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When Flirting Becomes Dangerous: Eve Teasing

The attack on Eve is real. Violence against women is widespread and universal, though it may vary from culture to culture. In India, a practice coincidentally called “eve teasing” is an example we’ll discuss.

“So the Lord God said to the serpent…I will pit enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers” (Genesis 3:14-15).

Eve teasing

Women are commonly victimized in India. Media recently reported on the New Year’s Eve Bengaluru mass molestation. Disrespect for women, media influence, and cultural acceptance of violence towards women have all contributed to this common social problem.

In the US, pick up artists use a form of flirting teasing called “negging” in hopes of attracting women. In India, boys and men think they’re flirting through “eve-teasing.” But, it isn’t flirting at all; it’s sexual harassment.

According to Oxford Dictionary, “eve-teasing” is “the making of unwanted sexual remarks or advances by a man to a woman in a public place.”

Disrespect for Women

The term “eve-teasing” may have first appeared in the 1960’s when women in India entered universities and began careers. A 1960 Times article stated,

“‘Eve-teasing’ is not, apparently, just the oafish high spirits or ill-will of a handful of male students but is rather a symptom of the strong resentment which many students feel against women in the universities.” 1960 Times (London, England) (Apr. 22) “Protection For Indian Girl Students” (in Delhi, India) p. 9

Eve teasing is common in the workplace and in education. It’s often done without consequence despite laws and regulations in place. Women traveling to work or school taking buses, trains, or even walking on sidewalks can be victimized in broad daylight. Lewd comments to sexual assault may characterize these events.

Media Influence

The perpetrators of eve-teasing are referred to as “Road Romeos.” Some efforts have been used to curb this activity through Romeo squads, generally undercover female officers.

Movies may play a part in normalizing eve teasing. According to the book Civic Sense, “…India cinema has depicted eve teasing as a part of flirtatious beginnings of a courtship, along with the usual accompaniment of song and dance routines, which invariably results in the heroine submitting to the hero’s advances towards the end of the song…” Young men emulate the media actions hoping to win a girl over.

Cultural Acceptance of Violence Towards Women

The bias against women in India may start at birth. A recent study estimates 10 million girls have disappeared since 1985 because of female infanticide. “In 1994, India made it illegal to abort a fetus based on sex,” and a physician recently received jail time for “offering illegal sex-determination tests.”

Married women may receive little respect from their husbands. Bride burning accounts for 2500 deaths in India per year and “occurs when a young woman is murdered by her husband or his family for her family’s refusal to pay additional dowry.” The wife is lit on fire through some form of burnable liquid.

Finally, widows hold little social value. The Diplomat describes widows as “socially dead” and are “expected to die before their husbands or along with them.” After their husbands die, the wives may become dependent on their children. When resources are limited, the mother is left on the streets. Many of these mothers become known as “Widows of Vrindavan.”

As horrific and far-removed as eve teasing and other acts of violence and abandonment may seem, the problem is closer than you may think. Once again, violence against women is widespread and universal. Audrie and Daisy and The Hunting Grounds are two documentaries that demonstrate problems within the US.

It Starts with Us (Good Men)

While the problem may seem large and looming in India, progressive efforts are being made to promote change. As a recent article in The Guardian notes, empowering men to change their attitudes, peer influence, and positioning men as role models in prevention might be the best weapon to stop violence against women.

  • “By understanding the consequences of their actions boys are often motivated to develop vital skills for managing relationships.”
  • “…boys are far more likely to change attitudes through male peer pressure than being approached ‘or harassed’ as boys commonly say ‘by every girl’.”
  • “…positioning boys as role models in preventing, stopping and ultimately ending harmful practices can have positive outcomes.”

The solution for violence against women lies in the hearts of men. When a few good men take a stand, problems begin to disappear. When many good men resolve to stop injustice, problems end.

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