What did you just call me?

Have you heard about the Blank Noise Project? It's a movement against sexual harassment on the streets of India. A lot of people cringe at the word, thinking that it's too harsh a word for being commented on, jeered, leched or worse on the streets. I think it's neither harsh nor overstated. As I stay in Delhi, I can only talk about what I have witnessed here. Ask any girl and she will tell you about her unfortunate run-ins with ordinary men who think it is their fundamental right to lech at women.

The worse part is people don't take this seriously enough. Elders will always advise you to 'ignore it' and very often, there is little else women can do. There are still others who think it is the woman's fault that she was harrased. And not just on the streets - it could happen anywhere, even in places of work. A sexual inneundo is not uncommon in work places - very often women take humour in it, which is ok as long as they don't find it offending. But for the women who do, who can they complain to? And saying what? Very often, there is not enough 'proof' to prosecute a person and companies do their best to brush such cases under the carpet. The HR department is not always equipped to handle such things and some companies don't even have an HR department to speak of.

Coming back to the streets. Who do you turn to there? Once when I was walking in a subway (in broad daylight that too) a man passed a comment. I looked around and asked him what he was talking about. He was visibly scared and murmured that he was speaking to his friend, but I reprimanded him anyway. The point is, no man will take such a step if he knows he will be persecuted. I can understand the mentality of a man who is on good terms with a police officer or a politician, who thinks he can get away with anything. But the fact that any moron on the street thinks he can behave any which way shows a gaping hole in our society and law & order situation.

And mind you, you cannot turn around and say that Indians are like that, or blame it on on socio-economic factors. I recently read about a site called Holla Back and was shocked to find that women are going through the same thing in the United States. It's true that we cannot make people think differently but what we can do is at least formulate laws that make some effort to protect women from this sort of harrasment. If we can formulate the Domestic Violence law where a woman is protected from verbal abuse of her husband or in-laws, why have we left her to suffer the same from complete strangers?
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