Rampant sexual harassment impedes empowerment of millions of young girls and women in India, as it affects their lives in more ways than one. It is not just about the sexual subjugation of women in our country. Sexual harassment here, is a weapon in the hands of the culture of misogyny which quells the empowerment of women. Recently, two sisters from Uttar Pradesh dropped out of school due to alleged harassment at the hands of a youth. As per a Hindustan Times report, the 22-year-old accused had harassed the class 9th students on numerous occasions on their way back from school. As a result of which the girls stopped going to school.

Harassment doesn’t just harm the sexual well-being of Indian women and girls it hinders their progress, as students and as working women as well.

Such is the terror of sexual predators in our country, that most parents would rather have their daughters sit at home or be married at a young age, than step out to fall prey.

Women Empowerment is impossible without sexual safety

Indian women are still defined by their dignity in the society. Their dignity allegedly is not just their own, but that of their family, forefathers, caste and religion as well. This dignity is chained to their bodies and minds by threats of being socially outcast and the fear of bringing down the family’s reputation. So the shame of sexual harassment is that of women, their dignity, must be safeguarded even at the cost of their empowerment, and no one realises this fact more than women themselves.

Even in this case, the girls chose sexual safety over studies and career, and we do not blame them. The fault lies with us for not sensitising the men in our country. A sixteen-year-old should not have to give up on her dreams and aspirations out of fear. Yet here we are, encouraging beti bachao, beti padhoa, without making sure that our girls walk to school without having to worry about their safety.

It’s not easy for them to commute in crowded buses, or hail a cab in the middle of the night. Every time they have to walk through a secluded or even a crowded area, a voice in the back of their heads keeps warning them of impending danger.

How do we empower these girls and women? How do we motivate them to pursue their dreams and become independent, with patriarchy which considers them as sexual objects prying on their every step?

Things won’t change in our country. Parents will continue marrying off their girls at a young age. Students will sit at home instead of going to school. Girls would leave their jobs. Women will remain dependent on men for their safety. Unless the society learns to stop treating their dignity as a commodity. We need to get rid of the patriarchy which lets men treat women as mere objects of sexual gratification. Ridding the society of sexual harassment and making our country a safer place for women is the only way we can ensure that women will seek empowerment without any hesitation.

Picture credit: dnaindia.com

Also Read : Street Artist Protests Sexual Harassment Of Women With Bench Of Nails

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own

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