As the tricity grapples with the spurt in sexual harassment cases, the vulnerable and young are also at the receiving end. The changing social environment has taken a toll on adolescent girls, creating fear in their minds.
Ranging from ‘emotional molestation’, lewd behaviour, lecherous stares to stalking and brushing, girls — in the age group of 14 to 18 years — daily face sexual harassment in one form or the other.
On an average, 30 to 40% teenage girls have faced sexual harassment, say counsellors.
However, many incidents are not reported as they shy away from confiding in parents and friends.
Social networking sites, television and other mediums have also exposed teenagers to issues which until yesterday, were not openly talked about.
“Not a day passes when boys don’t pass snide remarks or we are not subjected to lecherous stares. When we try to cross the road, rowdy miscreants zip past us while halting their cars with a screeching sound,” claimed a group of Class 11 students of government model senior secondary school, Sector 16.
Not only youngsters, but even aged men indulge in lewd behaviour, claim girls. “Not only boys but even men stare at us. They don’t even think that the girl must be feeling uncomfortable. They also engage in lewd behaviour,” says Aradhya Jain, a student of Class 11.
Sharing her experience, Harry, another student of Class 11, said, “One day, I was walking down the road from my house in Sector 38 West. Suddenly, a youth passing by hit me on my derriere. I was shocked at his audacity.”
Counsellors say the fear of social stigma dissuades adolescent girls from reporting such issues.
“Young girls don’t feel comfortable sharing incidents of sexual harassment with their parents. To bridge the gap, parents need to teach their children from the very beginning to be open with them. This way, children will be at ease,” says Poonam, a counsellor.
On the other hand, girls say parents impose restrictions on them if they disclose that they are harassed. To avoid curbs on their freedom, girls continue to suffer in silence.
“If I tell my parents that a boy was following me or I was being harassed, they will restrict my movement instead of solving the issue. We are the ones who are teased and we bear the brunt of punishment, not boys,” says Anahita, a Class 10 student of DPS School, Sector 40.
Rakesh Sachdeva, principal, DAV School, Sector 15, says, “Besides stalking and passing of derogatory comments, girls also face harassment at home. With both the parents working, children spend time by themselves. Girls have narrated stories wherein they claim that their father’s friends or neighbours came home at odd hours, and tried to outrage their modesty or touched them in an inappropriate way. They fear telling their parents.”
tomorrow: unsafe online
‘Grandfather used to touch me constantly’
Home spells comfort and a secure environment. But I always lived under constant fear at home. The threat was from nobody else but my grandfather. The eldest of all sisters, I could not muster courage to divulge details about the constant touching and brushing by my grandfather. I was 9-year-old then. I could not share my pain with my parents, both of whom are working, not even with my mother. One day, I confided into my best friend who informed my mother about it. My mother took up the issue with my father, following which we shifted our base. Though it has been five years since we moved out from our grandfather’s house, I have not been able to erase those thoughts from my mind. Many girls face harassment within the confines of their homes but suffer in silence. A teenaged girl studying in a government school in Chandigarh
96% girls face sexual harassment
Over 96% girls below 18 years of age in the tricity — Chandigarh, SAS Nagar and Panchkula — have faced sexual harassment, including lewd remarks, stalking and groping in the past one year, according to the HT-IDC survey on women safety. The statistics are alarming in Chandigarh and Panchkula where all adolescent girls surveyed by HT-IDC suffered sexual harassment in the last 12 months. While 52% were stalked, 26% faced suggestive remarks. Teenage girls are particularly vulnerable at parks, public places, and markets. While 7% girls report cases to police, 6% to family.
2012: December: A Class 10 girl was sexually harassed by two college students, in their early twenties. The duo harassed the teenager when she was returning home from tuition. An eyewitness informed the police and they were booked.
2013: April: Girl students of a school in Sector 20 alleged that an auto-rickshaw driver harassed them. The auto driver had been ferrying them from home to school for over a week. Following a complaint, the school principal informed the police. The driver was arrested.
Time for introspection
I’m a proud mother of three daughters and have been staying in Chandigarh for the last 25 years. My daughters did their schooling in the city. My two elder daughters would cycle to their respective schools and were given two-wheelers when they joined PEC. My third daughter walks down to her school as it is only 1 KM from our residence. They’ve never complained of any misconduct from boys leave alone sexual assault.
