Thursday, August 21, 2008

Anshika Varma

I am a Delhi based photographer and recently experienced an incident that might not necessarily fall under the regular norm of gender harassment but it was something that i felt needed to be shared. I had gone to a weekly bazaar to shoot the general ambiance of a market space and was threatened and yelled at by the "president of the market association" to not shoot.once i agreed to that, he demanded that i delete every single picture on my camera or he would call the cops on me. I tried to ask him why and was then only given long and idsapproving looks and comments by a group of men, who had by now gathered around us, talking about how women tend to go beyond their limits when they start working! He did call the cops who then managed to sort the matter out but needless to say there was enough of a hullabaloo created on the matter. When a resident (who belonged to a national news channel) tried to come to my rescue and said that they couldn't hold me back waiting for a cop on pretext of a few photographs, they abused and slapped him to make him go away. Their constant request was that i delete all my pictures and leave the place immediately. The cop who came was a friend of theirs (i assume from the way they greeted each other) and was dressed in civilian clothing. He asked me for my address and contact no and wanted to know why i was shooting in the market. I gave him the necessary details and told him that i was aware i was not defying any law by shooting the marketspace. From what i know, one only needs to give in their personal details to a cop in case of an FIR but i am not sure of the same. He then also told me that photography was prohibited in the area although there was no sign that said the same. I could very well sense the discomfort of these men when i told them that i had complete rights to photograph on the street as long as the people i shoot had no issues with it. For the same reason i had not taken any photographs of the mentioned "President". It was an unnecessarily exaggerated situation and at some level i realized that i was being harassed.

Have you ever experienced street sexual harassment and made a scene and not have the public support you?

In the above situation, one person did come to help me but no one had dared to support him or try to talk to the President of the market association.

How would you like the public to show support when you experience street sexual harassment?

I think any perpetrator should be hounded by people around the place where the incident takes place. He should be made to apologize and most definitely made to serve an overnight period in a local police station.

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