Woman rising, shining

There’s been a pronounced shift: more and more gutsy women are getting street smart and asserting their rights

Published - March 10, 2015 06:42 pm IST - BENGALURU:

Being groped in a crowded bus or being harassed with lewd remarks on the street are just part of a routine day for women. Most of them suffer in silence or avoid situations that can potentially lead to street harassment that often goes by the euphemism “eve-teasing”.

But it appears like winds of change are slowly, but surely, blowing. An increasing number of women are no longer buying the “boys will be boys” argument and are asserting their right to walk on the road, travel in a bus or jog in a park without drawing unsolicited attention.

Over the last year, Bengaluru has had cases of gutsy women confronting the harassers by physically taking them on, going public with their experience on social media, and even taking it to the police.

In 2014, Bengaluru saw 56 cases booked under Section 509 of the IPC that deems “word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman” as punishable offences with simple imprisonment, which may extend to one year, fine, or both. The first two months of 2015 has seen eight cases booked.

This is in keeping with the overall national trend. The latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB 2013) data shows the number of cases under Section 509 increasing by 37.2 per cent over the previous year.

A senior police officer in the city acknowledged that more and more women are now coming forward to register cases of street sexual harassment. “The Delhi gang-rape case of 2012 appears to have heightened awareness on not just cases of rape, but also street harassment, which women did not complain about earlier,” he said.

As Jasmeen Patheja, whose Blank Noise project focusses on street harassment puts it, “The shift we are witnessing has to do with the fact that one speaks and inspires another to speak.”

However, while celebrating women who refuse to be eve-teased, a sobering thought is that voices of protests being heard now are largely from those who can access social media and are in spaces of media visibility. This means they are mostly from urban, upper-middle class spaces. “There are many testimonies that have not been told or heard,” points out Ms. Patheja.

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