Street harassment in India, and in Scotland
“I’m Anna, from India. In Kerala where I grew up, in the South of India, street harassment, and harassment on public transport are big issues.
When I was young, I used to get lifts from my dad often. When I was on the bus, there were incidents of sexual harassment. I knew this was wrong and might have slapped someone who tried this. Women who were less aware of their rights didn’t do this and they were worried they might have been blamed for somehow causing this attack. They worried they might be portrayed as immoral, and would become a target for more abuse.
Young women couldn’t choose their school uniforms – they all dressed the same. They weren’t allowed to wear shawls etc. Some women tried to hide their bodies with long hair. Girls would still be blamed.
I don’t think it’s right that girls are blamed for being harassed, when it’s the perpetrator who is in the wrong. In this case, the girls wearing uniform clearly had no choice in the matter.
In the railway system they now have a telephone number which is displayed on the trains so if someone is harassed or assaulted they can call the number for support. This support seems to be improving, overall.”
Women in Scotland face street harassment too. This could be comments or physical contact focussing on our bodies, or pressuring us to talk to the harasser. It could target us in a racialised way or because of our faith or our sexual orientation.
“I wear long skirts to school now”
“I avoid smiling or making eye contact with strangers”
“I avoid places and situations where there are lots of men”
“I wear headphones to stop hearing yelled comments”
These are only some of the comments that were collected by Amina in 2014 as part of their sexual harassment survey. 78% of the 107 respondents stated that they have experienced street harassment.
Amina MWRC’s film, Hopscotch, based on Nadine Aisha Jassat’s poem, is based on experiences of moving through public spaces in Scotland as women of colour, who might be perceived as Muslim.
Please watch it here:
and share with anyone who might find it interesting.
If you have a story about street harassment yourself, you could tell Hollaback who share stories anonymously https://edinburgh.ihollaback.org/about-us/ . If it constitutes a hate crime, you could report to the police yourself, or use Amina MWRC’s third party reporting service.
If you wish to seek a listening ear after an experience like this, call Amina MWRC’s helpline from Monday to Friday 10am-4pm on 0808 801 0301.