January 7, 2017 4:42:07 pm
A Facebook post titled ‘Touch me Not’ created by a 26-year-old girl calling out residents of Bengaluru to step out and protest against the incidents of molestation that took place on the New Year’s Eve had gathered nearly 100 people opposite the Vidhana Soudha on Saturday. The viral post was created by Anita Ramesh, a communications professional, who was fast asleep in the safety of her home, when a mob at MG Road targeted female revellers and outraged their modesty on the eve of the New year.
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Anita is not an activist nor she has ever organised protests like Touch Me Not before, but when she woke up to the news of mass molestation on the new year day, she wanted to do something to express her anger over the incidents that shook the country. “As a woman, I’m done being touched. I’m done being molested, I look at so many incidents that happen. I feel what victims go through, because when someone touches me and walks away, I know the trauma I go through. I am not going to get over it in a day’s time. That trauma stays with me,” she said.
Anita said she has faced sexual harassment multiple times and once she was even knocked out by an autorickshaw driver. “Once an autorickshaw driver slapped me and I blacked out. His intention was to take me to a secluded place, but I was saved by my friend who suffered injury after being attacked by the driver by a rod. That incident keeps on playing in my head,” she recalled.
Like Anita, most of the women who had come to take part in the protest, have personally experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives. “I tell my daughter to avoid revealing clothes when she steps outside. She can’t wear a sleeveless churidar and walk down the Brigade Road safely without drawing unwanted attention. I’m all for women’s rights. Women should be allowed to wear what they want to wear. But, we can’t. I tell my daughter that she can wear short clothes when she is in aboard, but not in India,” said a 55-year-old lady, who did not wish to be named.
The one thing everyone at the protest seemed to agree is women’s safety is a nation-wide problem and that there is no city in the country that guarantees foolproof protection for women. But, what they are upset about Bengaluru is, the victims of harassment usually get no help from the bystanders.
“I was born and brought up in Mumbai and I have been living in Bengaluru for more than 20 years now. But, I feel Mumbai is much safer for women compared to this city,” said Sheena George. When she was asked to explain the rationale behind her conclusion, she said, “In Mumbai people are there for you. If a woman raises her voice in the street, people will immediately respond to her. Here (Bengaluru) nobody will come to the help of a woman in distress,” said the 45-year-old mother of one.
“The other day I saw somebody who kept spitting on the road and I wanted to point it out to him. But I didn’t as I was afraid what if he gets violent and starts beating me up. I wasn’t sure of getting any help from the onlookers” said Neha, a protester.
The protesters demand a comprehensive and an effective law to check the crime against women. They believe that only a strong law can keep men from putting their bad intentions against women into action. “Many get away with sexual harassment and it creates less fear among those who perpetrate such shameful acts. I have been told by the police and people around me not to file a complaint against those harassed me. I was told it won’t be safe. Will police ensure my safety? I feel safe by letting my tormentor walk away, but the moment I file a complaint against him, I would start fearing for my safety.I don’t have faith in the police that they will protect me,” said Anita. “It is very easy to attack someone.”
“I know an incident in Shantinagar, where a woman was not given any protection by the police. She was stalked for two years and eventually she committed suicide,” Anita said.
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