Stop calling it "eve teasing". You are being molested, not teased.

Update:  


Last evening, I took my toddlers out to play. We stay out a long time because a) the outdoors are a great way to get healthy and find wonderful new things and b) I like to tire them out like that so they sleep well. Because, really, as a mum and a working one, there’s only so much you can take in a day. But that’s a different story.


It was a Friday (as you know it’s the Arab world’s Sunday). We usually play in a grassy little patch a bit away from my home. Today, as I saw it was really lonely there, I decided to stick around in the empty parking lot of a large government building near my home. I usually have my help or my husband with me because managing two toddlers who don’t understand road safety very clearly yet is difficult. Today, it was just me and the kids. 


A while into play, a Honda Civic began to cruise up and down the road adjacent to where we were. I didn’t pay too much attention because assholes like that usually drive away if they see you aren’t interested. Soon I saw the car had turned into the parking lot we were playing in and had parked nearby. I calmly gathered the kids up and moved to the other side of the road, where there is a place to play but is pebbly. As soon as I did that, I noticed the car pull away and I decided that was the end of it. 


After a few minutes I noticed a man walking up and down the stretch of pavement we were playing on. He didn’t pay us any attention so I thought it was a resident on his usual evening walk (I am new to the area). When it got dark, I took both the kids – carrying the younger one — and walked towards home. Most of the area is pretty well-lit and busy; there’s just one patch that’s dark and dodgy. When I got there, my older child spotted something on the road and stopped to marvel over it and ask questions. I moved closer to the pavement as she started discovering more god knows what on the road. And suddenly stepped smack into this tall hulking guy standing way too close to me. It was the same guy who was walking. Silly as I am, and disturbed as I was by his closeness, I didn’t quite realise it was the same guy who was in the car. He came forward to pet my son, who I was carrying, and I took a couple of steps back. He began asking them their names and the niggling warning bell got louder. Before I could grab my daughter’s arm and head home, he had reached out again to touch my son’s cheek and in the process brushed his hand against my chest. I saw red, gave him a hard shove and started shouting and charging at him but he fled and there was only so much I could do with the kids around. 


My blood boiled as I went home and told my husband what happened. He stepped out immediately to see what could be done and I saw the bastard drive past our house again. I don’t know if he was keeping an eye or he just needed to go to the end of the road to turn around his car.


I most definitely intend to report this but I am getting feedback like expatriates will not be helped much in case it gets reported. I’ve been told to go through an Omani friend or colleague who is well connected. Have any of you living in Muscat reported any such incidents? I know a lot of women face such crap. But have you reported?


*****


Eve teasing


I don’t know how many women can safely say that they have never been molested in their lives. If they’ve been out in a public space, it doesn’t matter what they are wearing, whether they are in great shape, whether they’re lovely to look at or just plain, they will have been grabbed. 


Very often, when the question of molestation comes up, everyone loves to label a city safe or unsafe, depending on what frame of mind they are in. I find it astoundingly silly and baffling that the basis for deeming a city safe (or unsafe, as the case may be) depends on incidence of reported rape and other attacks. In a city like Bombay, which I will vouch for as more or less safe for women, for the most bit, I was molested in more ways than one.

Once, I stopped to ask for directions and this creep, who would have been barely 20, said he didn’t know what I was asking about, stuck his hand out, grabbed my breast and ran. Unfortunately for him, my reflexes are still in decent condition. Couple that with roar-inducing rage, I chased him down, got him by his shirt and beat him up in every way I know. Kicked, slapped and punched him with one of these in my hand. Not only is that a hair-ornament, but it’s my most effective protection against molestors. He got away after a bit but I think I damaged him enough for him to remember not to touch a girl for a while, unless she wants to be touched.

On the local train, if I ever got into the compartment where there were also men, more often than not, I dragged an offender out with me. The thing with these guys is most of them don’t start on you till the train stops at a station, when the crowd is moving and shifting. They grab you just as you are getting or they’re getting out, hoping you don’t realise what happens. So I usually am prepared for an attack; drag them out and starting hitting him and/or abusing him till a crowd gathers and takes over. Which is why I love Bombay. A woman’s word is gospel. At least in my experience. As opposed to Bangalore, where the men look at you as if you’ve just offended them by even existing. What a hostile mean city Bangalore has been for me. 

Another time in Bombay, a friend sat alone in the first class compartment a little late at night, going towards Town (South Bombay). For those who have done that will know why it’s a bad idea. First class is the perfect option during peak hours but a really bad idea late at night because it’s practically empty. Also after 8 p.m. (or is it 7?) men are allowed in ladies’ compartments as well. So there she was hoping to reach home without any incident, when a man comes and plonks himself opposite her, whips out his penis and starts masturbating in front of her. I can’t remember if I have mentioned this here before but it is the most disgusting story of molestation I heard from someone I know. I am not including child abuse and incest stories because that is way beyond molestation. 

