In a video on social media, the 21-year-old narrates that she was on her way to Kanhangad from Karivellur on a crowded Kerala SRTC bus when a 52-year-old man allegedly sexually harassed her.

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news Sexual Harassment Friday, April 01, 2022 - 13:23

A 21-year-old woman in Kerala’s Kasaragod is being lauded on social media for chasing down a man who allegedly sexually harassed her on a Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus. She also shared a video on social media explaining the ordeal and asked women to stand up for themselves, even when none around them come forward to help though the harassment happens in broad daylight.

In the video, the woman states that she was on her way to Kanhangad from Karivellur on a crowded KSRTC bus, on one of the days between March 24 and 27, when private buses went on strike. “The bus was very crowded and I had to hop in through its back entrance. After a while, a man stood near me, leaning on me, causing me discomfort. While everyone was facing the front of the bus, he was facing me. Even after I asked him to turn around, and despite there being enough space for him to stand away from me, he refused to do so and started harassing me again. I got so angry and started shouting at him while simultaneously dialling the pink police number,” she said. She added that while she was able to understand that it is natural that people may inadvertently touch in a crowded bus, this was pure harassment.

That was when the conductor intervened and asked him to get off the bus. The conductor had also asked the 21-year-old to ignore the incident. However, stating that this was not the first time she had faced sexual harassment on public transport, she was determined to not let this instance pass. So, when the man got off the bus and tried to escape, she also disembarked, turned on her phone camera to get a picture of him as proof for the police, and started chasing him.

“He entered a lottery shop, when I started shouting at him and he acted innocent. I dialled 1515 (Pink Police Patrol), who connected me to the Kanhangad police station. Meanwhile people there blocked him. One person asked me why was I going for a police case and I asked if this will be his reply if this happens to someone in his house and he walked away,” she said. She added that police came to the spot and took the accused man to the police station. She filed a complaint, based on which an FIR was registered. The man, identified as Rajeev (52), was arrested.

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Recalling that she just came across the number 1515 on a pink vehicle some time ago, the woman stated that Pink Police have been appointed by the government for the safety of women and we should inform them when such instances of sexual harassment occur. “Don’t think about what others will think. Our safety and privacy protection are our duties. Never expect someone else to come and save you. Be bold and react to the atrocities, misconduct, misbehaviour of dirty-minded people,” she added.

She also posted tips for women in her social media post: “Take care of yourself. Our safety is our responsibility. Carry one needle and pepper spray; remember emergency numbers, [like] Pink police: 1515. Don't be afraid, stay strong. React on time. Never think about what others think or judge of you, instead think what you think of yourself.”

Days before this incident, she said that she was harassed by another person on a private bus. "Even in that instance, the others in the bus just stared at me. Even the conductor did not come forward to help. Only one woman in that entire bus asked me to approach a police officer who was standing outside the bus," she said. “If this is the case in broad daylight, what will happen at night?” she questioned.

While the 21-year-old woman’s presence of mind and courage are praiseworthy, it should also be remembered that it is not a survivor’s fault if they are are sexually assaulted or harassed. Ideally, the onus should only be on the aggressor to not sexually harass or assault, and not on women to have to carry safety gadgets. That being said, multiple women who have spoken up in the Me Too movements in the last few years have pointed out that the consequences of speaking up and reporting are not always encouraging. In many situations, women may not find it feasible to speak up right at that moment, or even report the incident due to stigma, social ostracisation, lack of financial or emotional support and other factors, especially in a criminal justice system that is not survivor-enabling or friendly.

Read: Chennai MCC students protest, allege moral policing and harassment by faculty

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