‘Boys will be boys’ is never an excuseAddressing violence against women should start at home
Imagine living in a world, where walking down the street there is no fear of any cat calls or scary groping. Many girls and women live their lives afraid of how it will be when they walk to school or to work.
Unfortunately, it is not limited to the time to get to the destination but also the possibility of how the teachers, coworkers or bosses stare at their chests, make inappropriate comments, or offer unwanted touch.
‘Eve- teasing’ is the term referred to public acts of sexual harassment that includes and may not be limited to whistling, making explicit comments and touching inappropriately. It embarrasses and humiliates women in varying degrees and forms. It is a violation of women’s rights and can give rise to violence against women. Yet, it is taken lightly majority of the time.
Every form of harassment towards women is a form of objectifying women and shows lack of respect. Many justify such acts as ‘natural tendency’ for men to behave, but it should never be an excuse. Most women pretend it never happened because of the fear of the consequences associated with confronting the perpetrator.
A shopkeeper touched my arm in Thamel, once. I continued to walk as if nothing had happened, but my sister who was with me confronted the man, who only kept smiling. The discomfort felt by women who experience such incidences can be intense and can leave one without the ability to instantly react. What is actually problematic is that the men who commit such acts feel no shame or remorse.
The daily occurrence of ‘eve- teasing’ often leads to many girls and women avoiding going to school or work because they do not feel safe. The term, ‘eve-teasing’ rooted in biblical reference, is bothersome as it places the blame on women, portraying them as the agent of seduction. Also, the term ‘teasing’ means to tempt someone. Therefore, even the term ‘eve-teasing’ tends to put the blame on women as being responsible for what unfolds.
The negative connotation implies that the woman is a ‘seductive temptress’ who tantalises men and thereby tries to justify men’s actions as if men have no control over it. How often have we heard at the heels of sexual assault that the women were dressed in a way that they were ‘asking for it’?
The society tends to downplay the severity of ‘eve-teasing’ if there has been no physical harm to the women saying ‘boys will be boys’, but such acts need to be addressed and have consequences for the perpetrator. No one should have to be physically harmed or killed for this intolerable act to be taken seriously. Harassment of women is a despicable and brutal violation of human rights.
‘Eve-teasing’ is a big problem in South Asia that needs more attention. ‘India’s Daughter’ documented the horrific rape case in Delhi in 2012 and that is but one example of how sexual harassment and assault towards women can take a turn for the worst.
Teasing and harassment of women is a significant problem in Nepal and sadly it is accepted as a normal in our society. Boys and men need to be made aware and educated about the severity of such crimes and subjected to punishment if guilty.
The Government of Nepal has laws to address violence against women, but there is a gap when it comes to their implementation.
Anu, 17, on her way to school gets whistled at by construction workers. She walks silently, looking down, cringing at the thought of her daily route. There are many others who share her experience.
Sita, 25, was groped on the bus one day: “He continued to look at me after he did that, and I continued to feel ashamed.”
Violence against women causes trauma and can lead to feelings of distress, helplessness, and other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide. What may seem like a harmless dirty glance, offensive comment can often lead to rape and death.
Some men act that way to prove their manliness to their friends. It is important for all parents to have a conversation with their sons on the proper way to treat women, and it is a difficult conversation to have but they are usually the most important. Parents need to raise their sons, so they are never the reason a girl’s reputation is scarred or she feels used or afraid.
Men will never understand the fear women experience daily. Men do not understand the struggles women experience everyday regarding their safety. A male friend of mine says he never wants to have a daughter, not because he discriminates between men and women, but he would be scared for her.
We need to create a safe environment for all genders so one does not live in fear of the other. The silence of women should not be perceived as weakness. Men need to acknowledge that when they are disrespecting women, they are disrespecting their own creators.
It is time, we stopped making excuses and men start learning to respect themselves so they can respect women. Every girl is someone’s daughter.