Nidhi Dutt experienced a little “Eve teasing,” or as you might call it, assault, in Bombay one afternoon.
My colleague and I were piling into a rickshaw, heading back to the bureau. And that’s when it happened. We were suddenly surrounded by a group of boys, barely teenagers.
At first the whole thing seemed harmless, if a little predictable – the cheery interest of a group of bright eyed, smiling boys.
Their approach was not unusual, foreigners and cameras make for an unmissable attraction in India.
But it was only a matter of minutes, possibly seconds, before the smiles turned into a blur of pawing, grabbing hands. Their indecent behaviour was punctuated by cheers, laughter and explicit comments in Hindi.
And that was it. I had been Eve-teased. Or as we describe it in the West, sexually harassed. In broad daylight, on a street in a busy business district of Mumbai.
“Teasing” they call it – a group of boys physically attacking two women. That’s not “teasing” and I don’t think we call that harassment, either, not when it’s unwanted resisted physical contact – I think we call that assault.
This kind of harassment, often described in India as innocent play, is commonplace. Yet this is a country in which the predominant Hindu religion worships female deities and claims to respect women.
Described as “innocent play” is it – being treated as a commodity as public as a toilet? That’s not any kind of play. It’s an assault on women’s autonomy and ability to be in the world without fear.