“Don’t create a scene if sexually harassed”

19 April 2013 | Shruti Kohli | NEW DELHI


Yesterday, as soon as I boarded the tube in Delhi, I noticed a man walking into the women’s coach. He went straight to a young woman who was sitting on the floor of the train with her head buried in her knees. The man had just approached her when a couple of girls urgently got up and also went up to her. She then lifted her head to speak. She was crying inconsolably. And she trembled spasmodically. Obviously, her speech was staggered. But from what could be deciphered of the broken monologue, she complained of being harassed by a bunch of boys.


While she was buying the ticket, a bunch of four boys lined up behind her and one of them pulled her hair. When she objected, they told her, “You don’t know what we can do to you.” When she tried moving away from there, they circled around her and won’t let her go. A little later, the police at the metro station intervened. They asked the girl to register a complaint so that they could officially take action against the boys. But the girl refused as she was scared of the consequences. She said the same thing when I asked her to call 181.


The boys were in the same train. A little later, two girls walked up to her and asked her to recognize the boys so that they could “take care” of them. As it turned out, all these girls and those boys belonged to the same college. This girl, who had been harassed, was a first year student and was not aware that the boys were her seniors. She came to know of it much later. The two girls, who asked her to identify the harassers, were second year students of the same college. Although the girl refused an identification parade, she could recall the colour of the boys’ shirts.


The other girls who comforted her, kept telling her that she shouldn’t have made such an issue out of it and after she got down at her station, all these girls had a good laugh saying, “What a jerk she was to have reacted like this.”


Now, two things. First, that a concerned system made little sense in this situation. There was the police, there was the helpline but the victim was reluctant to use them fearing a worse aftermath. And her fears were not misplaced. Haven’t we heard of numerous cases when harassers were booked and the moment they were released, they came back for revenge with acid or whatever came handy?


What’s the solution to this? I’ll come back to it but first I will bring up my second observation, the role of the victim’s friends in the whole episode. Rather than supporting her, they told hernot to overreact. And then, when she left, they had a good laugh at her for doing what she did!


Now, back to finding a solution.Actually, the solution and the friends’ reaction are interconnected. It may not be technically possible to provide police security covers to victims in such cases, but if her friends, family and acquaintances double up as her security cover beginning with supporting her stance, they will together be able to scare away the miscreants. Just to know that a person (regardless of the gender) has a strong support of people is a huge deterrent for offenders.


The solution to such problems is a change in mentalities and also behaviours. In a way, the victim’s friends in the above case supported patriarchal beliefs by telling their friend to accept the boys’ misbehaviouras a way of life and not react. Besides, the other women in the coach who did not know the girl, sat there with bland faces as if their senses had been rendered useless by a neighbourhood bomb explosion sometime recently. Someone among thesepassengers may have blindly passed the Dec 16 gang rape victim and her friend when they lay nude and bruised on the road that night after the attack…for all you know!Ah! Well, that bomb explosion is to be blamed, you see. I hope we get enough efficient cures for such explosion victims. The Petticoat Movement is preparing to provide this cure. You may join as a volunteer if you wish to.

shruti kohli

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What to Do!

If you, or a woman or women around you, are subject to domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other atrocities at home or anywhere else, here is what you can do.

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