International Anti-Street Harassment Week
“Too often people treat street harassment as a joke or a minor issue, but it creates a tense and potentially fearful environment. While it is important for women to continue to speak up about the issue, it is crucial that men and boys hold themselves, their friends, family and communities accountable too; respect should be demanded by all and given by all.” Gabriel Hons-Olivier, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate General Hyderabad

Whistling, catcalling, groping, stalking; gender-based street harassment is a global problem. It's one of the most invasive forms of sexualised violence that makes women feel unsafe in a public space. The conversation on the topic has been going on for as long as it has and that is because the issue is still a very real and major problem – the goal of gender equality is far ahead unless street harassment ends for good.

As part of the International Anti-Street Harassment Week being observed from April 10 to April 16, CLAPP has taken a stand to fight against it by involving students at root level. To combat the issue, International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC), a Chennai-based NGO has taken up the initiative ‘Community Led Action Programme by Police’ (CLAPP), which builds partnership between police and youth to address the issue and at the forefront makes public spaces safe for women in Hyderabad and Chennai.

Speaking to The Hans India Swetha Shankar, project manager of CLAPP, PCVC says, “We want to build a collaborative relationship between the police and college students. We are looking for possible ways to intervene and respond in cases of sexual harassment in public spaces. CLAPP is a study to see how these two groups of people come and work together to come up with a sustainable intervention.”

The initiative is a one-year study, which was launched in August 2015 and includes the SHE Team and students of St Mary’s College, Yousufguda making a team of 20 members, as their project partners in the city. “The project has adopted the SARA (Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment) model.

All of us are aware that this issue has been happening, it is all very anecdotal, but this project will collect the data, analyse it and will show the number of cases happening in a particular city or community. After that we will set our short term goals and long term goals; we will see how we can respond to individuals and people belonging to a certain group.

The data collection will continue till June and we will work on the response for two months, so we will be done by August,” explains Swetha about the project. The project is supported by US Consulate General in both the cities. Gabriel Hons-Olivier, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate General Hyderabad says, “Combating Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a key area of collaboration between the US and India.

To increase awareness on the issue, the US Consulate in city has collaborated with local partners. The CLAPP project is one such initiative we support; it explores, encourages, and supports community-led policing efforts to combat GBV.”

Mobilising the community

Commenting on the involvement of students for the cause, Swetha Dandapani, coordinator of CLAPP, PCVC in Hyderabad says, “We wanted to work with young people whom we can get into the process of ‘what can be done’ and ‘how the solutions can be implemented’. As a community, you are responsible for what happens and you can respond to sexual harassment in public spaces; this was a sole reason to involve students in this project.”

Members of the SHE team, Shiva Kumar Muthyagapa and ASD Shanti, both constables say, “A few of us from the department were selected for this project. We got the instructions from our Additional Commissioner of Police, Swati Lakra. There are so many issues affecting women and girls worldwide and working for SHE team we have seen the challenges they go through. We conducted indoor sessions and now we will be starting with outdoor work.”

Students benefitting from being involved are showing positive response to the workshops conducted by CLAPP. Shubam Khatri and Meghana Reddy, BBA students from St. Mary’s College say, “Many have this perception that a student cannot do anything and they don’t have anything to do with the system. But it is us who experience and can bring a change in the society in true sense. We always wanted a platform to discuss about this issue and get into a broader level. We can see it to be happening; we can see that a small step can really make a huge impact.”