Holi harassment

For women, the festival brings in something more worrying than just colour on clothes.

From behind a riot of bright colours, emerges the ugly face of this fest. Often the festive spirit is marred by inappropriate intentions. Holi is not just the festival of colours and joy but also that of misconduct and wrongdoing.

On this occasion, eve-teasing, sexual harassment, and others come to light. A recent thought-provoking ad campaign, conceptualised by a detergent brand, has brought the same issue into the limelight.

The ad shows some miscreants taking advantage of this day, with the excuse ‘bura na mano Holi hai’. The girl gives it back to the man saying that one can wash the colours off the clothes, but it would be better if you do something about your “mann ka mael”.

A lot of women are wary of stepping out on this day, as they are vulnerable to being touched without their consent. Perpetrators usually take the advantage of being concealed by colours. Many victims do not even realise that they are being harassed.

Although public places like railway stations, parks, gardens, etc., are often guarded by disguised police officials, such incidents happen in abundance during Holi.

Swati Lakra, additional commissioner of police (crimes and SIT), feels anything without consent is wrong, no matter how small. “No one, male or female, should put colours on anyone without their consent, let alone touch them inappropriately. Mostly people play Holi in their house, or in the building compounds, so police aren’t around,” she says.

“Hence, it is necessary that people understand their civic responsibility,” Swati, who also heads SHE Teams, says. As an advice, Swati Lakra adds, “I would like to ask the men to respect women and make the place safe enough for them to enjoy the celebrations.”

Manisha Kapoor, a socialite from the city, says, “I have attended Holi parties and some men do tend to get wild and take advantage of women. This is the reason why I have stopped attending these public parties, and prefer to celebrate with my close friends, at home. It is high time men understand that this kind of behaviour will definitely land them in trouble because women today are not going to take it lying low.”

Socialite and life coach, Shruti Malpani, thinks that things will change only if parents teach their kids to respect women. “I have seen a friend of mine be a victim of such attitude during Holi. The mindset of people has to change, and it is not going to happen overnight. I am a mother of two boys, and I always teach them to respect women. I tell them not to treat them any lesser,” she says.

Raunaq Yar Khan, who organises private Holi parties every year, thinks that the organisers should also arrange for the guests security. “I have been organising Holi parties since 20 years. It is a private party and I make sure that people who I don’t know don’t make their way in. When I send the invites on WhatsApp, I ask people to send me their pictures, along with those of their partners — husbands or boyfriends. These pictures will let us know if strangers are acting funny with other lady guests. However, such instances have happened many times before, and we have taken action. We have bouncers and some more security to prevent such things from happening,” he says.

Women should not only be vigilant, but should also know the laws that protect them against harassment. Lawyer Keerthi Anantha explains that there are many sections under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to protect women from such incidents.

“The laws in IPC are very clear about protecting women in case of harassment. There are numerous sections under which a woman can file a case against the perpetrator. To help women, many state governments have come up with all-women police stations, where women can feel comfortable reporting such issues,” she says.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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