I bent over to tie my shoe. When I stood back up, a guy shouted, “Really liked it better when you were bent over, sweetheart!” I was 14. (Anonymous Victim of Street Harassment). Here’s a statement by just one of the countless women who face harassment in the streets at the hands of men like you and me. Wikipedia defines Street harassment as “A form of harassment, primarily sexual harassment that consists of unwanted flirtatious comments (also known as catcalling), provocative gestures, honking, wolf-whistling, indecent exposures, stalking, persistent sexual advances, and touching by strangers, in public areas such as streets, shopping malls, and public transportation.”
According to a survey carried out in Colombo in the year 2017, 85% of women admitted they encountered harassment in public places at least once. 13% of them said they have experienced it happening to someone else. Further results from the same survey indicated even girls as young as 12 and women as old as 60 get harassed.
Street harassment is a severe issue that undermines the emotional and physical well-being of all women. Unfortunately, we live in a culture of ‘Victim Blaming’ where society also blames the victim for being harassed but justifies the perpetrator on the grounds of cultural and circumstantial norms. Never, ever harass a woman or blame the victim. Here’s why?
Street harassment is inhumane
Street harassers justify verbal or even physical harassment as an act of compliment. It’s not. To tell your wife, girlfriend, or female colleague that she has a lovely smile or sparkling eyes can be considered complimentary. Making creepy, vulgar comments such as how big her butts or breasts, to a random stranger on the other hand, is harassment and you have to be lower than a wild animal to do anything like it. It’s offensive, insensitive, and inhumane. Consider these words from women who have been victims of street harassment if you are in disagreement with me.
- I was distraught; I couldn’t help crying as I walked on the road. I felt dirty and used. It was just so disgusting.
- I was terrified. I lost my confidence. The next day I had a fever from the stress and the fear.
- It took me a few days to recover from the shock because I couldn’t talk to anybody. I was terrified.
It’s not manly to make sexually charged comments at random strangers. If you think it’s macho to harass women, it’s because something is seriously wrong with your manhood. Don’t be deceived!
Street harassment is inexcusable.
Perpetrators of street harassment often justify their behaviour on the grounds of immodesty. It’s a lame excuse. If it was so, street harassment shouldn’t even be heard of in nations like Egypt. While modesty is a virtue, immodesty doesn’t justify harassment. I always uphold modesty, but immodesty doesn’t give me a license to harass a fellow human being. The fact that street harassment is a widespread issue even in countries like Egypt indicates men need a change of heart than women needing a change of dress.
Besides, if immodesty is the sole reason why women get harassed in the streets, the question remains as to why girls as young as twelve years in their uniforms become victims. Real men don’t take advantage of innocent, helpless women. They don’t expose women but give them the benefit of the doubt. Even if she was scantily clad. Only sexual predators do. Don’t be one!
Street harassment is a cheap thrill
Although ‘moron’ is considered slang today in the early 1900s, it was used as a technical term in psychology to describe patients that are physically grown but emotionally immature. If you like harassing women in the streets, you are a moron, and your behaviour is nothing less of a cheap thrill. Your social standing, education, the family background doesn’t matter. No matter how smart you feel about yourself.
Street harassment is actually a ‘cheap thrill’. The Meriam Webster Dictionary defines the term as,
: a minor thing, done for entertainmentThe Meriam Webster Dictionary
//He likes to harass the neighbour’s dog as a cheap thrill.
Street harassment is entertaining yourself at the cost of another person’s emotional or even physical wellbeing, and only a moron or an emotionally immature retarded would do that. Don’t be one!
Street harassment is a poor example
There’s nothing good about street harassment. Nevertheless, one of the most disturbing things about street harassment is men harass girls as young as their granddaughters. A victim of street harassment once said “It is disgusting when a 50-year-old man comments on your 12-year-old breasts.
Take a moment to think what your children or grandchildren will do if they learned their father, grandfather is harassing random women in the street? Chances are high; they will follow in your footsteps because you are giving them the impression it’s okay to harass women as long as it thrills you and that woman is not their mother or sister. Don’t be a bad role model!
Street harassment is a criminal offence
Street harassment is a criminal offence. According to the Penal Code (Amended) Act No.22 of 1995 – Sect 5. defined thus:
Unwelcoming sexual advances by words or action used by a person in authority, in a working place or any other place shall constitute the offence of sexual harassment. Whomsoever by assault or by the use of criminal force sexually harasses another person or by the use of words or actions that causes sexual annoyance, or harassment commits the offence of sexual harassment. Those found guilty under the Penal Code face up to 5 years in prison.Penal Code (Amended) Act No. 22 of 1995 0 Sect 5.
Perpetrators of street harassment often blame the victim on the grounds of circumstances also. Such as she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyone has the right to be in a public area of their choice. Violating that right constitutes criminal behaviour. Don’t be a criminal!
Surveys have further revealed that 51% of the women population of Sri Lanka feels too unsafe to step out on the street unaccompanied after dark. It’s a fact that women also spend a lot of time (and money) in avoiding street harassment. They walk different (often longer) routes, spend a ridiculous amount of money on private transport to escape bus groping, or drive/taxi short distances to avoid walking on the road, etc.
Some women are fortunate enough to have the option to pay their way out of molestation and harassment by taking a taxi instead of walking or taking the bus. Many do not have that luxury. Today will you be a man that makes life easy for the women in this country or a monster that makes life worse for them? The decision is yours.