Sexual harassment of women still treated lightly: Shobhaa De

New Delhi: Sexual harassment of women is not seen to be serious in India, with lewd remarks about a woman being treated as "ched-chad" and meant to be taken lightly as mischief, writer and commentator Shobhaa De says.

"Throughout mythology, teasing a woman has been taken for granted and even now when it has taken on serious tone posing danger, we don`t see it as a serious enough issue. The public outrage after the Nirbhaya gangrape which still continues has probably woken up the political class," De told IANS on the sidelines of the Penguin Spring Fever
festival in the capital. The 10-day festival began Friday at the India Habitat Centre.

De, the author of several mass fiction titles like "Sobhaa At Sixty", "Sethji", "Sandhya`s Secret", "Surviving Men" and "Sisters" which explore complex female psyches across social divides says what "we are seeing right now is intense anger and frustration among men unable to cope with changing societies".

"Eve-teasing should be condemned as atrocious behaviour and be declared a crime," the writer said.

De was agitated after a brush with sexual harassment at the capital`s Bengali Market.

Recalling the incident, De said she was shopping for traditional north Indian sweetmeats in the market when she realised that "three well-dressed men had brushed past me at least five times".

"Then they turned around and said `unko kuch gol gol dena (give her something rounded). I said back off or else I will hammer you... There is no `sharam` (shame) left in this country; they can do it and get away with it" De recounted. "If such a thing can happen to me at 64, imagine what can happen to my daughter when she steps out of home. It is not a very pleasant thing to be a woman in India," she said.

On late Friday evening, in a conversation, "Never a Dull De: Shobhaa De and Mahesh Bhatt Unplugged at Spring Fever", De turned the spotlight on the rising atrocities on women in urban India in the backdrop of their strengths and vulnerabilities within a society in
the throes of transformation.

"This generation of young Indian girls are more comfortable with their sexuality but the men are manic. A lot of violence that we see in the society is the inability of men to cope with the overt expression of women`s sexuality. It is something that is so in you (inherent)," she said.

The writer said the Nirbhaya case showed that the inherent violence in men finds expression in "things so brutal". "A young girl who has been at the receiving end knows what means to be acutely vulnerable to abuse," she said.

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who shared space with De on stage, pointed to one of the flip sides of women`s empowerment.

"It broke my heart to see American women (on the front) during the Iraq War dragging male prisoners. It made me feel very stupid because I didn`t think women were capable of this kind of brutality," Bhatt said.

De put the behaviour in perspective, she said "women who acquire power feel obliged to clone male and try to act like men".

She said "women in power often forget their soft skills they possess and the solutions they can offer".

The writer looked back on the history of the empowerment movement in India which now a battle between the sexes for more opportunity. "I don`t think it is men verses women any more. It is men with women and women with men," she said.



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