'People run up and grab my butt'
On the streets of this booming Indian city, Laura Neuhaus says she is constantly on guard against men who brush against her body.india Updated: Jul 15, 2006 11:37 IST
On the streets of this booming Indian city, Laura Neuhaus says she is constantly on guard against men who brush against her body.
"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."
To help stop the practice, the 23-year-old technology executive from the United States joined Blank Noise -- a group that fights "Eve teasing," a euphemism in India for the sexual harassment or molestation of women.
According to official statistics, around 7,500 expatriates came to Bangalore for extended stays in 2005, and there are now around 15,000 foreigners working in the city, India's technology hub.
Many of them spend much of their time in walled enclaves, safe from the streets while living in villas that often cost several hundred thousand dollars.
But a few say it is time to break out and work to make their lives and those around them better.
"Many live in expat bubbles of private cars and five-star hotels or are not in India long enough to experience harassment or grow connected enough to the community to become active in women's issues," says Neuhaus, the only foreign member of Blank Noise.
"Foreign women such as myself usually are not exposed to this hidden side of Indian society and violent repressed sexual aggression," she says. "I thought I should do my bit."
On Sundays, Neuhaus spends her time trying to recruit more expatriates, who have borne the brunt of Eve teasing, and participating in demonstrations held by Blank Noise.
"It is not an activist or radical group. My aim is to help increase public awareness for street sexual harassment because it not only perpetuates the subjugation of women, but often erodes self-esteem of young girls," she says.
A year ago, police arrested 39 people for Eve teasing in Bangalore. The law provides a maximum of two years in jail but offenders are rarely prosecuted.