Women around the globe fight street sexual harassment from the moment they step outside. It is an insidious form of violence that is usually brushed off as insignificant, and in India trivialized as ‘eve-teasing’.
The Hollaback! movement is an international e-activism network against street sexual harassment, and it has just sprouted its first branch in India — Hollaback!MUMBAI.
Hollaback!MUMBAI went online from 30 January 2011. Here’s the full press release:
Street harassment, known as ‘eve teasing’ in India, is one of the most persistent and pervasive forms of gender-based violence and one of the least legislated against. Leering, whistling, being referred to as food (mirchi, began, tamatar) to groping, flashing and assault are a daily reality for women in Mumbai, around India and across the world. Harassment can occur on the train, in parks, maidans, cinema houses, on the street, on university campuses, buying vegetables, anywhere. But such incidents are rarely reported, and are culturally accepted as ‘the price you pay’ for being a woman and living in a city like Mumbai. At Hollaback!, we don’t buy it.
At Hollaback! we believe the phrase ‘eve teasing’ trivializes the act. ‘Let’s call a spade a spade,’ says Aisha Zakira, Director of Hollaback!MUMBAI, ‘it isn’t teasing, it’s harassment.’ And sexual harassment on the street is a gateway crime that creates a cultural environment which makes gender-based violence okay. There exists a legal framework to reproach sexual harassment and abuse in the home and at work, but when it comes to the streets — all bets are off. This gap isn’t because street harassment hurts any less, it’s because there hasn’t been a solution. Until now. The explosion of technology in India via the mobile phone and the Internet has given us an unprecedented opportunity to end street harassment — one of the most pressing women’s rights issues today.
By collecting women’s stories and creative expressions through email and mobile phones about their harassment experiences, Hollaback! is creating a safe, crowd-sourced initiative to end street harassment. By sharing stories about street harassment, Hollaback! empowers women and educates men
who harass. The Mumbai website is part of an international network of Hollaback! sites including London, New York City and Buenos Aires. Hollaback! asserts that any and all gender-based violence is unacceptable, and creates a world where in the face of street harassment, women have an option — and, more importantly — a response.
There are many ways you can get involved:
- Tell your story.
- Spread the word: ‘The more people out there that know we exist,’ says Hollaback!MUMBAI, ‘the quicker street harassment will end’. Invite your Facebook friends to their Facebook page or give @ihollaback a shout-out on your Twitter feed.
- Join Hollaback!MUMBAI: Write to mumbai [at] ihollaback.org if you are interested in volunteering or joining their Mumbai-based team.