This story is part of the 16 Days Of Activism campaign against sexual harassment. People are invited to share their experiences and shift the onus from the survivor to the perpetrator. To know more and take part in the campaign click here.
This is a tough topic to write on. The stories that I write, have been hidden inside for so long and I don’t think anyone else knows about all this. So when I saw this campaign I agreed to bring out these stories out in open. Because street sexual harassment happens, and it is not just “admiring beauty”.
Now I live in a city that is called the “Sanskari Nagri”, the land of the culture. My city is considered a comparatively a “safe” place for women, it might be so, but it still is not 100% free of this.
My first experience of this was quite drastic. I was in sixth standard, and I used to go to tuition on my cycle. I used to go to an elderly uncle’s house every afternoon, his society was quite vacant, and very few people lived there, and those that did, slept in the afternoon. So, once while returning from the tuitions, a guy just called “hey..”. I stopped my cycle and looked at him. He said he did not know how to read, so could I please help him read and find the address. He showed me the address, and I said ok. As I went to show him the flat address, he tried to touch me inappropriately. I got scared, and I tried to go but he held my arms and said “let me see how beautiful you are”. I do not know it was the fright or what, but at that moment, I was so angry, I actually saw red. I forgot all the fright, and pushed him so forcefully that he fell and in that moment I rushed towards the cycle and rode home. I had never seen that guy before, never saw him afterwards. But, I did wonder, what would have happened, had I not pushed him?
Next incident happened in Mumbai. I was travelling with my parents in a local train. Might have been in sixth or seventh standard. The train was heavily packed and there were people standing all around. And then suddenly I felt someone feeling my behind, at first I thought it must have been an honest mistake, as there were so many people. I moved my place. I could not figure out in the crowd who was this person. But, suddenly I felt the same thing again, and that time I was sure this was not a mistake, I moved in a way that my back was facing the wall, and so that was the end of it.
Another incident happened when I was in ninth standard, I was cycling towards school and two guys came on a motorcycle and just grabbed my skirt and pushed the material towards my thigh, to “see” more. It happened so fast that before I could even figure out what was happening my skirt was up the thigh and those guys ahead were laughing. Frankly, I found that pretty stupid. For one: I had worn cycling shorts underneath the skirt. So these idiots were laughing coz they saw half an inch of skin? And two: The shorts that I wore at home showed more skin than what would have been seen if I had not been wearing those cycling shorts. For the life of me, I could not understand why they expected me to be humiliated for it and what the hell was so funny?
Now cut to college. I studied in Vidyanagar. It is an educational town of Gujarat. Our hostel was surrounded by boys hostels. So, every time we left the hostel gates we would be met with lecherous gazes. People say what is in looking? But the way these guys looked at girls, it disgusted every cell of my body while walking past those guys. And they would look like this at all girls of all shapes and sizes, the skirt clad ones and the burkha clad ones alike. And the comments that they passed..in plain hearing, their laughter, it was all just too sick for words.
These are just the major incidents. If I start to write about every incident that I was followed on the road, heard comments about my body parts you would be reading a novel instead of a blogpost.
But my main reason of writing all this, is for people who say that this is just “eve teasing” and “guys are guys” and even worse “its natural to admire beautiful things”, it is time they realize this is worse than that, this is street harassment. We are not things that were placed on this earth for you to admire. We are human beings.