Gedi Route has almost become a pilgrimage for anyone visiting Chandigarh. As much as the city is known for its cleanliness, organized planning and such, it’s actually way more popular for its Gedi culture and even proud of it. If you ever happen to strike a conversation with someone from the city itself over the topic, they actually gladly share the history and the true essence of it all, which is by the way as engrained in them as their love for Butter Chicken, Patiala peg, and Diljit Dosanjh. The Gedi route culture is inherited along with the alcohol tolerance in Chandigarh men (most not all, hopefully).
You dare not challenge their opinion, for you are the outsider and it’s their home turf. So when they tell you that boys cruising around on the streets of Sectors 8, 9, 10 and 11 while eve teasing girls is all fun and games, you better not question them. If they explain how harmless it is for men to just verbally pass sleud remarks while matching the girls’ pace (not stalking at all!), you better believe them. It’s an icebreaker, don’t you know?
Oh, and didn’t you hear, there’s no physical abuse involved at all!
So calm your tits and hold your balls, for it’s only a kind of glorified banter (so what if it's one sided?) between the opposite sexes.
Despite the fact that Eve Teasing being a major part of the 'culture' of one of India's most advanced cities, only goes to prove the height of this problem, not much has been done about it over the years. Sure the issue pops up here and there, every now and then but that’s what it remains, a micro problem. While movements like #MeToo & #TimesUp do handle the sexual harassment issue women face across the world, Street Sexual Harassment has not been on the radar majorly.
Emotional harassment is not a thing, and if it is well then yoga and fresh fruits will cure it (as per Indian health ministry!). One of the key points to note in any kind of sexual harassment is the mental trauma the victim suffers; and if you are familiar with the idea of how mental health works, you should know that the abuse need not always be the physical kind to scar them. So it doesn't really matter if the men of Chandigarh indulge in verbal 'flirting' or borderline stalking, it all falls under sexual harassment and we need to address it.
Rosheena Zehra (a #BadassBoss btw!) along with Tapan Babbar (Yes a man! #PraiseBe), has recently started a social media campaign He Won't Tease to raise awareness about Street Sexual harassment pan India.
As a part of the very same initiative, the duo has also created a short film on Gedi Route, in an attempt to raise awareness and strive for a world where there is no street sexual harassment and women are free to step out on the road whenever they want, wearing whatever they want. To them, Gedi Route seemed like a good point to start from where men harass women and it's all just a laughing matter. It was time to put our foot down and say, no, it's not.
"Street sexual harassment or 'eve-teasing', as this kind of harassment is known as more commonly, is not appreciation of any kind and NO ONE is "asking for it". It is an awful reality women live with everyday, and it was time we made a lot of noise about it. But without men, this conversation can't go ahead. It's time that all of us, irrespective of gender, pulled our socks up against this much normalised and internalised (and often glorified) practice. Thus #HeWontTease" says Rosheena.
Social Media Activism has been around for a while now and some argue it lacks tangible results, so we asked Rosheena to explain the objective of her own campaign :
"When it comes to street sexual harassment, there are two problems. First, if a woman on the road is harassed, in most cases she will not respond to it. There are several factors that stop her from doing that - shame, guilt, helplessness and, very importantly, fear of her own safety. He Won't Tease aims to provide that space to women to respond to their harassers in a way they couldn't do on the streets."
Rosheena & Tapan believe that no conversation on gender is complete without men being part of it and that they have to be involved for the dialogue to go forward.
Women have spoken about Street Sexual Harassment sufficiently, but now it's time for men to step up.
- Rosheena Zehra
Their campaign has received a phenomenal response in a very short time from women not just in the country, but from all over world; but what has been most fulfilling for the team are the responses from men who have come forward and spoken about it and shared how they got sensitised to SSH. That is the goal of the campaign - to sensitise and include men by showing them the rage, anger and sass of the women who deal with street sexual harassment everyday.
Similar efforts finally landed a small but landmark victory, when earlier this year the infamous Gedi route was renamed as 'Azaadi route' on Google Maps thanks to Deeptha Vivekanand. There will be many such battles by many fearlessly badass souls before the war against this insensitive patriarchy (that we call culture!) is won. But the sooner the more of us start speaking about it, the quicker we'll get to our ideal society, and so we urge all of you to support the #HeWontTease campaign on Instagram & Facebook and also share their video to spread the much needed word!