‘Eve-teasing’ is an Indian euphemism for sexual harassment, usually in streets and public places. It could take many forms. It could be wolf-whistles or lewd jokes. It could be staring. Or, it could be more serious, like making vulgar suggestions to a girl, groping or stalking her. In all forms, it causes varying levels of discomfort to the victim. A pre-teen or teenager could be traumatised if she is exposed even to the milder forms of eve-teasing. Here are some ways to prepare your daughter to cope with this menace.
- Make her aware: Tell your daughter about personal space as soon as you think she’s old enough to understand. Tell her, in simple terms that it’s not okay for anyone to stand or sit too close to her in public places like shopping malls and movie theatres. Gradually move on to other forms of eve-teasing.
- Teach her to be alert: Train your child to be observant about her surroundings. She will develop an instinct for trouble only if she is aware of what is going on around her.
- Give her confidence: Eve-teasing is about power – the power a man wields over a girl who he feels cannot retaliate. It is about making the girl feel vulnerable. Instil confidence in your daughter. Let her know that she is an individual who is valued and respected by all those who matter to her. If she is sure of that, she is less likely to be unnerved by the ploys of eve-teasers.
- Keep communication channels open: Make sure that your daughter feels free to talk to you about anything. This implies being non-judgemental. If the child thinks that you will blame her for any problem, she is not likely to tell you about it. Make it clear to her that you are always there for her if she’s worried or upset about something, and together, you can sort out the issue.
- Practise being practical:
- There is nothing to prove that conservative dressing will prevent eve-teasing. Yet, tactfully see that your daughter does not wear revealing clothes, especially when she is out without your supervision.
- Most of the time, eve-teasing is about attention. Train your daughter not to make eye-contact with anyone trying to catch her attention. If she is forced to remain in the place where she is being troubled – at a bus-stop, for instance – suggest that she puts on headphones and pretends to listen to music.
- Make sure she has the numbers of trusted persons to speed dial if she feels there’s a problem.
Pre-teens and teenagers cannot be expected to handle eve-teasers on their own. It’s best not to encourage your young child to challenge or stand up to someone who is harassing her. The wisest course would be for you, or some responsible adult to step in if there’s a problem. Without alarming her unduly, ensure that she’s never out alone till the situation passes.