The Scourge of Eve Teasing, And Why Women Must Fight Back
Eve teasing is a term used in India and South East Asia to explain the idea of sexual harassment of women through verbal or physical advances by men. The term ‘Eve’ refers to the Biblical Eve, the first woman in the world.
The harassment happens in public places, from unknown or known men, in an effort to provoke embarrassment or call out certain behaviours, or way of dressing and behaviour of the woman.
Eve teasing can take many forms: passing lewd comments, singing sexually suggestive songs, whistling to attract attention, inappropriate touching, winking, flashing one’s genitals, or even assault. It is a common problem in most areas of India. Though it is a crime punishable by law, eve teasing is rampant in public places.
A Culture That Cedes Higher Ground To Men…
Astonishingly, several cases of daily eve teasing continue to go unreported. In most cases, girls and women are counselled to ‘Let it go’, ‘These things happen’, ‘Boys will be boys’, etc. in an attempt to mollify the victim. But it is these same societal messages that have fuelled the eve teasing scourge further. The more we look the other way, the more the problem grows. Meanwhile, girls and women continue to be targeted in public places for dressing a certain way, being out in a certain locality, for their appearance, and many other reasons.
The problem of eve teasing will continue to be a persistent one if women are conditioned to tolerate it, and by propagating the idea that in some way, men are forgiven for harassing women whom they find attractive or worth their attention. Mass media also contributes to this problem. Messaging that tells impressionable minds that eve teasing is ‘cute’ and that it eventually changes the girl’s mind about these advances and elicits approval from her, are major culprits.
What Can You Do About It?
- For starters, discuss the problem with your young children and indeed, every member of the family. Make it clear that eve teasing is completely inappropriate and that it should never be tolerated. While boys must be taught that there will be punishment for indulging in this behaviour, girls should be taught that tolerating the harassment quietly contributes to the problem getting bigger.
- Next, your daughter will want to know what to do about it, if it happens to her. This is a delicate area, and you must proceed with caution. For one thing, tell her that if she experiences it, or if there is sustained harassment, she must report it to you, or a teacher at school, or a policeman if there is one on the street at the time. Second, if the harassment takes a turn where your daughter is touched inappropriately or jostled around, then she must learn to confront the aggressor on his level.
- Eve teasing is a dangerous problem that robs girls and women of their confidence. Many women resort to going out in groups to feel safer, or hanging out with older brothers or male friends so that they will not be targeted. If your daughter has these fears, enrol her in a self-defence class to boost her confidence and morale.
For a few years now, skin care brand Hamam has launched the women’s safety initiative #GoSafeOutside that urges parents to enrol their daughters in self-defence classes and to take control of public spaces. With this initiative, Hamam hopes to spark conversations about safe spaces for women, and a life of dignity and self-respect for them. As a parent, this is exactly the kind of attitude you must inculcate in your daughter.