Prevent Sexual Harassment During Holi

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This Holi, stories of men flinging semen filled balloons at women surfaced. In another case, a man lost vision in one eye because he was hit by a balloon which had stones in it, while traveling by local train. Tourists, too, have had bad experiences of sexual harassment during Holi and thus dissuade others from travelling to India to celebrate the festival.

Holi is meant to be a day of joy, celebration and of spending time with loved ones with consent. In recent years, increasing incidents of using Holi as an excuse to engage in violence or harassment (both sexual and non-sexual) is reprehensible and damaging to the very spirit of the festival and of its underlying message of the triumph of good over evil. People, especially women, are scared to step out of the house.

India does have laws in place that adequately cover the harassment met out during Holi but the problem lies in its implementation. While general laws related to sexual harassment in public spaces also apply to sexual harassment faced during Holi, other laws address concerns of assault and injury.

Recommended Solutions

There is a need for consent based education and rights oriented awareness creation to resolve the issue of harassment during Holi. This harassment has both sexual and non-sexual connotations, at the crux lies the problem of violation of consent and the lack of knowledge regarding one’s rights and protections and the manner of accessing such rights. Some recommendations towards addressing this issue are:

  1. Introduction of a general compulsory module on consent and its importance in all interactions and relationships is of utmost necessity at the schooling age itself. This can be further provided at colleges and workplaces as extended adult education.
  2. Sensitisation and awareness building amongst police personnel and all private security staff on the concepts of consent, sexual violence and related legal rights is necessary to provide a supportive framework for those affected by these acts. 
  3. Compulsory use of public intercom systems throughout the city to broadcast legal rights of and support for those harassed in any way during Holi, in the week running up to Holi.
  4. Use of public spaces to display wall art, murals or street plays to encourage people to be active bystanders and intervene and prevent harassment they see occuring during Holi.
  5. All Holi parties need to mandatorily have security to assist anyone affected along with display of informative posters about the law against such harassment and helpline numbers for support, these could be private or public Holi parties. 
  6. All schools, colleges and workplaces need to have a workshop or internal training training on rights, consent and harassment before Holi.
  7. Public ads by the government must urge public celebration of Holi to not be one of harassment, this could be across radio, TV or online streaming sites and could bring in popular celebrity figures to speak of safe Holi that goes beyond using safe colours to one that is holistically safe and harassment free. 
  8. Deployment of adequate security, private or public, needs to be undertaken. 
  9. It is important for governments, civic society and non-governmental organisations to work together towards curbing such harassment. 

How you can help-

Fill up this form if you’ve ever experienced any kind of harassment during Holi.

Sign and share this petition with everyone you know. If all of us get together and speak up, we can get Union Minister for Women & Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, to pay attention and ensure that every person can celebrate Holi without facing any harassment.