Yet another time, I’ve been kissed by someone in a senior position who I worked for. He had joined me and a friend for dinner, conversation went very well. I don’t know if we had similar interests or he was just being polite and attentive. But the evening ended with him insisting he drop us girls. I lived really far off from where we were having dinner and after much protest (I really was perfectly okay with going home alone at 1 a.m. Still am.) we decided it would be churlish not to accept and so we were dropped back. My colleague was dropped off first and as I lived farther, I was alone with him till we got home. We chatted about this and that, I got told I was charming etc etc. And then, just as I said goodnight and was about to step out of the car, after a cursory, polite thank-you peck on the cheek, I was at the receiving end of a full-on adult kiss, with a little tongue thrown in. To say that I did not expect it at all is understatement. To my shame, I didn’t report it. Don’t ask me why. Maybe because there was no violence, maybe because he was always so polite and gentle before and after. Maybe because he did major damage control after that, but I didn’t report it. I am still confused today as to why I didn’t.

And I am not even talking about things like talking to my breasts instead of talking to me, exposing yourself to me or texting me to say when you are drunk that you want to “fuck me” (a colleague in Bombay called Manoj did this. And he found my number through someone else. Unfortunately, I forgot his last name. His poor wife had gone off to have a baby or something), and being hearing lewd things being said as I or some other woman walked past. 


My questions are these: 


1. What is it that makes some men violate a woman’s personal space and touch her? Who gives them the right to do that and think it’s bloody okay?
2. What is it that separates a molester from a regular man? What makes two men look at a woman and react in two different ways: One checks her out, finds her appealing and stops with that, while the other one reaches out and touches her? What is that essential difference? Lack of control? Lack of decency? Bad upbringing? A disdain for women?
3. Do they also look at the women in their home with the same filth in their eyes with which they look at my breasts or butt or thighs? I mean to ask do these men who touch women without their permission on the streets also touch their women — mothers, wives, sisters — at home? Are these, in effect, perpetrators of incest? Or is it just other women they feel comfortable grabbing?
4. Are women responsible for these men having absolutely no fear to touch, grope, or expose themselves to women? Have years of “just ignore him” behaviour emboldened these men to do as they please? Would a man think twice if he had been beaten by a woman for touching her or passing a lewd comment at her?
5. If I have some male readers, can you please come out on this and tell me what treatment — extreme or otherwise — would deter a man from molesting a woman?
6. Is this restricted to developing countries and others such as Oman alone or do developed countries see molestation in such a daily, on the street, everyday manner?


A blogger friend recently told me that one of the reasons he likes Muscat is because it is safe, that things like the above don’t happen here. 

Fact: The first time I saw a man’s penis: Here in Muscat, when I was about 13-14 years old. A man close to where we were playing was hanging around exposing himself and trying to get our attention
Fact: The first time I saw a man masturbating: Here in Muscat. Late evening I was hanging out clothes to dry on a stand in the balcony and this guy was parked perhaps 20-30 meters away from our home, jerking off. I didn’t realise what was happening till I almost finished with the clothes.  
Fact: The first time I was grabbed: Here in Muscat, in Ruwi, while walking with my parents when I was nine years old. A man walking past grabbed my then non-existent right breast.
Fact: The first time I got surrounded by a bunch of guys and seriously groped: Here in Muscat. Age 12, cycling home from my dance lessons when a bunch of tween-to-teenaged Baluchi boys surrounded me and brushed their hands against my butt, my chest, my legs while saying things that to this day I haven’t understood, in Hindi. 
As a result, when I walk alone, I walk with all my senses on alert. I walk with aggression and hold a bag or something protectively against me, with my elbows ever-ready to shove someone in case they touch me. Do you know how stressful it is to walk like that, protecting yourself constantly, without letting your guard down? Do you realise how painful it is to think that you can’t enjoy a good walk alone for the fear of being touched by a creep? Do you realise how restricting, how rage-inducing, how utterly defeating it is to be that way every day? Do men understand why some women in countries where roadside molestation is rampant hold on to their men tight? Why they ask their men to ask for directions, buy a pack of cigarettes or walk half a step behind, very close to their men? 


Edited to add: A friend wrote in to tell me molestation is an issue that needs to be told again and again and again. Men, just ask the women in your life how it makes them feel, even better, think about how you feel when one them is attacked. Women, the more we talk the more courage we can instill in those who won’t retaliate. Will women who read this please take two extra minutes to just comment and not leave before they do? Only for this post, please. If the men (if there are more than three) also can take the time I’ll be very grateful.


