In India, the term 'eve-teasing' is used to refer to the street harassment of women. It's a problem, and many draw a line from this harassment to cases of violent molestation and assault. Since a horrific gang rape in New Delhi two years ago, 'eve-teasing' has become the focus of scrutiny in India and abroad, and many wonder how to end it.
In this light, its easy to see how a video of two sisters in Rohtak, Haryana fighting back against three men harassing them on a bus would go viral. The video, filmed last week, showed the two young women taking off their belts and using them to attack the men harassing them. "No one came forward in the bus to help us," one of the girls, a 19-year-old named Pooja, explained to the BBC.
The incident earned the two girls praise. "I would like to congratulate the girls and ask the authorities to take appropriate action," Lalitha Kumarmangalam, spokeswoman for the government's National Commission for Women said. "Few girls have the guts to take on the molesters. The government should take action. I would appeal to every Indian to come forward and help."
Under the hashtag #RohtakBravehearts, people have been voicing their support for the girls on Twitter:
The Girls have now learnt to fight, the boys will be taught by law but the onlookers...how do we wake you up? #RohtakBravehearts— Shweta Shalini (@shweta_shalini) November 30, 2014
Heartiest congrats to Haryana Sisters #RohtakBravehearts . Changing male mindsets is the key to women empowerment and gender justice!— Dr. VINAY Sahasrabuddhe (@Vinay1011) November 30, 2014
Salute to #RohtakBravehearts who stood against molestation & gave a fitting lesson to culprits. Shameful that none in the bus stood up 4 thm— Naveen Jindal (@MPNaveenJindal) December 1, 2014
It's tough to know how common are these instances of women fighting back. According to one recent study from India's center for North East Studies and Policy Research, 26 percent of women in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore had complained about street harassment. Even prominent women can face abuse: Just this weekend, actress Gauhar Khan was heckled and slapped by a man angry that she wore a short dress.
In many cases, both the victims and bystanders just ignore the abuse as best they can. However, in the past year there have been a number of other cases of people fighting against the eve-teasers attacking them and filming the results. Just last month there was a video of one woman fighting back against a man in Uttar Pradesh:
In August, a video that appeared to show a girl chasing down and beating her harasser in Bangalore went viral.
Another video also from August shows women attacking a man accused of 'eve-teasing' in Uttar Pradesh:
And earlier in the year, a video from Indore also gained traction online. The girl involved told online news site ENI that a local driver had been harassing them for some time. "I kept quiet for sometime but after a while I thought to teach him a lesson," she told ENI.
Fighting back can clearly be risky. One woman in Kerala who allegedly beat a man harassing her later faced legal troubles. And bystanders aren't always sympathetic, as the video from Rohtak shows.
However, the footage appears to be making a big impact, in part due to the level of violence shown and due to the fact that the incident took place on public transport. The Hindu reports that Haryana Police have arrested the three men involved, and Chief Minister Manohar Lal says that the sisters will receive cash awards for their efforts. Notably, the woman who filmed the incident is said to be a pregnant woman that the men were also harassing.