In Depth

‘I often come home crying’: Eve-teasing, the ‘unexorcised demon’ of Kashmir

Sketch by Ryan Sofi. (FPK Photo/Aamina Altaf)

New Crime Branch Gazette has painted a very grim picture of the Jammu and Kashmir vis-à-vis crime against women. The report says J&K has witnessed an increase in crimes against women during the past two years. Among other things, the fresh crime statistics have once again brought the menace of street-hounding called eve-teasing in focus.

It was an unsettling sight, if not a shocking and outrageous, for passersby at Dalgate Srinagar when a hijabi girl in her early twenties was lately seen consoling her friend on a sidewalk.

Wiping her friend’s tears, the girl tried to comfort her, saying: “Please, control yourself! It’s not the first time we’re facing anything like this. May these pests rot in hell!”

A little fact-finding went on to expose the dark underbelly of the society.

Travelling in a crowded bus, one of those two girls had been groped by some pervert. Her attempts to resist the repulsive advances and touches had drawn a deafening response from the passengers. But when she couldn’t take it anymore, she de-boarded the bus and stepped on the sidewalk and cried.

Sketch by Ryan Sofi. (FPK Photo/Aamina Altaf)

This broad-day light, ugly episode might’ve already passed as another forgotten event in a public space, but such incidents should press alarm bells, given how eve-teasing incidents are still being brushed aside in Kashmir.

“Problem is, we’re not ready to accept that things like eve-teasing happen in our society,” says Hina Shahid, a college-goer, who mainly travels in public transport. “Our denial is our betrayal towards the victims of eve-teasing. Unless we won’t acknowledge it, how can we correct and fix it.”

Sketch by Ryan Sofi. (FPK Photo/Aamina Altaf)

Especially, at a time when even mosques are reverberating with sermons against social evils like drug menace, eve-teasing continues to face indifference and denial.

“I often come home crying,” says Kulsum Hafeez, a journalism student from Srinagar. “Some perverts in bus or on streets often subject me to some inconvenience. This should not happen. But the fact it’s happening, right under the nose of the society, says a lot about us. While we love to take a moral high ground on everything, we act so indifferent on eve-teasing. Fence-sitting is no honourable act when the honour of our female folk is being toyed with so easily and regularly.”

Sketch by Ryan Sofi. (FPK Photo/Aamina Altaf)

As a form of sexual aggression, eve-teasing isn’t uncommon in Kashmir. It refers to public harassment and is an appalling act that imparts humiliation, panic, repulsion and helplessness in the victim.

Braving the same trauma, from last eight years now, young Tehmeena regularly comes home, following heated confrontations with ‘on the loose’ pedestrians.

“Thing is, these perverts in public spaces are incorrigible beings,” Tehmeena, who’s pursuing her Masters from University of Kashmir, tells me, as we catch up in a city café. “I’ve long back stopped sharing these hideous street encounters with my parents. I can’t tell them again and again what I’m facing outside. I fear they might suggest me to sit home, which is the natural response from our parents.”

Sketch by Ryan Sofi. (FPK Photo/Aamina Altaf)

She took a breather, mused for a while, and then resumed talking about the street demons: “I’m not saying that everyone out there is a monster. No, they aren’t! But then, it’s also true that it just takes one wrongdoer to give a bad name to the whole society. Plus, the silence of good people is only encouraging these deviants, who treat every girl on street as objects.”

In past, such unchecked behaviour even forced many girls to end their lives.

Sketch by Ryan Sofi. (FPK Photo/Aamina Altaf)

“Many girls were even forced to quit their studies and cut down on their outings, as their so-called conservative society only placed the blame on them—the way they conduct or dress up,” says Syed Saba, a private teacher from Srinagar. “Such a sad response exists despite the fact how eve-teasing is considered as a serious offence by religion as well as law.”

As per the law of the land, Assault or Criminal Force on women to outrage her modesty carries a 2-year-long imprisonment and heavy fine. Also, Word, Gesture or Act intended to insult woman’s modesty can send the offender behind bars for a year with fine.

Sketch by Ryan Sofi. (FPK Photo/Aamina Altaf)

Again, Obscene Acts and Songs carry a 3-month imprisonment or fine or both.

“But all these Acts go for a toss in Kashmir when these offenders easily treat public spaces as their playground to toy with female folk,” Saba continues. “In order to fix this social crime, we must come out of denial and admit that eve-teasing exists in our society.”

 

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