Mumbai: Following the gangrape of a young photojournalist in Mumbai, Harassmap - an initiative by the Akshara centre aims to map harassment in the city. It also proves that incidents of sexual assaults are not just limited to dark, dingy lanes but can happen anywhere and to anyone.
Akshara's 'Harassmap-Mumbai' is inspired by an initiative that met with some success in Cairo. In the wake of the Tahrir Square revolution, women in Cairo, who endured years of street harassment and assault, gave a call to reclaim the streets of Egypt, and so began a mini-revolution giving voice to those who hesitated to speak up.
If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted, you could anonymously share your experience and the reports are mapped. Each report appears as a red dot giving an overview of the reality and scope of sexual harassment. The online map not only provides evidence that harassment exists for those who deny it, it also busts the myths that harassment doesn't happen in a certain neighbourhood or that it happens only on dimly lit streets or to women who dress a certain way.
It could happen even in places of worship as lawyer Smita Devkar notes. The young lawyer was among the many women devotees who were groped at Mumbai's iconic Ganesh pandal Lalbaughcha Raja.
She says it is important to make a noise about it. "When I questioned the molesters as to how they could do this at a place of worship, they asked me who had invited me here," she said.
The aim of the Harassmap is also to get people see how common sexual assault is, to fight the apathy, to anger them and provoke them into action of some kind.