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Controlling eve-teasing

EVE-TEASING IS a rampant social evil. It is all pervasive — beaches, roads, cinema halls, buses and sadly even in educational institutions. When eve-teasing persists even inside educational institutions, one can obviously infer that even the educated youth don't necessarily desist from indulging in this uncouth behaviour. The issue always surfaces when something prominent happens, like for instance when a Chennai college girl was killed some years ago. Knee-jerk reactions such as police patrols, `white' brigade actions, etc., continue for a short time. Public memory happens to be short and soon things return to the usual anarchy and we accept the fact that `nothing much can be done.'

Glorification in movies

Where does eve-teasing have its roots? Is this seen in every country? An interesting fact needs to be mentioned here. If one types `eve-teasing' in any internet search engine, you would be surprised that page after page of results are almost entirely Indian web pages. Maybe, other countries refer to this more subtly under `sexual harassment,' but a cursory survey among frequent travellers to other countries confirms that `eve-teasing' in its form of hooting-ogling-loud commenting-whistling, etc., does tend to be more prevalent in India. Not something to be proud about. Eve-teasing is a crude way of garnering female attention. It is unnecessarily glorified by movies, although movie makers may argue that it is a classical `chicken and egg' situation. One must admit that eve-teasing can most certainly be perpetuated easily by its continued glorification in movies.

Eve-teasing is not a victimless crime as it appears on paper. It has resulted in deaths, and when it goes unchecked could lead to public humiliation of women even in broad daylight. The rape of a medical student in Delhi in the recent past shocked the whole nation. Eve-teasing also portrays a bad image of the country among tourists. The immeasurable damage to a woman's self-esteem and the subsequent avoidance of public places by single women could hardly take us on the way to achieving gender equality.

Eve-teasing is a typical social crime, where the perpetrators and victims are ordinary people. There is no easy way of rounding up everyone concerned and settling the issue. Schools and colleges could easily discipline students for such activities on campus, but this only induces them to indulge in such acts outside campus. Police prosecution can also never be severe because of the reluctance of victims to depose in court. A behavioural change is the only lasting solution to this problem. This requires an extensive public education aimed at every section of society at large.

Every action is performed with an intention. The intention behind eve-teasing is: to catch a girl's eye and to arouse attention in some way; and more importantly this harassment is an early manifestation of patriarchal masculinity. Gender segregation and a `boys will be boys' attitude furthers this behaviour. Innumerable movies show that eve-teasing eventually `wins' a girl's attention. Changing this behaviour is easier said than done. However, if things are left alone, they could hardly get better. Active solutions should be sought. For starters, a massive sustained campaign by women's organisations highlighting this evil must be initiated. Students in colleges must specifically be counselled. Debates on this issue must be organised in colleges, TV shows, etc., with responsible moderators — who would listen and reason an argument instead of sounding outright biased. Every parent should talk to his son about this. Cinema is a powerful medium to showcase this issue. The majority of the eve-teasing crowds are undoubtedly movie junkies. Maybe when a movie addresses the fear, hurt and humiliation a girl experiences will people think about this `other side' of eve-teasing.

Unwelcome attention

Eve-teasing is not just a college girl's problem. It leads to insecurity for parents or to even anyone who's loved one undergoes this. This unwelcome masculine attention on women subjects them to an unimaginable sexual pressure. Tucking this issue under the carpet is not a solution. A civilised society cannot afford to ignore such an issue. Eve-teasing deserves to be tackled actively. Eradicating eve-teasing will help women access public places fearlessly and will further gender equality in India — probably, much more than can be achieved by reservation of seats for women in Parliament.

RAJESH VENKATARAMAN

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