Street sexual harassment in India is a phenomenon India’s women are intimately familiar with, though foreign women —- since they spend most of their time in enclaves and very little time on the street — escape being grabbed, patted, pinched, or stroked.
Laura Neuhas is a visitor to Bangalore who decided to add her voice to a group which started last year to publicize the ubiquity of this practice, to counter the attacks, and, when possible, to bring whatever perpetrators they can find to justice:
“People run up and grab my butt, my breast and brush against me purposely,” Neuhaus says. “It happens so fast.”
“I will be walking with my boyfriends and it makes no difference. After that I go through post-traumatic stress. You are so angry and humiliated,” she says. “There is no one to talk to.”
When she says “people,” she means men, of course. The group she has joined, Blank Noise, calls this practice of public humiliation “Eve teasing,” which The Middle East Times calls “a euphemism in India for the sexual harassment or molestation of women.”
Eve-teasing. That’s a good name for a behavior that is probably hard-wired genetically, and controlled only by the strictures of established mores in any given culture. Evidently the controls on such behaviors are eroding in the face of the growing societal pressures on men and women in India.
In India, this problem is exacerbated by a number of conditions, the first being the general contempt with which women are regarded:
In India’s male-dominated society, 16 cases of various types of violence against women are reported every hour, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. More than 18,000 rape cases are reported against women every year.
Some 8,800 women are killed in India every year in dowry disputes, the bureau reported.
India is currently mulling laws to combat sexual harassment.
[These figures seem pathetically small, given the population of India: 1,096,221,674. If our Indian readers have more reliable statistics, Gates of Vienna will be glad to post them.].
Not only are women regularly harassed in public, killed in private, and subject to a higher suicide rate than men, there are limited ways to fight back:
Jasmeen Patheja, the 26-year-old founder of Blank Noise, says that she started the outfit in the high-tech city to encourage a public debate on eve teasing.
“This group encourages women to open up and question the harassment on the streets,” Patheja says. “In India your family or your peer group dismisses the topic of Eve teasing. A vast number of women choose not to question it.
“We are in an environment where every girl has to protect herself in a public space. Women are made to feel that they are asking for it.”
The group holds silent demonstrations on the streets of Bangalore, holding posters and banners reading “Y R U LOOKING AT ME.”
So far, retributive violence is not being suggested, except in the comments section of the blog at the Blank Noise Project ( One can only guess what would be the response in say, Texas, if women were regularly subjected to this kind of harassment).
In addition to the omnipresent misogyny in India, and the stress put on women via dowries in marriage, there is a crucial problem that India must address if this corrosive issue is going to be resolved. Behavior is driven by many factors, and in this case, one can guess that part of the pressure behind the harassment is the growing scarcity of women to begin with. The demographics in India break down as follows:
Sex ratio —
|at birth:||1.05 male(s)/female|
|under 15 years:||1.06 male(s)/female|
|15-64 years:||1.07 male(s)/female|
|65 years and over:||1.03 male(s)/female|
|total population:||1.07 male(s)/female (2000 est.)|
Notice that the ratio of men increases as children age. Evidently the mortality rate for girls increases with age. Compare the above to US demographics:
|at birth:||1.05 males/female|
|under 15 years:||1.05 males/female|
|15-64 years:||1 male/female|
|65 years and over:||0.72 male/female|
|total population:||0.97 male/female (2005)|
In other words, it’s safer to be female in the US than it is in India.
The Times of India reported recently of a sting operation that snagged a number of female doctors who were practicing female foeticide in private clinics in India. It’s amazing to realize that female doctors would willingly collude in worsening the conditions for girl children in their country, but it’s been a long time since we’ve expected the medical profession to be in the vanguard upholding the cultural safeguards in our own country. Why should we expect Indian doctors to be any different? At any rate, the news report does not make clear what India’s legal code has to say about gender-specific abortions. Certainly abortion itself is legal, so parsing it along gender lines might be difficult to prosecute.
Which brings us back to the beginning of the story. Men in India target women on the street for a very physical kind of sexual harassment. Women are beginning to fight back, however tentatively. Meanwhile, many men are doomed to life without a helpmeet… unless, that is, they can rent one for awhile:
…prompted by a shortage of eligible single women, some poverty-stricken husbands in western India have gone to the extent of renting out their wives to other men on a monthly rate.
The local newspaper the Times of India reports that one man allowed his farm laborer wife, and mother of two, to stay with her boss for 8,000 rupees (175 dollars) a month. Many poor families and middlemen have also cashed in on the shortage of women by selling off their daughters to men in Gujarat, one of India’s wealthiest states.
The brokers dealing in the trade reportedly make up to 200,000 ($4,436) rupees a month from finding and selling wives to single men.
The paper doesn’t bother reporting the rates of female foeticide, infanticide, or dowry deaths. Just a typical MSM story: “prompted by a shortage of… women…” without bothering to tell you how the shortage occurred.
India is well known for the brilliance of its mathematicians. Goes to show you that intelligence has nothing to do with this, since individual decisions to kill girl babies continue to tunnel through the foundations on which a secure society rests, rotting it out from underneath.
China, another country known for the intelligence and industry of its populace, is equally well known for its female infanticide and the burgeoning population of single males with no hope of marriage or family. In fact, its demographics are even more depressing:
|at birth:||1.12 male(s)/female|
|under 15 years:||1.13 male(s)/female|
|15-64 years:||1.06 male(s)/female|
|65 years and over:||0.91 male(s)/female|
|total population:||1.06 male(s)/female (2006 est.)|
There doesn’t seem to be a solution on the horizon for either country. At least not one a humane person wants to contemplate. However, it would be well to contemplate the outcome for the world when the two countries in the world with the largest populations have millions of extra males to deal with. A recent study shows the effects of marriage and parenting on male testosterone levels:
A man’s testosterone levels drop significantly when he holds an infant. Even holding a baby doll can decrease levels of the male virility hormone.
Married men, whether fathers or not, have markedly lower testosterone levels than single males, according to one of the first studies of how the hormone changes when men marry and become fathers. Results of the study, done by a team of Harvard University anthropologists, increase our knowledge of human biology and may have implications for so-called “male menopause.”
Researchers have long suspected that levels of the hormone largely responsible for fighting, competing, and mating decrease when men settle down and start a family. Other studies have shown that testosterone begins to decline shortly after marriage, but surges upward when unions end in divorce.
So what will India and China and any other large misogynist country or culture do with all those excess men?
Can you say “cannon fodder”?