humiliation, actual and insinuated gender-based violence, violation of privacy and sexual harassment are issues women around the world are tackling. however, its such an established part of our culture that we even have our own term for it. "eve teasing" as its coyly called, is a word of indian origin.

we know it is a pretty old phenomenon - almost something of a tradition. probably if we asked our fathers and uncles, theyd admit to whistling at girls or following them around in their college days. they may hastily add that its a lot more violent now than in their days, but nudge, wink. these things are part of growing up eh? "adolescent pangs".

sexual harassment is condoned by society as an acceptable phenomenon - after all, we do have a seperate blanket term for it. a term to hide behind so that we can forget that what it refers to, is the assertion by men around us that they own women. "their" women. little boys gang up and stand in the corridors lifting up each girl's skirt as she passes, grown men gang up and remove it. men have a societal grant to stare at, discuss and dissect womens bodies as though they are inanimate .

such behaviour is part of expression of "male sexuality". well, no - maybe thats a very narrow view. its also to do with female sexuality - eve teasing tells us that female sexuality is nonexistent if it doesnt exist to gratify male lust. we are sexless feelingless objects except when of interest to a man. if we happen to get hurt in the process, its magnanimously discounted. after all, "these things happen".

what is really interesting, is that even several men who feel upset by such a thing, still speak of how they were only able to stand by and witness their sister/mother/friend getting harassed in terms of the episode being a personal insult to them! again, the woman is passive in the situation, almost a non-element, while the men around her fight either to encroach on or guard her person. should the woman happen to do something, it results in a huge hue and cry - you even hear the occasional "whatever he did, you had no right to do that!".

and intimidation follows: a mob of smouldering tempers, a threat of beating up, acid throwing, kidnapping, rape... if the woman actually braves all this and does something, very often the police capitulate (forgiving, generous authorities) and magnanimously pardon the offender. male dominance is upheld at any cost.

its after all a concept that we have romanticised from childhood. we have legitimised stalking, emotional blackmail and harassment, white-washing them all as acceptable expressions of "love", until we've thoroughly confused infatuation with physical attraction, with love. result: (pseudo) love stories and songs in popculture saying

" I don't care who you are
Where you're from
What you did
As long as you love me "
- backstreet boys, "as long as you love me"

( youre a non-person who exists in my world solely to pander to my needs.)

or
" There's so many times I've let you down
So many times I've played around
I'll tell you now, they don't mean a thing"
- john denver, "leaving on a jet plane"

(isnt that convenient now!)

and so we mutely accept being groped, pressured into sexual relations, fought over like property, even being told that all that is "normal". our former defence minister george fernandes even asserted in parliament (so much for that sacred institution of democracy) that women will get raped in times of conflict. these things happen. stop making a big fuss about it!

yes im bitter about it. very much so. and what breaks my heart more than anything else, is that these guys arent all otherwise thugs and rogues, theyre just average junta like you and me, and theyre participating in a social ritual that they have been taught. the "boys", are being "boys". so we girls end up being sexually abused and harassed women. in this prevailing social order women end up living in a police state perenially : looking over their shoulders, furtively doing a headcount of the other people on the road, being strung up, all the time bracing themselves against the next grope, nudge, leer and isult.

"solutions" like promptly posting cops all over the place, segregating men and women in a vehicle - most animals dont require that treatment - merely underscore and quietly accept that things will continue as they are now.

for a genuine long term solution we need to rethink sexuality and sexual expression so that we can start looking at establishing sexual rights and having mature and responsible relationships. all of which is possible only when we firmly reject the "normalcy" of violence against. speak up against harassment and sexism.