Eve teasing, taxi-drivers in top list

Published on Jul 27 2010 // News Analysis
By Yangchen C Rinzin

It might seem a little outlandish to find women, especially in Thimphu, carrying chili powder or tiny Swiss knives with their cosmetics in their handbags these days.

While they carry make-up sets to apply on their faces from time to time to accentuate the way they look, chili powder and knives are reserved to keep people, other than the ones they intend to attract, at bay.

Most teenage girls and office-going women Kuensel spoke with along Thimphu streets expressed their concerns about the growing trend of men, beginning with parking fee collectors, right up to police and civil servants, teasing, leering or passing lewd remarks at them.

But the worst and most sinister among them all, without second thoughts, they said, were taxi drivers.

Try catching a cab home from the taxi parking next to the gas station, and the first thing a woman, irrespective of who they are or how they appear physically, realises is the group of men crowding around them shouting out names of places that have sexual connotations.

Much like a pack of hungry hyenas trying to bring down a prey.

Place names like Taba hoka, Sangaygang and Begana are quite common that escape their mouths. “If we’re unable to decide which cabbie to hitch a ride with, bawdy jokes and comments only get aggravated,” a businesswoman Dechen said, adding that it then became a competition among cabbies over who could let off the most obscene and crude remark.

“We become their laughing stock,” she said. “How embarrassing is that!”

Once, inside a taxi, Kinga, a corporate employee, said, its driver, adjusted the rear view mirror in such a way that it is zoomed onto the face of the woman passenger or on her blouse directly. Women passengers aside, even those walking along the road outside the main city, are often the cabbies’ choice victims.

Health conscious women, who normally walk in the evenings after office along the Langjophakha, Taba and Jungshina roads, complained of some taxis silently driving close and shouing or howling behind them.

“I recently saw a taxi ferrying a group of young boys, who instead of shouting, slapped a woman walker on her rear,” Kinga said. “What’s next?”

Such ignoble behaviour is not confined to cabbies, though.

Another corporate employee, Kuenga Dechen, said that, with a growing number of youth loitering on the capital’s streets, it is becoming common for some of them sit along the edges of the pedestrian path on streets and count the footsteps of women walking by.

“If that fails to draw the attention of women passersby, a deliberate brushing of shoulder from the front or back is becoming more frequent,” she said.

Some taxi drivers blamed women, and the way they dressed and carried themselves, much like what Shakespeare said about beauty that provokes thieves faster than gold.

Dechen Tshering, a civil servant agreed, when he suggested women cover their bodies more than what they did today.

“When a woman wears such revealing and skimpy dresses, it’s only natural they draw men’s attention,” he said. “Without a lure, there’ll be no interest.”

A nearby shopkeeper, opposite the taxi parking, said it was a common place for him to see a woman exchanging words and quarreling with a taxi driver at least once every day.

“It’s no point stooping to their level,” shopkeeper Dorji said. “They should just ignore the taxi drivers than create an awful scene.”

Many cabbies Kuensel spoke with said they meant no physical harm or harassment, and most of their remarks were rather shallow, harmless or filial.

“Besides, we only tease women who, going by their facial expressions and body language, seem buttered up,” a taxi driver said. “If they wear a disinterested or a serious look on their faces, we stop instantly.”

Others argued that most women had the tendency to blame taxi drivers, even if it were some of its male passengers, who teased them; just as one or two cabbies’ ungentlemanly conduct brought about criticism on the rest.

Disillusioned by a few police along the streets, who equally enjoyed or took part in how women were treated near the taxi parking area and along Thimphu streets, Kezang Dechen, a corporate employee said the city policeshould consider deploying personnel specifically to deal with eve teasers.

Chief of police, brigadier Kipchu Namgyel said eve teasing is a chargeable offense.

“If the offence is severe, then they’ll be charged in court,” the police chief said. “But, for every complaint, evidence in the form of a witness is necessary.”

City police said that not a single woman has lodged a formal complaint against anybody eve-teasing or verbally harassing them.

Taken from Kuensel