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Blog: Teaching gropers a lesson

Earlier this week I got a Facebook request asking me to join a group paying tribute to Keegan Santos and Reuben Fernandes. I joined, with a creepy it-could-have-been-me feeling. I’m sure most Bombay girls share the sentiment.

“Eve teasing” for all its nastiness, is still alarmingly common. So common that you wouldn’t find ONE girl in the city who’s never been sexually harassed.

I remember being a teenager and walking on the streets always dodging men, cutting paths to avoid any physical contact. I knew if I walked close enough to a man I risked being felt up. But the city is just so damn crowded that I couldn’t have run away from all the men on the streets. So I just grew up hating them.

What fuelled the hatred was the arrogance of it all. How could anyone think it was OK to touch my bottom, breasts or crotch and walk away as if it were totally normal street behaviour? I decided pretty early in life that I wasn’t going to put up with the cult of street bastards (referred to as SBs from now on).

But what do I do, was the question.

Blood
I’d heard brave stories from a friend who’d often chase away the SBs with expletives, sandals, slaps and punches. “You scare the shit out of them. They deserve it. They won’t do ever it again,” she’d say.

Despite her guidance and training, I failed to learn from her violent ways. I cursed myself for being non-violent, peace-loving and passive. I just couldn’t make myself hit someone on the streets. “What if he started bleeding,” I asked her during one of our training sessions. “Blood isn’t always bad,” she’d replied.

Molested
Geez, I thought and declared she wasn’t going to be my guru anymore. I had to find my own way to tackle this menace.

I decided SBs who offended me would need to have answers. I started walking up to the men who eve teased me – passed snide comments, made rude gestures, touched, molested – and confronting them. I normally started out with the question, “What did you just do?” And continued the conversation, “Do you do that often? How often? Why do you do that? Do you feel good doing it? What do you want from me?”

Police threat
It’s not easy to get an SB to engage with you. Most walk away. But I am persistent. Last but not least, I play my trump card – threaten them with handing them over at the police station. “Why don’t you come with me to the nearest chowki? I just want to tell the police what you did to me.”

The police threat is enough to get an apology out of the SBs. But I want more than an apology. I want the SB to think about this incident when he is tempted to eve tease again. So I push the agenda on getting the police involved – a Bombay police chowki experience is more likely to act as a rude reminder than me trying to give him gyaan.

Too much work
But do the policemen give a damn, you’d wonder? Not really, in my personal experience. They don’t want to file an FIR – it’s too much work for them. “A warning is enough, madam,” they tend to say. But if you really insist, they’ll file a case.

Well that’s my guide to teaching-an-SB-a-lesson-he-deserves-to-know. It might or might not work for you, but it sure is worth finding out. Strike it off your list of ways to deal with eve teasing, if it’s no good. And let me know of better alternatives if you’ve got any.

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