• "I don't want to be touched all the time" - Street Harassment and the Indian Woman

      Holland, Fiona, Dr.; Williams, Sophie, Dr; Montague, Jane, Dr.; Khan, Sumana (University of DerbyCollege of Life & Natural Sciences, UoD, 2020-12-10)
      Street harassment is the gender-based sexual harassment of individuals in public spaces by strangers. Studies have shown that the majority of victims of street harassment are women and the perpetrators are men. Despite its serious implications on women’s quality of life and psychological well-being, street harassment remains an understudied area and has not been included in the wider ‘violence against women and girls’(VAWG) research and discourse. This research aimed to position street harassment as a distinct form of VAWG by exploring Indian women’s sense-making of their lived experiences of street harassment. The research was structured into two parts: Part 1 – The ‘Sociocultural Study’ implemented dispositive analysis of three recent Bollywood films of romantic genre to explore the construction of sociocultural discourses on Indian womanhood. Part 2 – The ‘Experiential Study’ explored the lived experiences of street harassment of adult Indian women by using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The participants included four single women (aged 25-35) and four mothers (aged 35-50) to teenage daughters. The Sociocultural Study provided the cultural context for the Experiential Study. The findings of the Sociocultural Study indicated that the concept of womanhood is constructed by the Indian male gaze—the virginal sanskari (traditional) Indian woman is considered the symbol of Indian womanhood, whereas the “westernised” vamp is the morally corrupt temptress of men. These patriarchal constructions were rooted in deeply ingrained sexism, sexual objectification, and rape myth acceptance, proposed as the ‘triad’ of core mediators of street harassment by this research. The ‘triad’ featured significantly in the meaning-making of the participants in the Experiential study. The participants interpreted their experiences in themes of disempowerment, emotional isolation, loss of sense of agency, identity conflicts, and stress in family relationships. The findings aligned with UN’s definition of ‘violence against women’. Recommendations for future research include better theoretical developments to explain street harassment; investigation of potential long-term effects of street harassment in women such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); designing studies with more male participants to explore an ‘insider’ view into harassment; and finally, development of new standardised quantitative instruments to measure various aspects of street harassment.