MUMBAI: “How unsafe should a girl feel if she is going out at night or taking a train to go to work or just standing outside her house? One would expect that there will be a certain ‘safe’ time/area/dress-code/behavior when the society can assure her safety but sadly there isn’t,” a teenage student performing a street play at Chatrapati Shivaji Terminal, Mumbai yelled.
While the play gathered a huge crowd of commuters at the busy railway station the students hoped to change even a single person’s mindset. “Everyday we see how woman in the city faces harassment and in most cases she doesn’t do anything because she feels that ignoring it will solve it. They don’t want to create a fuss or avoid bringing more attention, unfortunately, this encourages the perpetrators. We want people to address it and confront the miscreant so that it is not repeated again,” Dinesh Sajnani, one of the writers of the play said.
There is no list or steps that can ensure the safety of women because it is the audacity of the perpetrator that needs to be checked. “Some one told me that we live in a country that teaches the women how not to get raped and doesn’t address those who rape them,” Jason Temasfieldt said. For Jason’s cousin Keenan Santos (25) and his friend Rueben Fernandes, (28) standing against miscreants misbehaving with their women friends a simple night out turned fatal. “After that incident, those who knew Santos and Fernandes had two choices – they could have sat at home to mourn their loss or reach out to others and prevent similar episodes,” said Jason Temasfieldt, who chose the latter and co-founded an NGO to address the issue of women’s safety in public places. We the People Foundation (WTPF) is working towards the cause and hopes to change mindset of both men and women towards the issue of sexual harassment.
A recent study by WTPF revealed that “Eight out of every 10 women in the city are subjected to some form of harassment in public places every day. The maximum cases of verbal and physical harassment take place in crowded areas such as trains and railway platforms,” Jason Temasfieldt said. The survey revealed that only one out of 10 women lodges a police complaint and not more than two confront the perpetrator or attempt to stop him. And only two out of every 10 women glare angrily at the offender, rest just ignore him or worse, feel embarrassed or ashamed of them.
In the Indian Penal Code, the word ‘eve-teasing’ does not exist and is largely understood to be an attitude or an act of humiliation of the female sex. “It is just assumed that boys will be boys and will continue to tease girls. We have to do away with frivolous terms such as ‘eve teasing’ and accept that any kind physical or verbal action by a man that makes a woman uncomfortable is harassment and is unacceptable,” Rhea Kotak, a student of H R College in South Mumbai said.
The city has a long list of helpline numbers, 103 (to complain about eve teasing and any to learn about women self Defense), 1298 (for women in distress to connect to relevant NGO’s), 22828862 (Family Service Center), 26140403 (Women’s Center), 1800227550 (for sexual harassment in bus – Initiative by BEST bus services in Mumbai) and 103 (Police helpline for crime against women). However girls like Bindiya Khan refuse to accept the phone line as a source of relief, “Its a phone line, it can be busy or cut and what can someone on the other side of a phone do anyways?” she asks.
19 year old Bindiya Saheba Khan, got tired of the harassment she faced and saw around her and decided to report it to the police,” The first time I got a case booked against someone for eve teasing I was in 9 th standard. In December last year after many indecent calls police had to book a case against a person and recently I called on the helpline no (100) to report a case against five men who was harassing women outside a bank.” Ms Khan has stopped approaching the police anymore for reporting misbehavior against any women, “Now they ask me to leave and allege that I will blackmail the men later. Even my mother has asked me not to leave home.”
“Saddest part of the problem is that women are made to feel responsible for the harassment. Also at present time our TV shows, advertisements and movies all show teasing or passing remarks as pleasant flirting or beginnings of a courtship or romance instead of violation of a woman’s basic right,” Bindiya Saheba Khan, 19 year old student of journalism said