“I think this is the result of conservative mentality," says Jaleel Ahmad. His colleague Avishek Hazra agrees. He thinks 'eve teasing' is so common in India because of the tight social restrictions many youngsters live under.Jaleel and Avishek are both Programme Officers at the Population Council, which works to promote a feminist agenda in the field of reproductive health and rights. They think young men get into harassing women because they've no experience with simple, everyday interaction with girls.
Shame "When I was a child I was not allowed to speak with my neighbour’s daughters," says Jaleel. "Until I was 18, I wasn't able talk to girls. I could, but if someone were to tell my dad that I was seen talking to a girl then something bad would have happened to me.”Avishek thinks eve teasing happens more often in towns and cities because it's easier for the gropers to stay anonymous in the crowd. In rural areas, eve teasers would be more likely to be recognised, bringing shame on themselves and their families.Innocent funEve teasing is a controversial topic in India. Many men try to downplay how often it happens. Yet women deal with this form of sexual aggression on a daily basis.
Some argue that the term ‘eve teasing’ downplays the seriousness of the crime. In the bible, Eve was the first woman, who lured Adam into eating the apple. The comparison implies that women somehow bring the harassment on themselves. And 'teasing' makes it sound like innocent fun.GuiltySexual frustration is what leads men to eve tease, according to Jaleel. After reading a Love Matters article on avoiding India's gropers, an anonymous ex-groper agreed.
"For almost eight to ten years (from high school till I got married) it was hard to get a chance and not to lay my hands on a girl or woman or touch my private parts against them in crowded train or bus," he confessed.Only years later, after moving to a Western country, did the former eve teaser realise the impact sexual harassment has on women. "I feel very guilty and bad for all that I did," he said.
Speaking out More everyday contact between Indian girls and boys would help men cope with sexual frustration and understand the effect of harassment, Jaleel Ahmad says.“Eve teasing is not happening as much as it used to, particularly in Delhi and Mumbai. Lots of girls are going to college and the sexes are mixing more in daily life. These things are not happening as much. Awareness about the problem has increased and girls are becoming more courageous about speaking out and telling men to stop or they will call the police.”Women who still experience harassment on a daily basis in India's cities might disagree that the problem is on the wane. Some resort to carrying prick-pins or umbrellas, ready to use on the men with wandering hands and thrusting groins. Others shout out to draw attention to the harasser, or even frog-march them off to the police. But many more suffer in silence.
Murdered Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of eve teasing is the fact that it occurs in public. This means that, most of the time, other people see the sexual harassment taking place. Yet bystanders hardly ever intervene to help the woman.
In October 2011, Reuben Fernandez and Keenan Santos were murdered in Mumbai for trying to defend women from eve teasing. Jaleel Ahmad believes that the threat of violence is not the only reason people in India are so reluctant to help women who are being sexually harassed in public:“The person who intervenes will lose their time and be involved with legal procedures. The police will come and they will take both the offender and the intervener in to the station. And afterwards, the intervener has to go to court to testify. So who is going to go through all of this? For that reason, many people don’t want to get involved.”