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):
- Make a scene or embarrass the harasser; scream; let people know what happened.
- Try to solicit help from other people and/or police nearby.
- File a police report and know your rights.
- 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.
“‘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.