Perverts prowl college fests, and nobody minds

“It’s hard to spot the perpetrator, but when you do, it is even harder to bring them to justice.”

WrittenBy:Shruti Janardhan
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My infatuation with college fests began long ago, when my elder sister detailed her excitement about the fest at her college, Lady Shri Ram. Fest nights would be the ones when I wouldn’t have to abide by the curfew and go to great concerts for free (FREE!) I have romanticised concerts for as long as I can remember.

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But here is the thing, there is a tiny detail about these college fests – a detail I had to feign indifference to – which I want to speak about because in the wake of the watershed #MeToo movement, I do not have to settle for half-baked rationalisations.

The detail is this – I have been groped during college fests multiple times. So have most of my female friends and acquaintances.

The accountability in this particular instance is harder to pinpoint. College fests generally entail a lot of hype and thousands of students from different colleges flock to your campus, especially on the final day when a bigger star/band usually comes to perform.

It’s hard to spot the perpetrator, and even when you do it is even harder to bring them to justice. I have witnessed several instances where the woman was vilified for complaining about being molested to the authorities.

Almost every woman I know had a similar incident to recount – they were casually groped, felt violated and could not pursue further action because of how we collectively treat victims of sexual harassment.

The Aziz Ansari case is a brilliant example of how vocabulary falls short in addressing instances of violence that are sexual in nature but not necessarily the kind of sexual violence we are used to recognising in mainstream media. Sexual harassment of this nature is so normalised at college fests that it fails to evoke a deep reaction.

In my college, which is Hindu College, there is a women-only section right near the stage separated by barricades from the general area. The section was created keeping in mind that this is a space where women can feel safe and enjoy without having to think about being harassed.

If you, however, choose to go to the general section anyway, you do so “at your own risk”, in the language of men who apparently have no agency over their actions and have effectively rejected the model of consent and respectability.

Someone might behave very inappropriately with you, test your patience and when you finally speak against this abhorrent behaviour, you are vilified because you did not choose to go to the women-only section and are now stopping “men from being men”. This has actually happened.

During the fest at my college, a woman felt uncomfortable because one guy came close to her and started copying her moves. She moved and he followed her wherever she went. She finally threatened him when she got tired of the harassment and told him she would complain to the authorities. He called her a prude and told her that if she found such “harmless behaviour” unacceptable she should have gone to the women’s section. This is only one of several incidents I am familiar with.

These incidents are commonplace, and whenever I have found myself in the middle of discussions where women share their experiences, the general trend is to pass off the expression of anger as overreaction. Women are constantly made to internalise guilt for speaking against dangerous behaviour, but nothing is done to address the behaviour which comes from male entitlement.

When will we stop holding women accountable for dangerous behaviour that men exhibit? How long is the discomfort around conversations about sexual violation going to last? And these are not rhetorical questions.

Originally published by Feminism in India , this piece is part of our series #MakeMyCampusSafe in collaboration with Feminism In India.

Help us find out if there’s a sexual harassment complaint committee in your college. Who constitutes it? How does it function? How can students be a part of it? And share it with us on social media with #MakeMyCampusSafe.

You can also write to us at campus@newslaundry.com, the stories and reports on how your college deals with sexual harassment.

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