When a group of volunteers set out to conduct a survey about sexual harassment in public places in Mumbai, they thought that the findings would not be surprising.
But, a fortnight and 1,000 interviews later, they realised how big the problem really is and how little is being done to resolve it.
“Eight out of every 10 women in the city are subjected to some form of harassment in public places every day. The maximum cases of verbal and physical harassment take place in crowded areas such as trains and railway platforms,” said Shurbhi Sharma, member of We The People Foundation, which conducted the survey recently.
According to the findings, 60% of the women admitted to being harassed while commuting by train and 40% when travelling by other public transport systems such as buses, taxis and autos.
Among the respondents, 20% were also subjected to unwelcome advances from the opposite sex at beaches, entertainment parks, educational institutions and even residential complexes.
“The statistics are worrying especially as women do not take concrete steps to stem the menace,” said Jason Temasfieldt, founder-member of the organisation, which addresses the issue of women’s safety in public places in Mumbai.
Only one out of 10 women lodges a police complaint, and not more than two confront the perpetrator or attempt to stop him.
“Only two out of every 10 women glare angrily at the offender. The rest just ignore him or worse, feel embarrassed or ashamed of themselves,” said Sacha Lobo, a college students who joined the organisation after being interviewed during the survey.
Another worrying finding was that most women do not consider catcalls or lewd comments as sexual harassment, but an “unfortunate drawback” of being a woman. “Any unwanted physical or verbal action by a man is nothing but harassment. And it is high time both men and women did their bit to stop this menace,” said Temasfieldt.