Women as victims of street harassment is no news. Every woman somehow somewhere has faced this extremely annoying situation. Why does this happen? How to stop?
Unwanted whistling, staring at women, eyeing them from head to toe, “compliments” we never asked to hear are always an integral, yet disgusting part of our days. Doesn’t matter if you’re wearing shorts, or completely covered, you’ll still face street harassment at some point during the day.
Women as victims of street harassment have always been in fear of having an undesired encounter. If men are afraid of being laughed at when rejected by a woman, women are afraid of being raped when rejecting a man.
Whistling at women is neither praise nor flattery, it’s disrespect. Staring at women is no way of showing you admire them, it’s unpleasant, distasteful, and downright creepy.
A repulsive and obnoxious act, serious steps need to be taken to prevent street harassment. A casual trip to the grocery store is interrupted by a stranger whistling at a woman or scanning your body. Safety is no longer a familiar feeling.
Women as Victims of Street Harassment Everywhere
There is no escaping vile comments about your appearance, whistling and staring. Street harassment occurs everywhere and every day.
This issue is common all around the world. Unfortunately, street harassment is an everyday act. According to a 2015 study by Women and Children Legal Research Foundation:
- 93% of women and girls in Afghanistan have been harassed in a public place, and 90% have been a witness to sexual harassment in public spaces.
- 89% of them have been a subject to harassment in educational institutions.
- 79% have observed it in the same vicinity.
- Moving to Argentina, a 2016 survey showed that 100% of women in Buenos Aires have been victims of street harassment, with 37% of women having been exposed to male genitalia.
- 99.6% of women in Brazil have been victims as well.
- Physical street harassment is also a frequent case in Australia: 65% of women have been victims of physical threats as a form of harassment, and 87% have experienced verbal or physical street harassment.
- 40% of women in Chile experience sexual harassment day-to-day and 90% of them have been victims of harassment at some point in their lives.
- Buses are the most common places of street harassment according to 92% of women in India. The magnitude of harassment is so grand that 33% of women in India ceased to go out to public spaces out of fear of being harassed, and 17% of women left their jobs because of harassment.
By reading the statistics, we deduce that women are victims of street harassment in every country, no matter how developed it is.
Women as victims of Street Harassment: Can Women’s Revealing Clothes Be an Excuse for Men?
Either fully clothed and covered in a veil, or dressed in shorts and crop tops, women will still become victims of street harassment. Since being covered in veils in public is common in Muslim countries, it doesn’t stop people from harassing women in public.
Staring at women even when their bodies are entirely covered implies that the appearance of women doesn’t matter. The person will commit harassment no matter what the victim is wearing.
Sadly, street harassment isn’t taken as seriously as it actually is. Street harassment is more than catcalling, whistling and staring at women. It’s a way of showing women that they have no control or power over their bodies. It’s a way of showing that men can do as they please whenever and however they want.
It is giving them the power to frighten women and girls. They can call women names, evaluate their looks, insult and degrade them regardless what women want. It’s overstepping the boundaries and giving men the freedom to act shamefully and distastefully towards women by imposing repulsive actions on them on a daily basis.
How harmful is street harassment?
Are women really victims? Is staring and whistling truly a crime?
The answer is always “yes”. Catcalling can occasionally be confused with compliments, except no one asked a stranger in the street to objectify women and reduce them to their body parts.
Flirtation or starting a friendly conversation with a stranger is different than being called names in a foul language. “Hey sexy, nice shorts” or “Damn, I’d tap that” is no way of talking to someone.
Treating women as objects rather than people is far from flattering them. Women are not public property, to begin with for people to leave degrading comments about the way they look.
Street harassment can lead to women being mentally caught up in their appearance and increases their feelings of self body-shaming. “If she didn’t want it, she wouldn’t have dressed like that”. “The way she looked at me I could tell she wanted me”.
Victim blaming is never acceptable. Shifting the fault on to the blame stresses the guilt of the perpetrator.
What Steps Should be Taken in Order to Prevent Women from Becoming Victims of Street Harassment?
To stop this, you must first be educated about the issue. Change begins with you. Discuss the problem of street harassment with friends, family, coworkers, classmates. Author of “Stop Street Harassment” Holly Kearl says:
Harassment restricts girls’ and women’s access to public places.
Look into the issue and see how widespread and common street harassment is in your area. Once you are aware of the problem yourself, take it upon yourself to pass on the information to others. Organize meetings and events about street harassment in your area. Even a simple conversation can do.
Keeping details of the problem makes street harassment vague. Don’t be afraid of talking about it. You can launch an awareness-raising platform with victims of street harassment in your area to publicize the issue through social media.
But most importantly, never be a bystander. When you see someone being harassed, do not ignore. Do not walk away. Do not let them get away with it. Don’t give them the power of intimidating women.
Speak out and stop them, because street harassment interferes with women’s public safety. Only when people start taking street harassment seriously will the issue be discussed from a legal standpoint.
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