Street Harassment Round Up – May 31

May 31, 2009


Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem!

In the News:

Upcoming Events:

Street Harassment Resource of the Week:

Toronto Event Tommorrow for Young Women!

May 29, 2009

If you’re in Toronto and care about addressing street harassment & other violence against young women, check this out, via Shameless Magazine’s Blog:

Making Noise Media Camp for Young Women
For young women ages 14-25
Saturday May 30
rsvp: michelle cho, 416-703-6607 x 3

“Summer is almost here, and rates of violence always go up in the summer…we’re tired of being hollered at the in the streets and feeling unsafe, but want more creative ways of challenging gender violence.”

“We’ve organized a media camp FOR THIS SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2009, to start to bring young women together to plan a summer campaign to challenge street harassment in Toronto using media they’ve created themselves. We want to talk about how violence is experienced differently by women of colour and how it is made invisible by the media or sensationalized to be solely about being because they do not fit into the “mainstream”.”

Sounds great!

Unpleasant Reminder

May 28, 2009

A few evenings ago, I was walking down the street with my girlfriend in downtown Louisville. We were walking home from a poetry reading. As we were walking, I noticed a man walking along side of us. He passed us, and then spat twice directly in our pathway. It didn’t hit us, fortunately.

I was baffled. I said aloud, “Gross! Did that guy just spit at us?”

Another man, who had been walking just behind us, also passed us up. He overheard my question and said, “He was cursing you.”

I was even more puzzled. “What?”

“He was cursing you. It was a curse,” he said, and continued down the street.

My girlfriend and I were disgusted and confused. Why in the world would some random strange man want to curse us? And then it hit me.

It was because my girlfriend and I were holding hands. In public. For all the world to see. Including homophobic jerkwads.

As an openly gay woman, I’ve had to train myself to not notice people on the street. I’ve taught myself to not pay attention to other people’s reactions when they see my girlfriend and me holding hands or acting affectionate in public. You know, the same way straight couples act in public, only they don’t get spit at or cursed. This kind of deliberate tuning out of the world is the only way I’m able to enjoy being out and visible with my girlfriend. So sometimes I forget that people hate me without knowing me. Sometimes I forget that people think I’m evil, a sinner, going to hell, disgusting, perverted, or somehow less than human.

It’s not very pleasant to be reminded.


Victims Have Obligation to Report Harassers?

May 28, 2009

Selangor Community Awareness Association member and lawyer Honey Tan said sexual harassment on public transportation in Malaysia is common (as it is in many other countries) and she said many women don’t report it.

“‘Even if you don’t think the police can solve the case, the statistics are important to justify the police’s request for more manpower [sic]. Making a police report is not just your right, but your obligation,’ she said.”

There are tons of reasons why victims/survivors don’t report incidents of street harassment & assault, like not having enough time/energy, fear of being blamed for harassment/assault, fear of wasting time because complaint won’t be taken seriously, fear of retaliation from harasser, an inability to identify the harasser, etc. So saying it’s their obligation to report it may be a bit naive.

On the other hand, I do think that the problem of gender-based public harassment and assault by strangers won’t be taken seriously by law and policy makers unless the numbers show there’s a problem. The numbers won’t show there’s a problem if the crimes are vastly under reported (which they are).

So what about the creation of a lesser form/complaint one could fill out (anonymously and/or with the ability to do it online) if one doesn’t necessarily want to press charges but just wants to help show the real numbers of harassers? Does anyone know if such a form/system exists? Would there be too much room for false reporting? (Though what would the incentive be for false reporting if its purpose is to function as a way to gather data, not to prosecute the harasser?)

Otherwise, it seems like conducting surveys are the only way real harassment numbers can be shown, but that method isn’t perfect either.

In Malaysia, Taxi Trouble

May 28, 2009

Earlier in May in Malaysia, a taxi driver with tinted windows allegedly raped a 17-year-old passenger. He was recently arrested, but a “newspaper noted that women were [still] arming themselves with self-defense products and reluctant to board empty buses. Community leaders and non-governmental organisations yesterday demanded that the authorities do something to better protect passengers.”  Seven women in another area were also allegedly raped by a man posing as a taxi driver who has since been arrested.

The taxi incidents are part of the larger problem of sexual harassment and assault on public transportation feared by many women in Malaysia.

“Selangor Community Awareness Association member and lawyer Honey Tan, said they wanted such attacks to stop and said one of the most common things to happen to women was sexual harassment on public transportation….

Subang Jaya assemblyperson Hannah Yeoh said she felt the Home Ministry should allocate more resources to crime prevention as she claimed many women were afraid to go out these days.”

Many countries have taxi services where women are the drivers for women passengers precisely because of these types of terrible incidents. While such a measure is surely a relief to worried and fearful female passengers, I think it is merely a band aid and doesn’t fix the real problem. Your thoughts?

Street Harasser Shoots Two Women

May 27, 2009

Ugh, this makes me so mad! What is wrong with this man and how can women stay safe!?

Via in Atlanta:

“The two women were outside an apartment complex on Campbellton Road in southwest Atlanta on Wednesday night when a strange man approached and made advances to them, police said.

“He tried to talk to them in front of the apartment complex and they weren’t interested,” Atlanta Police spokesman James Polite said.

The man then followed the women about half a mile as they drove down Campbellton Road and on to I-285. They were on the ramp of I-285 when he opened fire, striking one woman in the face and the other in the chest, police said.”

Thankfully, the women are in stable condition and should survive, unlike women in some other recent shootings. This must end!

(Thanks for the tip, D)

Street Fighter

May 27, 2009

An Indian newspaper The Telegraph has a great article discussing the street harassment women in Calcutta regularly face, how women tend to react, what they can do about it, and the challenges they may face if they try to respond to or report harassers. Sreyashee Bhaduri, a 30 year old woman who decided to take action against her harasser, is mentioned throughout the piece. I recommend reading the whole article if you have time.

Things they say you can do if harassed (they also noted potential roadblocks with each):

  1. Make a scene or embarrass the harasser; scream; let people know what happened.
  2. Try to solicit help from other people and/or police  nearby.
  3. File a police report and know your rights.
  4. Lodge a FIR (first information report), which is the first step in taking legal action against a harasser.

Street harassment law in India:

Indian Penal Code (IPC). Section 509 of the IPC states: “Whoever intending to insult the modesty of a woman utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound, shall be heard, or that such gesture, or object, shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon, the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend, to one year, or with fine, or with both.”Section 294 speaks of obscene acts and language in public being punishable with imprisonment or fine or both. Section 354 also says assault or criminal force used on a woman to outrage her modesty is punishable.

Final thought:

“‘Most people refuse to take street sexual harassment as a serious crime. It is something that is often taken for granted — something that is bound to happen,’ says Saptarshi Chakraborty, a 22-year-old engineer and a core member of Blank Noise, a volunteer-based collective that deals with issues around street sexual harassment.

Some will laugh. Some will say: ‘If she has such a problem, why walk on a road?’ Some will say: ‘Ki hoyechhe Didi, chhere din!’ (It’s a small thing; let him go!)

Then you feel like giving up. You may even feel tempted to feel as the men in the crowd feel: that it doesn’t matter. But just remember your feeling of outrage once more.'”

This last part rings true to me. Some days it seems like it’d be so easy to give up fighting street harassment, but sadly (because I wish street harassment would end already) I always come across some new outrage that motivates me a while longer.