After scrolling up and down my TList, I looked up to see where the bus has taken me so far and immediately sensed something was not right. A young girl on her way to office, seated in front of me, was being sexually harassed by a man who was standing next to her.

She could not do much, except stare at the brute. That was not helping her at all.

Harassment can be chronically defined as annoying or tormenting someone. This action can be done either verbally or physically. Sexual harassment is an uninvited and unwelcomed verbal or physical behaviour towards a subordinate. Nobody has the right to harass anyone in any way.

Some assume that being in crowded places provide an umbrella of protection for the potential. Talk to 10 women who use public transport and nearly each one of them will have their own tale to tell. I myself have a zillion.

There are many modes of public transport in Sri Lanka. Buses, trains, office and school transport as well as three-wheelers making up the daily dose of the citizens’ travelling options. But each minute of every day, a girl or woman is harassed.

No matter how vigilant you are that moment of lapse can take away all your best plans for the day and probably ruin that day for you. But wait. Why is it always our moment of negligence? That second you take to look out of the window was the chance for that grouper. That moment you fall asleep due to dire fatigue was the moment the office van took that detour before dropping you off. That moment you finally reach a state of mental harmony, the “mummy” tilts on you.

Now back in the bus as that poor office girl was being harassed, I was contemplating whether to talk to her just to let the lass know she was not alone. As I was about to, the girl got to occupy the window seat. The brute, realizing that he cannot do much while seated next to her, scampered away to the footboard where he stayed for the next five stops.

The main point that harassers get away so easily is;
1. The victim seldom calls for help.
2. Even if the victim calls out, people love to mind their own business.
3. Many ignore such harassment even if they witness them to avoid unnecessary confrontations or aftermaths.
4. The victim may not know she is being harassed.

Once, a guy I know stood up for a girl who was helplessly being harassed in the bus. Just when he got everyone’s attention about the harasser’s action plan, the girl chose to stay numb.  By the time he got to office he was still understandably furious.

Girls, if someone sticks out his neck for you, please do not let him or her down by being silent. He or she is taking a risk for you. And if you are being harassed act smart. Show your objection. Do not keep sitting or standing there. At least squash the bastard’s foot. Elbow him on his stomach or stare into his eyes. Verbal confrontations won’t always help.

Sometimes their responses would leave you speechless. Once a guy responded to a girl who objected by saying: “Ah that’s not what you said to me the other day at the spa”. Even if you get such replies or hear a similar remark, keep in mind, even as such, it gives no one the right to harass a woman.

A colleague of mine was once almost in tears as a ‘mummy’ kept on settling down on her. Luckily she got a call from her father and the ’mummy’ awakened after eavesdropping that her father was still at his office in the police station.

A fellow colleague shared her thoughts on how wearing a saree to work has lessened such harassments directed at her, to which I totally disagreed.

My account had only increased. This may be due to the missing protective ‘gang’ I had in the train for both mornings and evenings when I used to work at Fort. Ladies, please join a gang if you are a daily train commuter. It not only gives you that needed care but also a fair share of peanuts.

Women’s Day sailed past on March 8. But is it just on that day that we talk about our issues? Everyday should be Women’s Day because harassment happens every day. If you ladies think that cordial dress codes will keep you out of harm’s way, think again, it’s just a delusion. Harm will find you in many creepy ways. But remember, you also can walk out from those situations in many ways.

It is time for us to be brave and stand up for each other. In public transportation, you never know when your turn is. And guys, yes you, gentleman, do not let your chivalry die.