Edited again to add: If I have any Omani/Middle Eastern women as readers, could they please tell me their experience; anonymously is just fine? I am just trying to understand if India, because it is so varied, has such elements and because by and large we don’t have dress codes, that this happens to women. Does wearing an abaya, being brought up in a mostly segregated society and not having as many freedoms as women from other places have its advantages as far as molestation is concerned?

162 thoughts on “Stop calling it "eve teasing". You are being molested, not teased.

  1. Anonymous

    I had been in this situation a lot and really feels so helpless. Infact, today evening had just parked my car under the building and got down to walk to my home and there was this empty transportation bus of SBA group and the driver honked at me. i was not wearing a reveling outfit but was in hijab and company uniform fully covered but still he did it. i couldnt take it and screamed out Waish?? (of somewhat arabic i knew). he immediately stoped the bus ( his way of scaring me) i too walked towards it and he screamed out in arabic “what waish”. i said i am calling police and took my mob out ( had my legs shivering under those uniform lose baggy pants) he had put hazard lights and put the window down all the time staring at me…i cudnt get the police line(i didnt intend to call police and create a scene, wanted to scare him) i gave him an equally evil look..he burst out something in arabic which of what i could make out was..”what do you want me to do wait or wat?” i screamed out to him “yalla khali” …i didnt know what else to say….and as if it was magic words he stepped on the acceleration and was out of sight! ……. so much for my sissy bravery…. what else could i have done??..easy said then done..

    its really sad to knw the place i grew up in..has turned out to be this way….

    the only thing…i did like to request is for the police to take this matters seriously and appoint more officers in civil clothes and maybe a special cell to catch this pervert eve teasers who honk at the very sight of women. if not its gona get more ugly for womenfolk in Oman.

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  2. Anonymous

    I had been in this situation a lot and really feels so helpless. Infact, today evening had just parked my car under the building and got down to walk to my home and there was this empty transportation bus of SBA group and the driver honked at me. i was not wearing a reveling outfit but was in hijab and company uniform fully covered but still he did it. i couldnt take it and screamed out Waish?? (of somewhat arabic i knew). he immediately stoped the bus ( his way of scaring me) i too walked towards it and he screamed out in arabic “what waish”. i said i am calling police and took my mob out ( had my legs shivering under those uniform lose baggy pants) he had put hazard lights and put the window down all the time staring at me…i cudnt get the police line(i didnt intend to call police and create a scene, wanted to scare him) i gave him an equally evil look..he burst out something in arabic which of what i could make out was..”what do you want me to do wait or wat?” i screamed out to him “yalla khali” …i didnt know what else to say….and as if it was magic words he stepped on the acceleration and was out of sight! ……. so much for my sissy bravery…. what else could i have done??..easy said then done..

    its really sad to knw the place i grew up in..has turned out to be this way….

    the only thing…i did like to request is for the police to take this matters seriously and appoint more officers in civil clothes and maybe a special cell to catch this pervert eve teasers who honk at the very sight of women. if not its gona get more ugly for womenfolk in Oman.

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  3. Anonymous

    me and three other girls just came out of KM hypermarket in Al khuwair and as we were walking down the stairs a van passed in front of us. an Omani driver driving it. he started waving and honking at us. This was around 3:30 afternoon in a busy place like al khuwair. we took our mobile phone acting as if we are noting his number plate number. as we were walking to our car , this guy came back and parked in front of us as if challenging us …” i am not scared ..do whatever attitude” he was in a company vehicle a commercial one. red number plate 211 MR.

    we were scared to even look at him and drove away as fast as possible not to be followed by him……

    what can law do to protect us? what should girls do in such cases??

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  4. Revacious

    Thank you for posting this. And thank God it became your most popular post, that's how I reached here. It's really heartening to see the many male comments saying it sickens them too, it proves what i've known a long time now: troubling a female like that is a psychological problem, a disease even. I'm just waiting for when people will start shouting that from rooftops.

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  5. Emma Manson

    Hello, I am from Canada. I'm very sorry that you go through this so often. From my experience, while molestation isn't as common as where you are, it still happens frequently. Every girl or woman has a story. For me, my landlord cornered me alone and touched my breasts, rubbing himself on me and telling me I liked it. I reported it to the police, but most guys get away with this stuff, so he wasn't charged.

    I was also attacked as a child, repeatedly, and he was never charged. My husband also raped me, but we are no longer together. I think that is part of the problem, at least here. Women are encouraged to leave the situation, to run to our men for protection. The bad part is, who do you ask for protection when its your men who hurt you? Or when your men. don't act and help you? We need to fight for ourselves. I may be a small, disabled young woman, but even I can help myself.