I have commuted through public transport but never encountered any harassment. However, of late, incidents of sexual harassment have assumed alarming proportions and this needs a serious thought. But the main reasons for the present state of affairs are:
Children in the age group of 10-13 years carry mobile phones to schools. If its use was confined to receiving and sending important messages, it was acceptable. But due to the advancement in technology, mobile phones nowadays have features which can corrupt adolescent minds.
In today’s time, both parents are working. Mothers fail to provide ample time to children. As such, children pass time by watching TV, internet/social networking or talking on the phone for hours. I may sound conservative but social networking sites such as Facebook have their own perils when it comes to teenage children. Many crimes and illicit relationships originate from these social networking sites.
Parents don’t encourage children to study on their own and keep tuitions. But the odd timings of these coaching centres add to the vulnerability. Children don’t get to spend time with parents. Even if they are home, kids are always glued to cell phones and internet.
Children emulate reel heroes. They cannot differentiate between reel and real.
More and more couples are living separately owing to peer pressure. They forget that a strong family base is important to deal with all problems. A family not only provides security and moral strength, but is a source of happiness and a great stress buster. The family is the building block of society.
Perspectives and attitude towards opposite gender, ethics and morals, love and respect for others are imbibed by children from family members and elders. But, somehow, everybody is busy earning money these days. In the quest for acquiring wealth, people don’t spend time with family and children.
Nearly 90% crimes take place when a man is under the influence of liquor. But, now, alcohol is openly consumed at marriages and functions.
People should read spiritual books such as Bhagavad Gita and Guru Granth Sahib. Parents should also spend time with children and not ignore them for money and career. Stringent laws are not the only solution, we need to introspect what has gone wrong. Though our society has undergone massive change in the last two decades, it will take another 50 years for it to mature, especially in the backdrop of huge disparities in income, backwardness and social systems such as caste. Only when our society matures, such incidents will stop. (The writer is a freelancer based in Chandigarh)
My girl, my life
Having a daughter makes you much more responsible. From home to clinic, then picking up my daughter from school and dropping her at tuition, was my routine for two years until she entered college. During her Classes 9 and 10, I was always on my toes.
The day would start with dropping her at the school and end with picking her up from tuition classes in the evening.
I never allowed her to venture out alone and would accompany her to the market too. You cannot even trust a male driver. Several untoward incidents are being reported these days. It is better to guide your child and be with her, then leaving her alone. Now, my daughter is pursuing her post-graduation and stays in a hostel.
Dr Nitika Arya is a resident of Panchkula
Share your story
It’s a matter often discussed in drawing rooms, but seldom does it lead to introspection. HT invites readers — male and female — to write in with their experiences, personal and witnessed, of sexual harassment. You can choose to keep your identity hidden, and try to write in not over 250 words. Keep in mind, each story will add to the collective consciousness of a society that needs cleansing. Play your part. Talk to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
How safe are teenagers?
Girls are subjected to harassment on their way to school, tuition or markets. They are supposed to behave in a particular manner. There are no restrictions on boys, while curbs are imposed on girls by their parents.
Palak Goyal, Panchkula
Girls are unsafe everywhere. They have to bear the brunt of the prying eyes of men. Even older men don’t spare us. The mindset of men has not changed. Moving about freely is a nightmare for girls.
Kibriya Nasir, Class 12 student, private school
A large number of girls face sexual harassment but don’t report such incidents to friends and families. Nearly 30 to 40% girls have faced harassment, including eve-teasing, molestation and derogatory remarks.
Rakesh Sachdeva, principal, DAV School, Sector 15
Many guys are stationed outside our school. They stop girls and force them to talk. The police needs to be alert and extend help to girl students. If such miscreants go unchecked, it will lead to rise in eve-teasing.
Anjali Rohta, Humanities student
Teenagers are most vulnerable. Boys pass lewd remarks and stalk girls. They should raise their voice and not act as mute speNikita Sharma, fashiondesigner
ctators. Girls should report such incidents if boys harass them.
Passing snide remarks is common. Boys don’t realise that their behaviour makes girls uncomfortable. Due to the spurt in cases of sexual harassment, parents have become cautious. They don’t allow us to move out alone after dark.
Ishita Uppal, Class 11 student