About a decade ago, when I was in Rwanda, East Africa, I discussed a news report about an ‘eve teasing’ event that happened in India with a British colleague of mine. When I mentioned the expression ‘eve-teasing’ she looked surprised and asked, “Eve teasing? What do you mean?” Assuming it is a common term across the globe, I asked her, “Haven’t you ever heard the expression ‘eve teasing’? “It is neither a British nor an American English term. Probably, it is used only in India,” she replied.
On December 1, I came across a news report with these titles Three arrested in India for harassment on bus and Video posted showing two young women trying to fend off three “eve-teasers” on a bus in Haryana state” on Aljazeera.com. In the report, the term eve-teasers is given within quotes to imply that the term is not a familiar term for native speakers of English.
Eve-teasing is a euphemism used in India to describe public sexual harassment of women. It is also aptly called street harassment. According to Wikipedia, it “ranges in severity from sexually suggestive remarks, brushing in public places and catcalls to groping”. Oxforddictionaries.com labels the term as Indian English and defines it as “the making of unwanted sexual remarks or advances by a man to a woman in a public place”.
Activists who fight for gender justice say that eve teasing is a derogatory term as it suggests that women possess the temptress nature of Eve who in the Bible is portrayed as the temptress and the activists want the expression to be replaced by a more appropriate term. The linguists are yet to coin a better term that is not sexist in nature. Eve teasing is a term used widely in India and also in countries in South Asia, where the streets have proved to be dangerous for women.
Look at the title of a news report of June 11, 2010, by a Bangladeshi journalist writing for BBC: Bangladesh ‘Eve teasing’ takes a terrible toll. (www.bbc.com/news/10220920). According to the report, June 13, 2010, was designated Eve Teasing Protection Day by the education ministry in Bangladesh. The derivatives of ‘eve-teasing’ are ‘eve-tease’ (verb) and ‘eve-teaser’ (noun). Look at these examples:
1. Women, fight back if you are ‘eve-teased’.
2. Let the ‘eve-teasers’ be taught a lesson.
What does the expression ‘cat call’ mean? A ‘cat call’ is a loud noise, sound or whistle made by someone in public to express displeasure. Cat calls are very common in Indian Parliament, cinemas, cricket stadiums, and in public places where the members of the audience make such noise when they do not like someone’s performance. In the context of ‘sexual harassment’ men make ‘cat calls’ to tease women and call attention to themselves. The derivates are ‘cat call’ (verb) and ‘cat caller’ (noun). Some examples:
1. Our parliamentarians make cat calls whenever they want to disrupt Parliament.
2. Two male students who cat called a female student were suspended for a week.
3. He is a notorious cat caller.