Eve-Teasing: The Victim, Abuser, and Witness
Right from schools to universities, female students have faced what’s called the pursuit of romeos, every day – morning, noon, or evening. Women can’t go out on dates with their girlfriends for fear of men, loitering around market hubs, ready to make moves or pass snide remarks. And the same men talk about women empowerment on their social media handles. An irony indeed!
We can’t even begin to explain what freedom means in Kashmir. Although it does have a range of meanings, to women, this word has an entirely different explanation. You might be covered in hijab or wear jeans, it just doesn’t matter to the opposite gender. They follow you anyway, harassing every which way possible. No, just doesn’t mean no, anymore.
What exacerbates the situation is when certain sections of our society, especially the young student community, try to normalize this stalker-like pursuit of women.
The most susceptible is the most unaware
Most girls don’t even realize the dangers of eve-teasing, practised either on social media or in public. And because they have not been warned before by teachers or parents, young women tend to fall for this trap, only keeping into consideration the superficial concept of popularity gained – their photos have more likes than others, they have a huge number of followers on social media, or that they are trendsetters at school.
With access to free internet and a variety of applications, children today are prone to violence and sudden change in normal behaviour.
Young women are ushered into the world of delusive beauty, making them question their physical appearance. Consequently, they fall prey to body shaming and may develop eating disorders. What takes a huge hit is their self-esteem, making them vulnerable to sweet-talkers and roadside perverts.
Young boys face violence and antagonistic scenarios in games from an early age where females are often portrayed as insignificant and constantly vilified. This modifies approach of men towards women. They are favoured, or their unruly behaviour tolerated at home. This further strengthens their distorted idea of being superior to women. Attitudes of their fathers and other male elders towards females of the family also form a very important aspect in determining how these young boys view women growing up.
Parents are usually unaware of every little or large abuse their daughters might be facing. Just because discussing these issues is a taboo in most Kashmiri families, the whole situation, if it arises, is pushed under the rug, never witnessing the light of day. What’s ridiculous is that many girls are embarrassed that they let their families down even if they are not at fault – not having encouraged or approached their stalkers. They tend to believe this sort of thing happens to everybody and hence is not a big deal.
Thus molestation and eve-teasing continue without interruption.
Our young people are not informed to stay away or protect themselves or are discouraged to talk about abuse. Whatever happens within closed doors, without a physical trace, is as though it never happened at all. People forgot accountability, providing undue freedom to a specific gender on the pretext of being progressive, but suffer at the end. What will definitely happen is that in the future, people will forgo sensibility and respect. And as a result of being bullied, turn into depressed victims or vicious abusers, to continue the cycle of self-destruction beyond repair.
Many might feel the idea of surveillance is redundant or an ancient practice, but timely parental guidance and good interference in the lives of young individuals can and will save lives. Given the present scenario, it is important to make sure children, of both genders, are kept under proper scrutiny and care, for their own protection.