Eve Teasing: Not an Avoidable Issue

“Two boys the trademark muscular built and tight shirt, dancing like they do on marriages and singing song for a girl who was sitting alone waiting for someone, at a public restaurant.”

Most of us have been writing articles and posts on the sexual harassment, but wrote very little on this issue. This phenomenon of eve-teasing stands for public harassment, teasing and molestation of women by men. The term may not be found in European and American literature much, but the process takes place even in western cultures too. The semantic roots of the euphemistic term basically originate from Indian English language. The strangest thing about eve-teasing is that it’s a much difficult crime to prove, as compared with the sexual harassment. The Indian government has taken measures and steps against this thing by establishing women police stations and anti eve-teasing cells. Eve-teasing starts with some street molestation and can go up to a severe crime, like acid throwing. The eve-teasing that results in death of the victim can ultimately be linked with a crime. For example the death of Sarika Shah and Pearl Gupta, who both died as a result of eve-teasing, raised the issue to be thought provoking. The women rights organization helped to pass ‘The Delhi Prohibition of Eve-teasing Bill 1984’.

Whatever I found on eve-teasing issue, were the laws and punishments by the Indian government. The National Commission for Women proposed No 9. Eve Teasing (New Legislation) in 1988. According to Indian Penal Code, a man found guilty of passing comments, remarks, making obscene gestures and singing vulgar songs, can be sentenced to imprisonment for three months. The section 292 clearly spells that the man showing pornographic material to a girl or woman would be fined Rs. 2000 with an imprisonment of two years for first offenders and in case of repeated offense, could be sentenced to a fine of Rs. 5000 with five years of imprisonment. ‘The Black Noise Project’ is yet another initiative by Jasmeen Patheja taken against eve-teasing.

The psychology of eve-teasing is not that simple. Some people hold a myth that because of their, attractive looks, dress and make-up, eve-teasing comes up. But, some women covering themselves completely and without any make-up even reported it. Even the girls wearing Hijab and Abaya complained of it. People hold a second myth to it that women should not go out and stay at home. What would happen to working widows and single moms, who have to earn and raise their children? If they stick to their homes, who is going to feed their kids? The same applies to college and university students. The myth states that they should bid adieu to their studies forever. A third myth associated with eve-teasing is that only young and beautiful college girls are victims of it. Not only college girls are the victims, but some senior 40+ aged women are also molested. School girls, college students, working women regularly go through mortifying comments by the disruptive men at public places.

The similar phenomenon has been described as “Chikan” in Japanese culture, with a little variation in it. The kind of sexual antagonism is even harder to define in every culture. It’s just not a street gesture but a social evil and lethal crime. Even the term originates from India, but the phenomenon is experienced a lot in Pakistan and Bangladesh too. In Bangladesh, they recently observed “Eve Teasing Protection Day” on 13th June, 2010. In Pakistan, we see so many cases and examples of it at schools, cinemas, universities, bus stops, college gates, cinemas, shopping centers, NGOs, Malls, concerts, cafes, restaurants and even business centers aren’t free of this rampant evil. You would find groups of boys trying to attract or gather a female’s attention, by singing songs, passing comments and staring badly at times. Eve-teasing has its own objectives and it’s strange to note that the teasers and victims are ordinary people. The eve teasing cases are usually ignored. But the eve-teasing cases that lead to the suicide and death of the victim cannot be ignored at any cost, because sometimes it overlaps with sexual harassment. How would one define eve-teasing by the recruitment manager of a company, who saves cell number from electronic CV of a female candidate and then makes dumb unwanted phone calls? (Text eve-teasing)Even if someone covers herself the calls would still be there. How would you define cyber eve-teasing? One can only feel cyber eve- teasing. Eve teasing in the corporate world is both unethical as well as unprofessional.

Most people define and would take it as fun. But the same teasers would react badly and would be ready to kill someone who teases their siblings. One must know and understand that this is not just an ordinary joke but it has serious ramifications. What shocked me more was that India and Bangladesh are raising awareness among people on this social evil. I didn’t see any research work, article or any kind of awareness campaign in Pakistan regarding this issue. Though on sexual harassment, there are many articles and blogs. Even the sexual harassment bill is in its implementation phase and doldrums. Is it because of the reason that we perceive ‘eve teasing’ as sexual harassment or we never bothered to raise any awareness on this topic? Is ‘eve-teasing’ as a soft way of describing blatant harassment that ranges from verbal to physical abuse, may be facial at times? We have been talking about sexual harassment, but talked nothing about ‘eve teasing’? Does it need a law in a situation like where women, who dare to come out on the streets are subjected to unconcealed sexual harassment and catcalls by men, a behavior that would be highly punishable by jail-terms in most of the western countries. The recent chopping off nose of a teaser isn’t the right solution nor is the beating up the culprit is the right one. Instead of treating it as a social evil, would make some sense. It has become a sadistic cycle. If India and Bangladesh are taking measures on this issue, why can’t we do the same? I would simply shun out the critics who talk about Adam-teasing, since Eve-teasing is more rampant. Apart from being a crime, it damages the self esteem and dignity of a woman publicly. Avoiding this issue may not serve as a remedy. A civilized society must not afford to disregard such an important issue, since it makes parents insecure. It deserves to be handled keenly. Eliminating eve-teasing would help women visit public places without any fear, boost their self esteem and will further gender equality.