FYI 13th September, 2018
4 Things Passers-By Can Do If They Witness Harassment In Public.

Consider these 3 scenarios:

  • A girl is sitting in a chai stall. She is minding her own business and is focused on her chai samosa. Unfortunately for her, the rest of the people at the stall are all men and resent this sudden disruption of the chai stall gender decorum. They keep staring at her, softly pass comments and occasionally laugh at her. She gets more and more uncomfortable, and ultimately ends up abandoning her food and walks off hurriedly.
  • A young woman is sitting on a very crowded bus. The conductor passes by her repeatedly and touches her elbow each time. Having had enough, she turns around and sternly reprimands him. He retaliates by telling her that she isn’t attractive enough for him, that it is crowded and if she wanted space, she should get herself a taxi. She gets off at the next stop, though it isn’t her destination.
  • A woman is going home at night after a long day at work. She is walking down a road where a bunch of intoxicated young men gathered around their flashy jeeps and expensive bikes spot her. They immediately start heckling her. She ignores them and carries on walking. They get into their vehicles, overtake her and block her path. People walking by or driving by pretend like nothing is happening.

What do the 3 situations have in common, besides women being harassed? The passers-by stood around like silent witnesses and did absolutely nothing.

If you feel that passers-by who can see that something terribly wrong is happening and should do something about it, here are 4 things that you can do the next time:

1) If you are with a group, all of you can stare back at the hecklers.

This is a classic dosage of ‘how do you like it now?’ Just stand in that area with your friends and stare at the harassers till the woman has passed by and is safely out of sight.

2) Immediately call the police.

Perhaps the situation could be very grave and an intervention from an external party is absolutely necessary. Dial 100 to contact the police and dial 181 to reach the women’s helpline.

3) Chances are the police might not do anything. In that case, keep her company.

This is applicable ONLY and only if she permits you to, after you ask her. You can keep her company till she is in a safer area or is close to her destination. Consent needs to be practiced in every sphere of our lives.

4) You can intervene yourself.

Only if you have company and/or are confident that you can handle the harassers. You can politely but firmly reprimand them on their behaviour. Be sure to assess the harassers’ behaviour – do not put yourself in a situation of violence.

As an added bonus, you can print this picture (courtesy: The Riot) and put it up in your workplace, public spaces that you know are notorious (translate in Hindi should you wish to, in order to be more effective) for harassment and in public transport:

Image Source: Riot Mag Tumbler

Women shouldn’t have to face harassment every day, whether in public or private spaces. You can change this. Join a community making a difference in how society treats women and girls. Join #TeamChange today.

Images used for representational purposes only. Featured image source: YouTube

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