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  6. Anonymous

    I am a writer. I love my wife and family. I read about her being attacked on the bus with her friend and was outraged. Outraged by the indifference from politicians and movie stars. They did nothing.

    I told my friends and they shrugged. I wrote a blog and read the stories here about events with “eve teasers.” I was moved by everyone's comments.
    I screamed and no one heard. I finally wrote a Book Indie- A Female vigilante and thousands took notice. The book is not perfect but what is other then my 2year old grandson. It is dedicated to the restless quill (with permission) to the Gulabi gang and to Hollabcks worldwide. Perhaps it will help start a dialog.
    It is available in paperback and kindle:
    Amazon.in http://tinyurl.com/Amazon-in-Indie-kindle
    Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/INDIE-A-Female-Vigilante
    Thank you for your understanding.
    Yann Patel

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  7. Lakshmi Krishnan

    http://lakshmisglazedthoughts.blogspot.in/2013/09/answers-please.html

    My blog on similar lines.

    After reading your blog I have realised that it is quite common. People take notice (to some extent) only if it is rape. What many do not realise is that molestation is disgusting enough.

    Among the many episodes that I have faced, I will share one here:
    In Chennai, I was getting back home in a bus. I took a seat on the left side of the bus and after few minutes in the bus, I sensed a face two rows ahead of me, and on the right side of the bus. constantly staring at me. I looked back at him, glared, mumbled, shook my head off, but still he did not take his eyes off from me.
    Two stops later, I got up to leave when I noticed the most bizzare thing – an erect penis! He was masturbating!! I was almost getting down, when I stopped in tracks, felt disgusted, walked back to him, slapped him and told him to zip up his pants. Not one soul supported/questioned/etc etc. Not even the bus conductor in the fairly empty bus.

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  8. Saleena

    Hello Sandhya,

    I am new to your blog and I must say that I find it really good, especially that fact that you are doing such blog from Oman. I would like to share some experience here. I live in Delhi and have been molested umpteen times in Delhi (also in Kerala many many times, don't even get me started.) streets, buses and other public places. The latest being the last week, me and a friend were in an auto,stuck in a traffic jam in one of the main streets in Delhi around 6 in the evening or so. She was wearing a shorts and then there was this guy, middle aged, in a scooter, stuck along us in the traffic. He came close by and switched off his engine and started watching my friend's legs. When I confronted him, he proudly told me that there is a problem with my friend's dressing and if she chooses to dress the way she dressed, he can check her out as he wishes. Probably around 20 other motor bikers started laughing hearing this and this made us very angry and my friend started kicking him. Then the 'happy onlookers' started laughing at him. When the traffic moved, he started moving along with our auto. After moving about 50 metres, as we got caught up in another jam, he moved to the service lane and started touching his lips in a very vulgar way and showed us many obscene gestures. Just to offend us further! All this happened in full public view and some of the previous 'onlookers' were still watching him. None did a thing! We shouted at him from the auto that we would call police. He was so 'brave' to a go little further and stop his scooter and point to his numberplate so that we could see the registration number clearly to make a complaint! When the traffic got cleared, he drove off! What an audacity!!

    In the rage, I ended up calling the police, knowing that they would/could do nothing. Later on, we retracted the complaint! I would probably have pursued that complaint, but my friend was very clear that she wants to involve state as little as possible in her life. I get really enraged and stressed out living in Delhi having to fight with men around most of the times. And my friends keep telling me not to waste my time fighting in the streets, rather learn not to be affected much by these incidents. They keep reminding me that I have to pick my battle!

    I would like to share also some second hand experiences from Oman as you write from there. My mother works for an Omani family in Muscat and recently she narrated an incident of her being chased by a bunch of young Omani boys when she was out for evening walk. She is someone who wears Purdah and mostly looks down when she walks, something which I have been protesting against for long. (So no 'role of dress' whatsoever!) She said it was right along the street where the house she works was located. She heard someone approaching her and looked back to see these boys running after her. She ran for her life and got into the compound of the house. She called me frantically that night to warn me off of the dangers of being a woman! She narrated another story of a one year old Omani babygirl who was killed by a 14 year old neighbour boy by putting his penis her mouth! She had been left at him by her mother to be looked after while she went to the market! She was crying while she was narrating this, partly for the babygirl who died and partly for the women of the world! Now, she was worried about my sister's little baby, who is less than a year old, living in Kerala. I understand her worries but I had to console her by saying that things are changing here in India for better, when I clearly know, for sure, that it is changing for worse..

    regards,
    Saleena

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