It’s the same story everyday. I dread the journey from my house to the local bus stop, out of fear of the hooligans who stare, whistle or at times, break into group songs when my schoolmates and I (all girls) pass by. (What pleasure these perverts derive by such behavior is a frustrating mystery).This scene is very common in a girl’s life, in a country like India, where eve teasing is a major social evil. A girl realizes that she is a grown up, not when her old clothes don’t fit her, but when she is pinched in the backside in a bus or groped at in crowds.

Eve teasing is such a huge problem, not only because the Government hasn’t implemented stricter disciplinary measures against public miscreants, but because, we, as a society prefer to sweep it under the carpet instead of facing it. If a girl informs her mother about this, she is told to keep shut and bear it in silence. In worst cases, certain sections of society blame the girl’s attire, indicating that a girl is eve teased only if she dresses in a provocative manner! The lewd comments and obscene physical gestures aren’t merely a situation of a boy wooing a young girl, it is veiled sexual harassment, which happens everywhere; at bus stops, railway stations, rickshaw junctions and even, markets. It is not only practiced by young, hormonally charged young boys, but even married old men, who can’t spare girls of their daughter’s ages from their searching gaze. In a recent newspaper survey, a taxi driver was asked to provide solutions for eve-teasing. He suggested that girls traveling in autos and taxis must stop wearing sleeveless tops as bare arms can be very provocative. What next, Mr. Taxi driver???? Ban women from leaving their houses? Why not? The mere sight of a woman walking on the streets might excite your uncontrollable sexual urge…

In an attempt to end this widespread menace, Jasmeen Patheja, a fine arts graduate from the Srishti School of Art and Design Technology, Bangalore initiated a venture titled, ‘Blank Noise’. It was planned as personal reaction to sexual harassment on the streets. Although this venture has now attained lot of support and publicity, it had to face umpteen teething problems initially.Horrifying though it was, some people viewed eve teasing as a casual, normal incident, about which nothing could be done, while some denied it completely by stating that they had never been harassed and something was wrong with Jasmeen if men were only vying for her! However, she recognized it as a rampant problem and held street rallies with her team members, who wore t-shirts with words, “ Why are you looking at me?” and campaigned against this, on the streets of Bangalore.Blank Noise also deals with the basic problem of victim hood. It has a website, a blog space and is now a major youth movement.Being the first of its kind, it has stirred many media debates and discussions. One of its major achievements has been that it has managed to inspire young girls, in different Indian cities like me, to shun the silence and put up a fight for the safety of a girl in society! According to me, that is what really counts!

Neha Bhat