Yesterday a video went viral on social media and it wasn’t long before major news channels began reporting on it. Two sisters – dubbed #RohakBravehearts on Twitter – were being sexually harassed on a bus in Haryana, India by three young men. None of the passengers on the bus intervened or stood up for the girls, so they both removed their belts and began to beat their attackers. If you’ve not seen the remarkable footage, click here to watch. They have since been commended by both various Indian politicians, social media and individuals around the world.
But what shocked and angered me was the fact that none of the passengers stood up for the girls or publicly condemn the young men for their unacceptable behaviour. You can even see in the video, that most of the bus passengers simply look out of the window and ignore the whole thing – even when the sisters stand up for themselves.
“What is the matter with you? Don’t you know how to respect women? Shameless creatures!”
However this display of female power was quickly shadowed by the news of Tugce Albayrak’s life machine being switched off in Frankfurt, Germany. Albayrak was attacked for trying to stop two teenage girls being harassed in a car park. The attacker delivered a fatal punch which put her in a coma for two weeks.
Once I was walking home from my local train station and I came across a large group of teenage boys jibing two girls. They were threatening to show naked pictures of one of the girls to their school if she didn’t go over and speak to the boys. Many things infuriated me about this: firstly there were grown adults walking past and ignoring the situation. Secondly, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. I was so filled with anger that I went up to the group and said: “What is the matter with you? Don’t you know how to respect women? Shameless creatures!” and glared at them until the group dispersed.
Last Friday, I spoke on BBC Asian Network about men wolf whistling at women in public. To listen to the full clip, click here and go to 02:41:41. Whilst the discussion was largely light-hearted, there are many elements which indicate that such behaviour is a form of harassment. I personally believe that it counts as harassment because it’s unwanted attention which leaves many women feeling intimidated, embarrassed and self conscious. In addition, if such behaviour is challenged, we are then told (patronisingly) to “calm down love” and that “it’s a compliment, you should learn to accept it.” Firstly it is not a compliment and it is not an appropriate way to talk to someone you find attractive: just be normal. During the show, a caller said that “women have so much power over men.” I beg to differ. If we really had so much power over men, why are so many female victims of rape, abuse, harassment and sexual violence not given the justice that they deserve, whilst their attackers freely roam the streets?
I firmly stand by what Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, has said: “Men are scared of being laughed at, whilst women are scared of being raped, attacked and harassed.”