Public Harassment

I came out of the underground tube station and crossed the road to reach the bus stop. I noticed the bus was not due for another ten minutes and since there were already quite a few people standing around I moved off to the side a little. It was late afternoon, almost sunset and I had headphones on as I waited for my bus to arrive. There was a man, seemingly in his late forties sanding not far from the bus stop, beer bottle in hand, noticeably drunk.

I looked up from my phone long enough to see a girl cross the road and walk past me.She continued to walk towards the drunken guy, keeping well out of his path. The man was wobbling around, barely able to keep his composure. Upon noticing the girl he began to holler at her. He was loud enough for every person at the bus stop to turn and look his way. I removed my headphones and waited for someone to intervene. Nothing happened.

The girl quickened her pace, head bent forward, and continued on her way all the while ignoring him. The drunken man began to hobble after her, yelling, slut shaming and making inappropriate hand gestures. I looked around me. Out of the five men present not one raised their voice. Some of the younger ones sniggered; the rest of them looked on expressionless.

I felt disgusted and angry.  The Asian girl had been dressed in a sleeveless tank top and leggings, nothing extraordinarily provocative.  Yet instead of standing up for her, the crowd looked on as though this type of behaviour was completely acceptable.

Fast forward a few weeks later and I was yet again at the same bus stop. However it was around 10 p.m. and there were around five men and two other women apart from me waiting for the bus. A younger man in his thirties, emotionally distraught and yet again noticeably drunk began going up to each person hoping to start any form of conversation. I became slightly uncomfortable by him and moved to the side. The bus arrived and the people began to queue to go inside. (British Law prevents drunken people from using public transport) I was waiting my turn to get in. The drunk man moved closer towards me, as his face contorted into an unreadable expression. While I was standing there, I also noticed a tall guy, seemingly a student maybe slightly older than me. He caught my eye and noticed how obviously uncomfortable I was getting. Without saying a word, he moved in front of me completely shielding me from the drunken man, and started a conversation with him about how he should respect people’s personal space. I took this time to follow him into the bus. The bus doors closed and we moved off.

The second situation made me rethink the first event with the girl. I felt her humiliation and understood the thoughts which must have gone through her mind that day. Absolutely NOTHING gives another person, irrespective of their mental frame of mind, to harass, slander or invade another person’s personal space.  Yet, time after time all I see is obnoxious arrogant men trying their best to belittle women. It just gives you an idea of the standard to which I society has fallen.

nadia nawaz

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