4 Steps To Deal With Sexual Harassment On Public Transport in India
I wish we didn’t have to.
I genuinely wish we lived in a world where it would not be necessary to write this article in the first place. Yet, we do. We have almost given up trying to change the world, choosing to focus instead on maybe just existing and traveling safely. Everyday becomes an enormous challenge when you are a woman, every moment as if you are carrying around a hundred thousand pounds.
Harassment on public transport is an everyday practice, if you’re in a cab or a bus or a train. Every single woman from the age of 12 or lower till 60 or higher, gets catcalled at least once a day on a good day, sometimes even from afar while she’s in a moving vehicle. Every single day, we are fighting the good fight, the fight for equality, the fight against patriarchy.
We come back home dirty, uncomfortable, spending hours in front of the shower to just wash off that leer off our skin, or the feel of an uninvited hand on our backs. We say we deal with sexual harassment everyday; but we don’t deal with it - we just live with it, because we can only imagine a world where we could live without it.
I have stopped asking why we must live with sexual harassment. It has been long, and it has been futile. So, now I ask how. How do we live with sexual harassment every single time we step out of the house, while we travel? In that brief span between our home and our destination; how do we reconcile with the loss of our peace of mind and a violation of our bodies every single day?
Step 1: Don’t Internalise It
It is not your fault. Please remember that you were not asking for it. No matter what you were wearing during your commute, or how you were sitting, sexual harassment is not something you bring about yourself. Your shorts, your skirts, your burqas aren’t at fault. Patriarchy is.
Step 2: Don’t Keep Quiet
We all are tired of fighting. After a hard day at work, it sometimes is just easier to ignore the lechery, the ‘accidental’ groping and pushes. Each time we do that however, the perpetrator gets away with something that is essentially egregious. That just makes them bolder. There is nothing called a one-time offence where sexual harassment is concerned. Keep in mind that every time we let one pass, it might escalate into indelible trauma for another woman.
Step 3: Make Noise
The shame is not for you to feel, the offence is not yours to carry. Point out the man, point out the nature of his offence. Call him out, tell everyone around you exactly what he did. If it makes them uncomfortable - good! Don’t be afraid to raise your voice for the fear of what others would think. Its ridiculous how sexual harassment is an everyday practice, but talking about it is not.
At the end of the day, If you are travelling down the same route everyday though - you know your calling out might have repercussions. Let’s face it, at the end of the day because of the system we live in, we end up losing out more than the perpetrator does. A revenge assault can lead us into a worse nightmare. So unfortunately, keeping a cautionary guard up at all times while on public transport has become a necessary measure. Therefore, always carry some form of protection - a taser gun, pepper spray, or even your keys. It is unfortunate that we have to carry protection in our own city, but sometimes the world just isn’t all that fair.
Finally, do remember that our world has good men too. And good women. Talk to your friends, your families, your colleagues. Through your message, they will learn how to step in and intervene the next time someone is being harassed before them. Teach everyone around to be responsible for how the society behaves. Sexual harassment is not just your problem alone, it is the problem of every bystander, every passerby. So just learn to speak out, and encourage others to do the same.
Who knows, if it works, then maybe our future generations might have no need for this article at all.