By Sadaf Manzoor
Street harassment is a ragbag of pesky behaviours that crop up on the street or in other public places comprising catcalling, sexually explicit comments, unsolicited touching, following or pestering a woman and the like. By means of incessant gazing, clumsiest words and gesticulations, the men allege it as their legacy to meddle with the women’s comfort level and privacy – delimit her as a sex object and compel her to interact with them.
Street harassment is validated on the idea that men are allowed to say whatever thing to women that they long for. It makes one feel sexualized, panic-stricken, humiliated, assaulted and insecure. Paradoxically, it is looked upon as an unobtrusive snag though being potent of causing psychological and physical chain of detrimental effects for young women and girls around the world. No form of stalking and annoyance can ever be okay. Eve teasing is not just confined to one locality, it is global. It is not intermittent but everyday’s and every woman’s quandary.
I have had my own share of being harassed – much of it as a child.
I was 15, when I was harassed for the first time. I was on my way back to home from the school and the two boys came stumbling my way and eyed me head to toe and yelled obscene things and even told me I was ‘looking good’. I chose to pay no heed to them and kept walking. They followed me and endlessly kept on howling the obscenity. It wasn’t a compliment because compliments don’t make you rethink your route the next time you walk down the street. It was a way of letting me know that a man has the right to my body, the supremacy to judge it, scrutinize it, authority to make me feel sore in my own skin. It was like nerve-racking and it made me feel dehumanised.
However, I pretended not to hear them because I didn’t want to confront them and face the risk of physical assault. But that was the blooper. My silence gave them power and made them vigorous. The next day, the same boys now even more assertive tried to force their way into my house. My muscles were tensed, my cold fists reluctantly were clenched and I finally managed to get into my house.
Several people accuse women for provoking violence and even rape because of how they dress up. People ask, “What were you wearing?” Society explains, “She craves the attention and noticeability.”
Women are always obligated in choosing their outfits depending on where they go. Women are constantly told to travel in pairs, it is secure. Strolling on the streets should not feel frightening but how are you supposed to feel after a boy who is elder than you is on your face passing offensive remarks? Nobody knows how they will retort in that situation until it happens.
Recurrently women testify feeling frozen with fright and shock. Sometimes it isn’t safe to respond. The truth is that most women cannot wrangle with it entirely, they are vulnerable and mostly men can subjugate them. Men are aware of it too and this is why the constant barrage of being made women into a sexual object against their will is disheartening and just too immoral to be accepted.
But women requisitely need to shield themselves from such men so that they may have a semblance of feeling safe. Regardless of the fact that it embraces virtually all women, gender based street harassment isn’t considered a social problem.
Street harassment is a severe glitch because it is discourteous, inapt and a menacing behaviour to women in public places. It makes the women to limit their time in public spaces. This kind of nauseous demeanour has the overriding unconstructive effect on the welfare and comfort of pubescent girls whose individuality is conditioned to become hushed, submissive and appalling as opposed to becoming assertive, self-contained and self-assured.
It is very erroneous to believe that every such infuriating call is a consequence of one’s unparalleled excellent looks. Men don’t eve tease because they think you are beautiful and attractive. They eve tease because you are a female and because they think that your femininity gives them the consent to analyse and monitor you. Moments after you pass them, they’re busy chasing some other girl. For them, it is customary, their everyday routine. It has nothing or very little to do with how you look.
It is not oppression, domination or subjugation, but modesty that women deserve. There are even bigger and grave problems than street harassment and the sole reason of each minor or major problem that is prevalent is the unfamiliarity of knowledge and teachings of one’s religion. Every religion leads and guides us to the same fundamental principle beliefs. The religion was formed to show good way of life, a guidance.
As per the Islam, the woman has an honoured position. She is a compassionate mother, a beloved wife, an affectionate daughter, an adoring sister. Islam recommends woman before recommending man. It regards the love of woman as a sign of faith.
“Woman was created from the rib of man. She was not created from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be stepped upon. She was made from his side to be close to him, from beneath his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by!”
The moment people start possessing the knowledge and understanding of one’s religion and genuinely start practicing it, all the widespread evils would be set to null.
(Sadaf Manzoor is an undergraduate student at Government College Baramulla)