Fight Harassment... Let's Hollaback
Every day, in the street, in our homes and offices and in daily life… we see women getting harassed. But do we raise our voice? Do we care to stand up with the one who is at the receiving end? If you believe that harassment against women at any level, whether publicly or inside homes as domestic violence is a man’s claim to power; it’s time to Hollaback!
Hollaback! is an international movement that works to fight harassment in public spaces across 71 cities and 24 countries. Hollaback Mumbai team believes that sexual harassment on the street is a gateway crime that creates a cultural environment which makes violence based on gender, religion, color or sexual orientation OK. Giving credence to advocacy supported by solid research, educational intervention and believing that an aware, well-connected community empowers individuals into becoming pro-active citizens, Hollaback Mumbai team is pursuing a multi-pronged approach to arrive at an inclusive solution to street harassment.
Halabol invited Hollaback team to share the platform and enlighten our readers more about breaking the spiral of silence against hrrasment. Arpita Bhagat, Site Leaderof Hollaback Mumbai told us that ever since its conception in 2005, Hollaback is all about “perpetrator-shaming” not victim-shaming because they want the women to believe that they are NOT a victim but a survivor and fighter. That’s the reason why Hollaback is emerging as an empowering movement. She shared a few more things -
“Hollaback! was conceived back in 2005. Starting as a project by seven youth (three men and four women). As the women told story after story of harassment, the men became increasingly concerned. Samuel Carter, who is now Hollaback!’s board chair, said quite simply, “You live in a different city than we do.” Collectively, they resolved to change that. Around the same time, a woman named ThaoNygen bravely stood up to her harasser – an older, upper middle class raw-foods restaurant owner – who terrified her by masturbating across from her on the subway. She took his photo with her camera, and when the police ignored it, she posted it on flikr. The picture eventually made it to the front page of the New York Daily News, where it incited a city-wide conversation about street harassment. The youth were inspired by Thao’s story, and decided to apply her model to all forms of harassment and to document these experiences on a public blog.”
We were told that Hollaback came first to Asia through Mumbai chapter back in January 2011 and was followed by Chandigarh, Delhi, Chennai and Pathankot. The interesting thing is that Hollaback team does not use the term “eve-teasing” as they believe it to trivialize the act under the garb of a biblical story.
“In 2011, we launched a campaign to encourage bystander support of victims of street harassment called ‘Main Hoon Na’. The ‘Main Hoon Na’ or ‘I’ve got your back’ Campaign provides real options to people who want to help end street harassment with a simple message: “If you see someone being harassed, go to them and ask them if they are OK, and if there is anything you can do to help.” It’s incredibly powerful for someone who is being harassed to receive support from bystanders, but people have told us that they don’t always know what to say or do when they see harassment taking place. At Hollaback, we understand that intervening can make for a situation that escalates, putting the bystander and the person who is being harassed in potential danger. But we’re also all about giving power and control back to the woman, reminding her that she is being respected and looked out for by those around her, and that bystanders are concerned about how she feels.”
Besides this, Hollaback team has also engaged with Mumbai colleges in the form of workshops and debates.
In 2012, they stood up for the Keenan & Reuben case and petitioned the government demanding justice.
“The response to all this has been very encouraging. We have had stories of all kind, the bottom-line being that street harassment, in the form of cat-calling, leering, whistling, being referred to as food (mirchi, began, tamatar) to groping, flashing and assault are a daily reality not only in Mumbai but across India and the world. The important thing is Indian women are breaking the spiral of silence. The Nirbhaya gang rape in 2012 took the entire country in like a tornado, followed by the Mumbai rape of a photojournalist in 2013, we are already united in this battle. The explosion of technology in India via the mobile phone and the Internet has given us an unprecedented opportunity to end street harassment—and with it, the opportunity to take on one of the most pressing women’s rights issues today. And now that women have stopped feeling ashamed, the next step is to put to shame the culprits. That is precisely the rationale behind taking pictures of the harasser and posting them on Hollaback! Although, in India it’s a relatively intimidating concept but in the recent times, women have made headlines through their courage and brought these shameless men to order.”
Besides, online campaigning is also a big part of their movement-building process. That’s how Halabol plans to support Hollaback Mumbai. We appreciate the role of this organization in inspiring women to come out of their shell and shout back at the harassing person.
We look forward to hear similar stories from our readers when they raised their voice against harassment. Such stories will perform the role of a lever in pushing others’ to follow suit. It’s time to Halabol against harassment and take concrete action to make the streets safer for women, such as creating proper street lighting systems and accessible, clean public toilets for women.
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