Such a grave social issue and yet one least attended to, is it that it has become so widespread that society has come to terms with it, that we have come to accept it?
Sexual harassment is an unwelcome act of a sexual nature, using assault, criminal force, or words or actions, which causes annoyance or pain of mind to the person being harassed. Although to the recipient the act is humiliating and repulsive, the perpetrator may view it as harmlessly normal. It is nevertheless sexual harassment if the act is unwelcome. Sexual harassment can occur in private or public life, between family and friends or at the workplace, public places and transportation. Both men and women can be perpetrators. But our focus is on the weaker link. An individual who find herself being subjected to harassment more often would be a woman.
The ‘S.H.O.W. You Care’ campaign is an initiative that we as the SLU have taken to create more awareness about this grave social issue and to bring attention of the public to the existing laws and the legal measures relevant to harassment.What’s significant about our campaign is that men stand up against the harassment of women and carry this message to the community on behalf of their mothers, sisters, relatives and friends. A collective effort, nevertheless has twice brought the campaign to successful end both in Colombo and in Galle. Moreover we have also been able to carry out a workshop with regard to the same in the East.
Following a briefing the team sets out to approach uncountable numbers of buses. Both men and women alike are informed about the hotline numbers now available in case of such emergencies and each individual is encouraged to voice themselves and stand up against harassment.
Over 200 volunteers boarded 1,248 buses within the course of 5 days, in all the main bus routes in Colombo addressing over 35,000 commuters with our message in 2012. Similarly following the workshop in Galle in January 2014, prior to the campaign it was to a mere request that over 50 students responded to by giving us their fullest support. Girls and boys alike showed much enthusiasm. Each student was given a S.H.O.W t-shirt and transported to the main bus stand. Hesitant at first, it was a matter of time before over a thousand rallied around inquisitive to know what the campaign was about and direct their efforts towards the cause.
The workshop in the East was an indicator that we have now taken this initiative across the island and will continue to do so. The students were of much appreciation and extended their gratitude as we wrapped things up. Although public transportation was not as relevant to them the initiative itself was valued as harassment of women manifests in many forms regardless of how and where it may be.
So from pasting numerous stickers on buses to distributing thousands of cards with hotline numbers including the penal code with regard to harassment of this sort, incase of legal uncertainty, today we are certain that we have been able to touch the hearts of at least a few dozen. We consider it a milestone in journey toward reconciliation as a social issue is not unique to a single community but our country as a whole and it is necessary to unite in order to bring such matters to a halt.
By - Shehara De Silva