Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Enough is Enough

Last weekend I was invited to be a part of the event - "Enough is Enough", which was organized by an organization called Breakthrough. The theme of the event was sexual harassment and debunking the myth that when someone is harassed they were #AskingForIt. I have attended such events earlier but this time it was different because this was organized in Vijaya College and the audience was the college crowd aged 18-22. It is tough to talk about sexuality and sexual harassment to them mainly because at that age not everyone is matured enough to take this seriously.

The event started with a prayer and that brought back a whole lot of memories from college. I sat among the students to gauge their reactions to what is being presented. First up were the speeches from the people at Breakthrough where they explained about they do and how people can help them. But to be really frank, I don't think many were listening as most were still going hush hush about more important things to them (not kidding). That is when they played the below video.

All of a sudden the speakers had students attention. To summarize the video, men talk about how they react when they "like" someone or when they see any passerby and women talk how they feel uncomfortable and they feel needs to be done. Men are under an impression that women like being pursued (idiot box effect - the classic no means yes theory). This video was later followed by an amazing 20mins of play by the students of a drama school from Vijaynagar. The play focused on how not just women but also men get harassed. There were 2 themes - Harassment in public places and Harassment in educational institutions. That play was just too brilliant and close to reality which ended with the note that no one likes to be harassed and they are not #AskingForIt.
The students were later divided into groups and were asked to discuss on what they feel needs to be done to tackle this problem. The first reaction of all the boys in the group were that they never did such things (huh!). They seemed to have gone defensive. It was interesting to be an observer to the discussions. I began thinking that if I was in college and this kind of event had happened then what I would have been thinking (though the first thought was to bunk and sleep in hostel :P ).

Most groups that discussed about harassment in public places felt that it is everyone's responsibility to respect everyone's personal space and for that to happen the mentality of the society must change. There was a discussion on the effectiveness of using CCTV and the feasibility of having security guards or police in public places. One group said that more awareness must be created through flashmobs. One other thing is that when our friends do it we don't stop them and then when others do it we point fingers. This attitude must change. A group of students said that the clubs and pubs should close down early and the night life extension should end (not sure how many of those will actually support it when they finish their college).

Another set of students discussed the sexual harassment at educational institutions. The main take away there was that the peer group should be strong to help through or prevent incidents at school. A group felt that there should be a distance between teachers and students. Schools should start counseling and increase awareness programs through plays and drama. There was a group that said dress code should be enforced although not everyone seem to be supportive of it. There was an emphasis on parents spending more time with children and getting involved in what happens in schools.

All said and done, it is important to know what the law says about sexual harassment. A lot of laws were changed or brought in after the Nirbhaya incident. I would like to highlight a few that were talked about in the event. As per law, singing lewd songs to women is punishable by being jailed for 3months. Demanding sexual favors or stalking is punishable by jail up-to 5yrs. It is also highlighted that cases of sexual harassment has to be an FIR and the police is supposed to investigate and close it within 90days. Apart from these there is a law for Sexual Harassment at workplace which every organization is supposed to follow and comply with.

To summarize there is a lot that needs to be done in this direction to make our city a safer place to be in and conducting such events in schools/colleges is a good start. We should stop being silent and voice against harassment that happen in front of us. Enough is Enough, let each one of us do the little that we can.

You might also be interested to read: Ring the bell, Self defense workshop for women

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