When singer Chinmayi Sripaada tweeted on April 9 about men flashing their genitals at women or masturbating in public spaces, little did she realise that she would be flooded with messages. Observing that the reaction of most women to such crimes is “fear, shame, run”, Chinmayi asked women to respond if they experienced similar incidents.
In a span of a few days, she received over 600 responses of women from Chennai, Coimbatore, Bengaluru and Hyderabad detailing similar experiences, sharing locations and the response of the police. Based on the responses, what Chinmayi realized was that there was a pattern – the same location or bus routes cropping up in multiple incidents, men pretending to ask for directions before flashing the woman.
If you have had this problem - please respond to this tweet with— Chinmayi Sripaada (@Chinmayi) April 9, 2019
1. Where it happened
2. If you have a photo / video - please DM
3. Approximate time/date
4. If you didn’t complain to the police, why?
5. Did you tell anyone else it happened?
You can also DM all of this.
Speaking to TNM, Chinmayi explains why she decided to seek out such information. “About 10-12 days ago I got this message on Instagram in Coimbatore. The girl was at a bus stop. This man called her to ask for directions. He then pointed at his genitals,” she narrates. And while the girl left the spot immediately, taking a ride from a friend, Chinmayi says, “The man who flashed her went on to follow her.” Although the girl filed an online police complaint, the singer says that she was asked to come to the Peelamedu station in person to file the complaint. “The girl was from Hyderabad, the police traced the man’s vehicle to Chennai while the crime was in Coimbatore. It was a long process,” she notes.
The singer, who was at the forefront of the #MeToo movement after she accused Tamil lyricist Vairamuthu of sexual harassment, says a number of women came forward with such incidents. “I kept getting these messages. This was pretty rampant. But a lot of us don’t know what to do next, where to go,” she points out.
As far as the disturbing pattern of men flashing women or masturbating in public spaces goes, Chinmayi says that most of these cases happened in broad daylight. She says, “It looks like there is a thrill that they get out of this. They wear helmets, they say ‘can you help me madam and they flash’. It happens on the backseat of buses, in empty compartments of trains.”
A document compiled by Chinmayi and shared with TNM shows that in Chennai such crimes were common outside women’s colleges and schools such as Stella Maris, Ethiraj College and Good Shepherd Convent School; at MRTS stations like Mylapore and Indira Nagar; at railway stations like Chennai Central, Tambaram, Guindy; at bus stops like Koyambedu, T Nagar, Chengalpet. Women reported such incidents on certain bus routes like 570S – Siruseri to CMBT, 114 bus to Red Hills, 29 C, T Nagar to Thiruporur.
In Bengaluru, the common target of such men on the prowl was Majestic bus stand, Bengaluru railway station, Cubbon Park; colleges like Mount Carmel College, Christ University; areas like BTM Layout, Koramangala.
In Coimbatore, a case of flashing and masturbation was reported from Singanallur bus stop, while multiple cases were reported from Gandhipuram bus stop.
In Hyderabad, women had marked Borabanda Railway Station as a location where stalking and harassment had taken place. Like the other cities, railway stations and bus stops were a frequent target of such sexual harassers. The Secunderabad Railway Station, Dilsukhnagar bus stand, Pedhamma thalli Metro Station, ECIL Bus Stop among others were targets.
Chinmayi says the next step is to create a crowdsourced page with pinned locations for such incidents. “People will be a little more wary. Women are very embarrassed when they describe this. Some girls go to police stations but nothing happens, it continues to happen. These data points can help pinpoint to safer places,” she says.
She, however, notes that there have been such initiatives in the past such as Pin the creep (a crowdsourced map of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in public spaces) and safeti pin (an app that not only gives a safety score of localities, but has also used activism, analysis and audits to record cases of street harassment and bullying).
The locations/bus routes that got several responses are in the screenshot.— Chinmayi Sripaada (@Chinmayi) April 11, 2019
Now building a website where women can mark the areas where they have experienced this.
Also - the pattern of men on bikes/cars pretending to ask for directions and flashing is disturbing. pic.twitter.com/E9l4wwMnnV