Hollaback! Comes to Chandigarh!

Indian woman are familiar with street sexual harassment, a.k.a “eve-teasing.” Meet Hollaback! Chandigarh, part of a global women’s network creating awareness.

By Rubina Singh

I am yet to meet a single woman in India who has not faced street harassment at least once in her life. Since I’ve started working with Hollaback!, I’ve heard numerous stories from women of all ages. Some are funny, some are brave, some are touching and some are downright scary!

Street harassment or eve-teasing is one of the most under-reported gender based crimes in the world. Not only is it most common, but it is also the least legislated against. Street harassment generally refers to unwelcome words and actions by unknown persons in public which are motivated by gender and invade a person’s physical and emotional space in a disrespectful, creepy, startling, scary, or insulting way (courtesy: www.stopstreetharassment.org).

Although there is no defined law in India against street harassment, the Indian Penal Code covers this offence to some extent. According to Section 509,

“Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, of that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”

Street harassment is a reality all over the world. Women are subjected to catcalls, unwelcome stares and comments, groping, stalking, etc. In 2005, a group of friends decided to speak up against this continuous discrimination. Emily May along with some others, started a blog called Hollaback! with a view to using technology to fight street harassment.

‘Hollaback’ is slang for the term ‘Holler back’ which means to speak out. What started in 2005 as one blog has now become a movement in over 14 countries including India. We now have three Hollaback! chapters in Delhi, Mumbai and Chandigarh. We use our blog and other social media like Facebook and Twitter to share stories and raise awareness. Hollaback! chapters also work with local organizations in their area to end street harassment.

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‘Hollaback’ is slang for the term ‘Holler back’ which means to speak out.

One of the reasons that I decided to start a Hollaback! was because I was just fed up with what I saw around me. I’ve spent most of my life in Chandigarh and I have an unparalled love for this city. After years of facing street harassment on a regular basis, an incident occurred that crossed my limits. Some men who were following my car as I was going home, decided to enter my house! I have never been so afraid in my life! Fortunately, I was safe but I decided I had to do something. Enough was enough.

Hollaback! Chandigarh primarily seeks to raise awareness about street harassment and other forms of gender based violence. At Hollaback!, we feel stories have an immense power. The more stories that are shared, the more other people will be encouraged to speak up. We are also connecting with local organizations to initiate awareness campaigns in Chandigarh.

Being associated with Hollaback! has given me a lot of strength. I’ve met some amazing people along the way who have shown me that I am not alone. Street harassment is a menace everywhere and we need to speak out in order to end it. Share your story with us or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

It’s time to Hollaback!


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