By: Heloise ’22
IB English A Language & Literature
Living in Mei-shu-guan district, one of the most prestigious residential areas in Kaohsiung, I have experienced street harassment multiple times. The first time, I was just walking home on the same common routes. Nothing was threatening until, “Hey, your skirt is nice and short”, one of the construction workers yelped frivolously. I pretended that I did not hear that and continued walking. As I walked past the construction, one of them walked towards me, and he was about to put his hand on me. My legs intuitively accelerated, as if they were telling me to leave that space as far as I could.
Never did it occur to me that I have to be careful of my wearing, my action, on the routes to school, in this gender equality country of 6th ranking in the world. (Taipei Times) I realized that my naivety has proven me wrong, that I experienced numerous times being pestered walking on the streets. The seemingly advanced progression of this country is ironically repelled.
I did not even know if this incident counts as harassment before this op-ed assignment.
Neon billboards flashed, cars horned, and folks shuttled. It was one of the most stunning nights of the summery Taipei. Until fear surrounded my back when I noticed the inappropriate remark behind was about me and my friend. “That short skirt one looks young.” “The one beside her also got a nice pair of legs.” In the convenience store, there was a group of old male taxi drivers behind the aisle that we were standing by. As we were browsing through the items on the aisle, the whole 7-11 was filled by their people all of a sudden. There was only one clerk in the store, and we knew that he could not help us. Nervously, my friend held onto my arm tightly as we felt the threat. My head started spinning around with all kinds of scenarios. We informed each other that we had to leave the space. We then paced rapidly towards the exit, but their gang noticed and approached us closely. Ultimately, we fled the 7-11as fast as we could.
With the title of “Taiwan is No. 1 in Asia, world No. 6 for gender equality”, I found no words that are relatable at all in this news headline. (Taipei Times) Despite that Taiwan is ranked no.6 for gender equality, there are still countless cases of sexual harassment around us. “Last year more than 14,000 cases of sexual harassment were reported throughout Taiwan”, (Taiwan News) data was reported, as Taiwan joined the “Me Too” campaign in 2018. It is ironic that in such a progressive country, there is still a big number of cases. Knowing the fact that we are the 6th on the rank, I cannot imagine how much worse it would be in other countries.
Walking out from the zone in Taiwan, street harassment has also been fundamentally found in numerous countries, even more seriously. A survey was conducted in 2016 by ActionAid, “They found that 79% of women living in cities in India, 86% in Thailand, and 89% in Brazil have been subjected to harassment or violence in public, as had 75% of women in London, UK.” (Stop Street Harassment) Moreover, street harassment is no longer only a women’s issue, men and LGBTQ communities also suffered from inappropriate harassment on the streets. The advocacy group Stop Street Harassment conducted a nationally representative survey. “Among U.S. men, one-quarter said they have experienced street harassment. The survey also showed that non-white individuals and people who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender are more likely to say they have experienced street harassment.” (Stop Street Harassment) The whole data is showing how harassment has been normalized, common in the public.
We need to report
I found how few of the cases were actually reported when a worldwide study revealed that “…fewer than 1 in 10 incidents in 5 cities are reported to police, and when they are, less than one-third of cases were acted upon.” (Global Study) In fact, I experienced it multiple times and I did not report a single one either. “It takes a lot of courage to report harassment, but it’s clear that most of the time when girls report, they are not taken seriously and the system is not set up to support them. Too many of these reports just fall into the cracks.” As street harassment has become a widespread issue in many countries, systems should be set up to fight against this injustice.
Furthermore, statements need to be made clear that it is not ok for women to endure or normalize it as part of their daily lives that they have to be extra cautious. “For too long women and girls everywhere have endured harassment as a normal part of their daily lives. They internalize it and over time, it begins to have a serious impact on their well-being. Girls and young women in our research told us loud and clear that when authorities fail to respond with the support and services they need, it can be extremely damaging and harrowing for them.”(Global Study)
A few seconds of harassment could cause trauma on one’s life for long-term effect or even forever. That comes to a reason why more educational campaigns are needed to provide information on announcing what counts towards harassment and ways to prevent it. We should not be afraid to speak against injustice in order for those forever hidden cases to come to an end, increase the security of people, and the progression of the country to continue advancing.
“Taiwan No. 1 In Asia, World No. 6 For Gender Equality – Taipei Times”. Taipeitimes.Com, 2021, https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2021/01/09/2003750242. Accessed 4 Oct 2021.
“Global Study: Authorities Not Acting On Street Harassment”. Plan International, 2021, https://plan-international.org/news/2019-12-02-global-study-authorities-not-acting-street-harassment. Accessed 6 Oct 2021.
Chatterjee, Rhitu. “A New Survey Finds 81 Percent of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment.” NPR, NPR, 22 Feb. 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/21/587671849/a-new-survey-finds-eighty-percent-of-women-have-experienced-sexual-harassment. Accessed 6 Oct 2021.
News, Taiwan. “‘Me Too’ Campaign Takes Off In Taiwan, With A New Hotline And Website For Sexual Harassment Victims | Taiwan News | 2018-03-15 16:04:00”. Taiwan News, 2018, https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3383463. Accessed 6 Oct 2021.
“Statistics – The Prevalence Of Street Harassment | Stop Street Harassment”. Stop Street Harassment, 2021, https://stopstreetharassment.org/resources/statistics/statistics-academic-studies/. Accessed 6 Oct 2021.