Anyone who’s been following this blog recently could be forgiven for thinking that I’ve become obsessed with sexy statuary. I’ve certainly been talking about it a lot. Each time I’ve mentioned it, it’s been in the context of making a point about religious hypocrisy, or a joke, but taken as a whole, it does look a little repetitive. But I’m only writing about what I’m seeing. The temples of India, and especially the major sights of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, are really quite pornographic. And we haven’t even got to the best stuff yet. Ellora and Ajanta were just foreplay; Khajuraho is the money shot.
In Pushkar, on the 9th November 2013, a group of Indian film students interviewed me for a documentary about “Eve teasing”. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I think it was roughly along the following lines.
Every single one of the girls here has suffered either sexual harassment or sexual assault in India. The girls who’ve been living and working here for a long time get it constantly. The one who are just visiting have been assaulted already in the short time they’ve been here. At best, they put up with non-stop staring and lecherous comments. At worst, they’ve been groped and violated on public transport, in crowds, anywhere that they can’t stop men getting close to them. This problem is endemic; it happens everywhere, all the time. This is a country which is not safe for any women, but for Western girls especially, it’s simply not possible to come here without receiving harassment or assault from Indian men.
The fact that you have ‘ladies only’ sections on buses, and ‘ladies only’ carriages on metros, provides a short term fix, but it’s not a long term solution. Think about about the implication. By having these carriages, by needing to have these carriages, what you’re saying is that Indian men cannot be in close proximity to women without sexually violating them. And it seems that it’s true. This should be a source of deep shame to your entire country. It’s not surprising that India is famous worldwide for being a dangerous place for women, that it’s known as the global capital of rape.
Obviously, rape and sexual assault still happens in the UK and other European countries too, and we’ve still got work to do on improving reporting and conviction rates. But at least it’s recognised as a serious crime by the vast majority of people. We don’t need ladies carriages on public transport, and women are safe using it at any time of day or night, because our men don’t try to molest them at every opportunity they get. On the rare occasions a woman is assaulted on our metro, the police investigate, and if they can catch the perpetrator, he’ll be charged, tried, and hopefully convicted and imprisoned. We don’t tolerate it as a society, and neither should you.
Notice that I haven’t called it by the name you use, “Eve teasing”. You need to stop using this term as well. Firstly because it refers to the Biblical story of Eve, it implies that these attacks are the fault of the woman, because she provides the temptation. An assault is never the fault of the victim. But secondly, it makes it sound like it’s just a game, harmless fun. It’s not harmless fun. The government, the police, the media – including you – say they want to stop this problem, but they’re still all using this term which pretends it’s not serious. So the first thing you need to do is stop calling it “Eve teasing”. It’s not “Eve teasing”, it’s sexual harassment, it’s sexual assault.
You’re not going to solve this problem – the problem that your men are so poorly trained in basic social rules that they treat casual sexual assault as part of their daily routine – until you start treating it like the serious crime that it is.
TL;DR – I gave a summary of this argument to an autorickshaw driver and tourist guide who was complaining that there are a lot fewer foreign tourists visiting India this year:
It’s because you rape too many of them.
I reached Haridwar on Tuesday afternoon, after passing the elephant gauntlet, and found my couchsurfing contact, Rohit. He owns and runs an English language school to the south of the city, which he also teaches at, along with his friend Sachin. Their hosting arrangements were basically the school premises, which although not exactly residential, provided basic facilities and a roof over my head. Rohit and Sachin were also both incredibly helpful when it came to finding solutions to the various bike problems I was suffering, so I can’t complain at all.