Eve teasing is one of the oldest societal perils in the age of progress and development. “Violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of full advancement of women (United Nations, 1993)”. The experience of eve teasing affects the lives of millions of women in India, in all socio-economic and educational classes, moving across boundaries of wealth, race, religion and culture; violating and curbing women’s autonomy of their human rights and fundamental freedoms including their ability to make choices. The fear of harassment in women depletes the society economically, politically and culturally by restraining the active contributory role of women in building a cultured society. The fear mechanism yields and forces women into a subservient position as compared to their male counterparts.
Stop the Abuse “Eve Teasing”
Of all the forms of violence against women, eve teasing is the most pervasive and deceptive as it is considered ‘normal’ behavior and not an attack against women. It is so ordinary and usual that society has become desensitized to the offensive mark that it carries. Eve teasing is form of sexual harassment or molestation of women by men. It ranges in severity from sexually painted remarks to outright groping and may also include verbal assaults such as making passes or unwelcome sexual jokes; nonverbal assaults such as displaying obscene gestures, winking, whistling, staring and physical assaults such as pinching, fondling, and rubbing against women in public places. In all the above scenarios the dignity and esteem of a woman is conceded.
One of the significant factor that plays a role in sexual violence against women is the gender biased socialization and social control at the domestic and societal level. The incongruity in the rules, values, customs, expectations and sanctions levied on girls on one hand and freedom from the same provided to the boys on the other hand creates the foundation of gender inequality. This conditions a boy’s mind into believing that there shall be no accountability for his behavior. This passes off as being true when parents of the boys who engage in eve teasing handle it insouciantly and pass it off as sheer entertainment and humor. Eve teasing, then, is nothing more than a way of men asserting power and dominance over women. Another factor that plays a role in determining concepts about gender roles and identities in the Indian context is the Media. Be it in the form of Bollywood movies or advertisements, women are objectified as ‘sex objects’ and portrayed as powerless, vulnerable and in a position to be exploited. Distortedly then, eve teasing which should really be derided is projected as being attractive, “cool” and harmless by the media.
Whilst eve teasing occurs across all social and economic groupings, there is a significant association between physical teasing and the low educational and social status of perpetrators. Most women do not retaliate to verbal or gestural teasing as it invites humiliation and embarrassment for them and they may believe that society may blame them for having done “something wrong” to invite the eve teaser for committing the offence. Fear of payback by the teaser may also deter them from being vocal about the harassment. Further in some cases the woman may fear that the offender may reverse the blame on her by accusing her of seeking attention and on non-compliance by the man, alleging him falsely. This threat of double victimization in most cases causes women to bear with the act of eve teasing and harassment in silence, which makes the offender buoyant, ready to strike again.
To overcome this problem certain measures at the family, societal, legal and personal level are necessary. Socialization and social control at the family and social level should not be gender biased; men should not be given undue freedom and power and a sense of accountability should be inculcated in men. Media should play its part in making people aware about the seriousness of this issue. At the legal level, strict implementation of regulations and rules should be implemented by the concerned authorities. At a personal level, women should not be approval seeking or consider themselves lesser than men in any respect and must stand up for themselves without any fear of shaping an identity of their own with the belief that they too have the right to live their life according to their choices.