Men’s Perspectives on Sexual Harassment against Women in Public Space in Kathmandu
Despite the fact that anyone can perpetuate violence, evidence from many studies shows that males as a dominant gender group are much more likely to be the perpetrators and the existence of “male” violence against women does suggest such violence as a consequence of unequal power relationships. Sexual harassment is one such example although its variation exists in terms of its level and nature across different cultures and societies since the masculine resources vary to create and claim membership in a dominant gender group. Most studies on sexual harassment have elicited responses from women and such responses provide important insights in understanding the nature and consequences of sexual harassment. However, it provides only a partial picture. In my previous study on sexual harassment in public transport in Kathmandu, 97% of 220 colleges going women reported that they had at least some experience of harassment on public transport in their life time. Many empirical studies document evidence that there are not just ‘a few’ ‘deviant’ men who harass women; there are more such men than one perhaps expects. Therefore, little is known about how public space and women’s presence in such space is understood my men. Hence, the present study investigates the relationship between masculinity and violence and the way men understand sexual harassment against women in public space particularly in public transport and streets.
This study, a part of ongoing dissertation research, uses a mixed method approach to collect data from men who are 18 and older college/university students/teachers, office workers and daily wage laborers who use public space more than two times a week in Kathmandu. The preliminary findings have some important implications. The participants witnessed such harassment every so often but most of them did not consider themselves as harassers. They acknowledged the rampant existence of harassment activities in public space but mentioned “other men” as the perpetrators and noted, “I am not a harasser but I have seen many cases of harassment in public space.” However, most of them reported that they are normally involved in verbal teasing to similar or younger women. Many of them assume that women normally expect teasing and they do not consider it as harassment. It is mainly done for fun, time pass and showing superiority among other male friends. Mainly drawing insights from masculine identity as part of doing masculinity (Messerschmidt 2000) and manhood acts (Schrock and Schwalbe 2009), I will analyze my findings on how motives and violent repertoires for men are socially organized, structured within institutions, observed and inspected by peers, and used as expressions of friendships, authority, and masculine identity.