Find an area in the city unsafe for women? Just snap it! AISHWARYA S. AND HAMSINI RAVI
Hollaback! Chennai is the local chapter of a global crowd-sourced movement that enables women to report incidences of street sexual harassment through web and mobile applications. It also provides a non-judgmental space (Chennai.ihollaback.org) to share stories and discuss and deliberate public spaces and how safe (or unsafe) they are. This year, for Anti-Street Sexual Harassment Week (March 18 to 24), Hollaback! Chennai has launched a photo call, “Snap your fear”. The initiative encourages anyone (not just women and girls) to send pictures of spaces (parks, roads, alleys, bus stops) where they have witnessed or encountered harassment, or generally felt unsafe.
“Four months of running the Hollaback! Chennai campaign, reading and listening to stories and reports of harassment got us thinking about how gendered public spaces in the city are. For instance, go to any of Chennai’s few open grounds, and you’ll find it hard to spot a single girl amidst many boys playing football, cricket or basketball,” says Anupama Srinivasan, Project Director. This initiative, they hope, will have a dual purpose: firstly, to enable women to get over their fears, and hopefully, democratise public spaces in the city; secondly, to create a visual mapping of the unsafe areas in the city.
In Hollaback’s engagement with city college students through workshops and through user posts on the blog, Anupama has seen patterns in spaces that students are particularly wary about. “Buses, for sure, are convenient for harassers because it is a fluid type of space, with commuters moving in and out. Areas near wine shops and roads without street lights are other vulnerable spaces,” she states. Photographs can be uploaded directly on Hollaback! Chennai’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HollabackChennai) or emailed to: email@example.com. The photographs can also be accompanied by the specific location and a description of the place. Anonymous submissions are welcome. Photos can be shot on any kind of camera, including mobile phone cameras. Don’t wait…go snap your fear!
Did you know?
The Chennai Police has a 24-hour SMS helpline for sexual harassment: 9500099100
Hollaback! Chennai asked men on twitter what they’d advice their female friends to do, if they encounter groping in a public space, like a mall. Here are some of the responses:
- Get a quick cell phone shot of the guy, call out for attention, tell someone to call security, most malls have CCTV
- Use pepper spray followed by screaming
- Get in touch with the police control room immediately. Unlike the perceptions, I hear they respond quickly.
- Give it back. Raise an alarm. Or take charge and counter the harasser.
- Best method is to use a man against the man. Mall security or another man nearby.
- Make noise, draw attention to what happened to people around. If that doesn’t work, call the women police.
about Street Sexual Harassment
- Call it Street Harassment, not eve-teasing.
- Street Sexual Harassment occurs in all public spaces including roads and streets, neighbourhoods, parks, malls and beaches.
- Harassers target women of any and all ages. It is a myth that only young girls are groped, pinched, hooted or whistled at.
- Street Sexual Harassment is NOT about what the perpetrator intends; it is about how the person at the receiving end feels.
- Young girls or women are not harassed because of the clothes they wear, as is normally assumed. Blank Noise, a Bangalore-based collective, through a project called ‘I never ask for it’ invited women across the country to send in clothes they were wearing when harassed. The range of clothes received (burkhas, salwars, tops, t-shirts, jeans, kurtas, sarees) show that women have been harassed while wearing every kind of clothing possible, including, in those, traditionally perceived as ‘decent’.
Know the Law
Under the Indian Penal Code:
- A man who targets a girl or woman by gesturing or commenting obscenely can face up to three months in jail, under Section 298 (A) and (B).
- Section 292 makes showing obscene images or books to a woman punishable as well.
- Under Section 509, obscene gestures, indecent body language and acidic comments can land the offender in prison for up to a year.
- Tamil Nadu enacted the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act in 2002.
Aishwarya is Project Associate, Hollaback! Chennai and Hamsini is Project Coordinator, Hollaback! Chennai.
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