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Did you ask for it?

An online/offline protest brings street sexual harassment into public space, writes Serish Nanisetti



GATHERING SUPPORT Volunteers of Blank Noise project distribute pamphlets to create awareness

Someone just pitooed out his paan on your white salwar kameez, wear bangles they call out "hey! chammak challo," you wear a micro-mini and race from the car to the disc to avoid the cat calls, now cab drivers want women to dress propah. The men stand and stare making you uncomfortable in whatever you wear. Is there no end to this unreported social euphemism of eve-teasing? Can you stop it by wearing something that society says can stop it?

Perhaps not. To create an awareness about this inhuman violation of a woman's right to wear the thing of choice, a clutch of young professionals have started what they call Blank Noise project aimed against street sexual harassment.

A few weeks back, visitors to Necklace Road gawked as a bunch of young people distributed testimonials of their experience culled from their blog http://blanknoiseproject.blogspot.com. It also included plastering of leaflets asking women to donate the clothes they have been harassed in.

What marks out this protest/awareness programme is its online/offline avatar. If the online mode is blogging where the experiences are there for everyone to see in the isolation of their homes or office cubicles, Blank Noise plans to reach society at large by using the collected clothes and mount them as a show in public spaces to defy society as well as to create awareness about the gravity of the problem.

Modelled almost like the US AIDS Memorial Quilt, which started in 1987, Jasmeen Patheja started the Blank Noise project in Bangalore with nine girls in 2003.

Jasmeen says, "The threat of being sexually harassed every time I was out of home and then labelling this invasion of my privacy with such an innocuous term as `eve teasing' made me realise that this is an offence that has often been ignored or trivialised."

No longer passive

The impact of this form of sexual harassment is often discounted when compared to other forms of sexual violence like rape and molestation. Blank Noise is putting across a view that this harassment is equally damaging and has severe long-term consequences on the mental health of the victim.

"Blank Noise wants to enable women to reclaim their space and their rights by not passively accepting this kind of harassment. It also wants to break the myth that the woman asked for it. As popular opinion, both male and female, across all sections of society is that the woman asks for it by dressing provocatively or asks for it by travelling in the night or entering male frequented areas," says the coordinator of the project.

If you want to make your voice heard, speakout at www.blanknoise.blogspot.com. And if you have been a victim drop your clothes at the collection boxes that have been put up in Walden, Odyssey, Bakers Inn, Evolusions, Q-mart and Akshara.

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