I was watching this ad on TV the other day. It was Government of India sponsored ad; something about men staring at women also considered as sexual harassment. Also I saw a news article on Times Now about a blog where women get together to stop sexual harassment and did some dharna type things in Mumbai, mostly concentrating on staring. I missed the blog address. If anyone knows of it please let me know in the comments. Anyway after all that, I thought I shall tell my tale regarding this topic; an incident that happened when I was preparing for JEE.
For those who don’t know, IIT-JEE coaching is a big deal in AP and people stay in hostels and all and drop years together just to make into these portals. So the year I dropped to prepare for JEE, most of my classmates were hostellers. We were 70 odd people in our class and only 4 of us were girls, out of which most days I was the only one attending classes, especially after classes for clarifying doubts. This was the time when all hostellers were supposed to sit and study, and one of the employees there was keep a guard over them. This guy comes from the boys’ hostel.
One day when I was writing our weekly exam in my class, that guy happened to be the invigilator and he just kept staring at me. He made me feel uncomfortable and I packed the idea and continued my paper. All of a sudden I looked across my table and one of my competitors was busily writing and occurred to me that he doesn’t have this extra pressure on his mind and can of course write the paper better than me. I didn’t want to take this anymore so I got up and walked out, went my campus in-charge and told her there is this guy who’s making me uncomfortable and its troubling my paper. She immediately changed him and everything was peaceful.
So I thought, until he was constantly causing trouble whenever I stayed back for clarifying doubts. This time it angered me considering the fact that I had complained once. But I just gave him a hard stare and let it go for a couple of days. Soon enough he never took my warning and I got really angry. I walked up to my in-charge and blasted her by saying that when I complain against such a sensitive issue I expect her or anyone to take action. Even if it is just staring it is harassment. I was feeling harassed continuously all the while in my classroom. She said she’ll do something and calmed me down.
She told me I could sit in another room if I liked. Now this is crazy, why should I change where I was? Anyway I did that, sat in another room. But apparently, that guy didn’t get any warning. He would stand outside the room and keep staring. Now I understood this was getting out of hand and a mere change of place for me wouldn’t do, he needed something really hard. I went to my in-charge and told her she was useless, that she can’t even scold an employee under her. Luckily, that day, the chief of my city branches had come to our campus. I told her I am going to him and giving him a complete complaint.
She told me I was unnecessarily making a fool of myself and also a complaint on him would heavily affect his life and asked if I wanted to be the reason for making his life miserable. My reply was, firstly I am not making a fool of myself, I don’t care what people were thinking about me and it mattered to me that he didn’t trouble me anymore, and secondly, I had given him enough chances and if there is anyone who is making his life miserable, it is she who didn’t give him an appropriate warning. I went to that head of ours and told his calmly, without any sort of agitation, that there was this guy from the boys’ hostel who is causing me trouble and that I don’t want him in my premises. Sure enough, I never saw him again, but heard that he was made to stay back at the hostel and was asked never to come to our campus again.
I think each of us, victims, has to speak up against any kind of harassment, however mild it is, whether at workplace or at our colleges. Wherever it is, we must speak up, because no one else is going to help us. Considering my in-charge’s response, looks like even women are not going to help other women. We must try to change that too, by becoming more sensitive to other’s problems, more sensitive as women rather than just humans and also stop that trying-to-keep-out-of-trouble idea. Even the guys, they can help first by not harassing us and second, by speaking up against those who do.
To whoever reading this post, girls, stand up against what’s happening to you, no point keeping your mouth’s shut; guys, please respect women and support the cause. Respecting women is part of our tradition and culture.