Yesterday, I wrote a humorous blog post about friendship requests from Indian Internet Romeos on Facebook. However, today, I stumbled upon something much more serious in regards to unwanted attention from Indian men — a formal written complaint to the Maharashra Tourism Minister about sexual harassment at heritage attractions around Aurangabad.
Indian citizen and resident of Aurangabad, Natasha Zarine, posted the letter that she sent to the Minister on her Facebook profile along with pictures of the offenders (shown here). And, it’s disturbing to say the least.
In the letter, Natasha details the appalling behaviour that she and the foreign women whom she was with encountered at the Ajanta, Ellora and Pitttalkhora Caves, Daulatabad Fort, and Soi Gaon Fort.
Here is an extract from her letter:
Over the past few months, when I visited the sites mentioned above with some of my women friends, we were shocked and disappointed to find that we were being mocked at, sexually harassed and intimidated by the other visitors to the area. Not only was this behaviour meted out to us, but also to foreign tourists who were visiting these monuments. The offensive actions can be classified into the following categories:
1. Cat calling, shouting and yelling obscenities in Hindi and Marathi at us.
2. Making animalistic sounds when we passed by.
3. Coming up to us and asking offensive & intrusive questions.
4. Taking our photographs & videos on cell phones without our permission, even after we objected.
5. Ganging up against us if we objected or confronted such behaviour.
Let me give you an example of what one young person came up to me and said, “hello how are you?”, he kept repeating this till I answered, “Fine thank you”, to which he said, “Fine thank you – teri maa ki ch**t”
In another disgraceful incident, my friend’s blond hair was touched & pulled by some children while their parents tried to take her picture without her permission.
While we entered the ‘Andheri’ in the Daulatabad fort, a group of young men surrounded us and began shouting, hooting and yelling at the top of their voices.
At every stage our pictures were being clicked by strangers, I asked one person to stop clicking us , to which he came exceedingly close to me and thrust his phone in my face and said in Hindi, “I will take the picture, what will you do?”
She goes on to say that the guards who witnessed the events did absolutely nothing to help them.
Having experienced similar harassment myself, where I was leered at and photographed by groups of guys with phone cameras at Maheshwar early this year, reading about what happened to Natasha and her friends brought back the strong emotions of anger and violation that I felt for months afterwards.
In case you’ve never been the subject of attention of Indian men and their phone cameras, just take a look at the photo below. Can you imagine how the poor woman feels to be confronted with this? A barricade of barbarian men pointing their cameras at her. And, such a scenario is not rare! It’s alarmingly very common at tourist attractions across India.
With phone cameras having become accessible to the masses in India, this is what sexual harassment has turned into. Packs of filthy men photographing women at will, while guards stand around ignoring it.
I wrote about the issue on my About.com India Travel site and I’m writing about it here to raise as much awareness as possible, which is what Natasha wanted to do, in the hope that the complaint is taken seriously and actioned. It’s commendable that she’s spoken out about her experience and appealed to the government to do something about it. She’s mentioned that the Aurangabad Commissioner of Police has called a meeting to discuss it tomorrow, which is encouraging. I only hope that the Maharashtra Tourism Minister takes the matter just as seriously and implements the measures that Natasha has suggested in her letter to curb the menace.
This behaviour from men is sickening and depraved, and not only is it ruining India as a tourist destination, it’s giving Indian men a bad name worldwide as foreigners no doubt recount their horrific experiences.