How safe is the ‘just-ignore’ approach to eve-teasing?

How safe is the ‘just-ignore’ approach to eve-teasing?

Dubai - While a number of men have been warned and rounded up from malls and other public places, experts say that more awareness is still needed

By Afkar Abdullah, Amira Agarib and Jasmine Al Kuttab

Published: Sun 25 Sep 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 25 Sep 2016, 6:33 PM

Eve-teasing is not widely reported in the Emirates, but remains prevalent and can affect a woman's physical and mental well-being. While women continue to complain of being harassed on the streets and at malls, not many cases are lodged against eve-teasers.
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While a number of men have been warned and rounded up from malls and other public places, experts say that more awareness is still needed to empower women against such unwelcome advances.
Eve-teasing is a kind of sexual harassment of women in public places, usually done by a man or group of men, who pass lewd comments on a woman's body, outfit, make fun of them or verbally assault them by making obscene remarks or sexual jokes.

Equally repulsive is non-verbal eve-teasing such as obscene gestures, winking, whistling and staring. The extreme form is physical assault, which includes pinching, fondling and rubbing against women's bodies. Following women in cars or on foot is also harassment.
With advances made in technology, teasing has shifted from the streets to online platforms. According to authorities, in most cases, eve-teasers are aged between 16 to 40 years.
Women have called for stringent action and tough penalties against the culprits and demanded that photographs of such persons be published in newspapers to deter other possible miscreants.
Ulla Al Shamsi, 25, an Emirati who resides in the Samnan area, said she and her sister drive to the Old Souq to shop to avoid eve-teasers at malls. "Once, a man in his 20s followed us from one shop to another. When I asked him what he wanted, he said he liked me and wanted me to stay in touch with him.
"I threatened to call the police but he didn't care until another young man intervened and asked him to leave. Later, I was shocked when the person who intervened gave me his number, asking me to call him. He said I was beautiful!"
Padma Kumar, a resident, said: "Guys come to shopping centres and malls to meet with women who might have responded to them, but the problem is that they target all women."
Another resident, Awatif Hamad, said that during the weekends, a number of labourers and bachelors target women in malls and hypermarkets.
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"Besides verbal harassment, some men brush past us in crowded sections, and pretend as if it is an accident. If we object, they apologise," she said. "So I have decided not to go shopping on Fridays when labourers and bachelors crowd the stores just for fun. I urge authorities and management of shopping centres to curb this practice by introducing tough rules and put in place a mechanism to allow women to shop with freedom."
An Abu Dhabi resident, H.A., said there have been instances when men have even followed her home. "I experience such behaviour almost every time I go out, especially when I am walking on the street, or at shopping malls and supermarkets.
"In the beginning, it used to infuriate me, because it made me feel embarrassed and disrespected. I used to respond by telling the harasser to leave me alone, but I realised that it actually triggered him to continue, so now I simply ignore them. I believe it's the fastest way of getting rid of them," she said.
More here: Awareness key to fighting eve-teasers
Another resident, S.H., said: "Some of these men have even had the audacity to follow us in their cars until we reached our home or destination. It is not only disrespectful, but also dangerous."
Z.A. added: "The best way to deal with this is to ignore them or report their behaviour if it gets too extreme. If a man begins to follow you home, for example, he must be reported to the police."

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