Sushmita Sen’s account of being harassed at the hands of a 15-year-old boy makes us question what our children are learning in the name of social conduct. According to a report in The Indian Express, the actor recounted this incident at an event in Mumbai recently. She said, “Six months ago at an award function, a fifteen-year-old boy misbehaved with me as he thought I wouldn’t realize because of the crowd around. But, he was wrong. I grabbed his hand from my behind and I was shocked to see he was so young, he was just fifteen!”
The former Miss Universe continued, “I held him by his neck and took him for a walk. I told him if I make a hue and cry, his life would be over. He denied having misbehaved at first, but I sternly told him to acknowledge. He realized his mistake, said sorry and promised me that it will never happen again. I didn’t take any action against him because I understood that the fifteen-year-old was not taught that such things are an offence and not entertainment.”
It may come as a shock to some, but for most of us it doesn’t come as a surprise that a 15-year-old boy could push through a crowd and touch a woman inappropriately. This indifferent reaction from our brains, in fact should shock us more.
Where does a 15-year-old learn to behave like that? More so, why is he not ashamed of his actions?
Touching a woman without her consent is a crime
Our country has been struggling with the rise in sexual crimes by juveniles. Boys as young as twelve or thirteen make suggestive gestures at women or tease them. The society and parents ignore such acts, passing them off as a growth spurt, or a spike in hormones. But sexually aggressive behaviour against women isn’t due to hormonal changes. It results from a combination of misogynist social outlook, toxic company and a societal sanction which lets boys get away with such predatory attitude.
Our ignorance only leads their brazen minds to push the line of our tolerance. Soon, hooting and taunting are replaced with inappropriately touching women in public places just for some fun or at the cajoling of friends.
The most our society is willing to do is to reprimand them, or threaten them with punishment if caught in the future, as Sen did. But is fear of punishment the best way to correct the course of these wayward boys? Moreover, how many boys are actually scared of facing consequences of their misconduct, since they are backed by son-obsessed protective parents?
Are we cultivating a morally numb generation?
Apart from lack of fear of reprimand, there seems to be degradation in conscience. Most teenage boys are not afraid or ashamed of committing sexual crimes. They are only afraid of getting caught or being embarrassed in public. As Sen puts it the boy must’ve thought that she wouldn’t spot him because of the crowd. So in his mind, as long as he didn’t get caught, he didn’t do anything wrong.
It is the society which has taught these boys that women are sub-humans. They are walking talking breasts, derrieres and vaginas.
A 15-year-old harassing a woman on street today, reflects our collective failure to teach him to do otherwise. In a way, he is learning to be insensitive towards women from us.
No matter how much we tell our teens that it is wrong to touch women inappropriately, their approach will not change, unless the protocol of respect towards women is etched into their conscience. Once they begin to empathise with women and treat them as equals, they would not have to be told what is offensive and what is not. But such a cultural change in upbringing of boys will take time. Making them realise that what they are doing is offensive, is thus a symptomatic solution to our problem. We need to sit our boys down and talk to them. We need to prioritise this conversation about harassment with them because unless we initiate a conversation, things will not change.
Picture Credit: India Today
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own