. I was not surprised by the 31st night molestations. We are all living in islands of relative affluence. Outside our immediate society are the ones who have come to bangalore for work and are ready to violate others for satisfying their depraved mentalities.

    It is a mob mentality. Unless controlled, it wills soon spiral to engulf all of us. The Government in any state doesn’t want to acknowledge crime as it will lead to bad publicity. Take your pepper spray and use those and call the police. Let the people get arrested.
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  25. It is sickening beyond words! Don’t know when this will ever end 🙁
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  26. I am sorry that you had to go through that, Rachna. Though I don’t think any woman today can claim that she has never been treated disrespectfully. It says a lot about the society that we live in.

    More worrisome is the fact that while in every other area, India seems to be progressing, nothing much is happening when it comes to women’s safety. It is the same sorry sordid story. Sad reality of our times.
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  27. Pingback: Suggestion Saturday: January 14, 2017 | Lydia Schoch

  28. Sadly more effort is being spent to discredit the mass-molestation accusations and coming up with weird excuses for such men, than going after the perpetrators and locking them up.
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  29. Truly painful and of course irritating Rachna! I wonder where the men emerged from or what actually initiated such behavior. When there is a mass behavioral trauma like this. In fact some of the videos I saw made me want to weep.
    Yes, it is true that the official response was irresponsible and they have even gone to say that there is no evidence for such occurring!
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  30. Oh Rachna, that is lovely – hope it will all reach a better end … That all women deserves-lovely post my dear:-)
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