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  • 00:13

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA: Hello I'm Rituparna Bhattacharyya.[Rituparna Bhattacharyya, Research Consultant]I'm a research consultant and Editor-in-Chief,joint, of the journal, Space and Culture, India.I have over 20 years of experiencein research and teaching.I bear expertise in gender sexuality developmentand violence in South Asia.

  • 00:36

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: My research findings have started making impacts,not only within the scholarly communitybut beyond scholarly community.For instance, Missing Children of Indiais one of my ongoing projects.The findings of this project has not onlybeen published in the journal, Asian Social Work and Policy

  • 00:57

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: Review, but also got featured in the front pageof the newspaper, The Christian Daily, on 3rd of October, 2019.Then, again on 16th of October 2019,I was interviewed on the same projectby BBC journalist, Imogen Anderson.

  • 01:21

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: [Street Sexual Harassment as a Public Health Issue]The notion, public health, is an abstract one and oftendifficult to nail it, albeit the narratives of public healthare heard in our everyday lives.Perhaps, the COVID-19 pandemic is the world's biggest

  • 01:42

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: public health problem that the whole world is facing currentlyright now.And the other common examples of public healthare AIDS epidemic, controlling to prevent

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: the outbreak of waterborne or infectious disease,and some of the public health problemswould be social problems like drug abuse, streetsexual harassment, domestic violence, et cetera.The question is why is street sexual harassment

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: a public health problem.This is because street sexual harassment ofteninvolves trauma, violence, and vicarious trauma that requiresserious medical intervention.[Street Sexual Harassment in India]

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: Locally, street sexual harassment in Indiais known as eve-teasing.It carries various forms and spansfrom minor assaults like pushing, shoving,touching, through to severe assaults like stalking,indecent exposure, acid attacks, voyeurism, rapes,and gang rapes and even murder.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: Street sexual harassment often is a manifestationof various intersecting factors such as poverty, racism,patriarchal values, power, capitalism, and war,which poses a significant challengeto women's public safety and security in public spaces.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: It is recognized as a cognizable crimeunder the Indian Penal Code, but itis considered as a minor nuisanceand is validated culturally and subculturally across India.However, in many instances, it hasbeen found that street sexual harassment oftencrosses from minor nuisances to barbaric and criminal behavior.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: For example, the gang rape and murderof the 22-year-old woman, Nirbhaya,on a moving bus in December 2012 is a sure witnessto the violent criminal behavior of street sexual harassmentthat had taken place in India.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: The post anti-rape movement that took placefor the Nirbhaya incidents can be regarded as India's #MeToomovement.[Case Study Introduction]I have already stated that I am a researcher interestedin gender sexuality violence and development in South Asia.

  • 04:42

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: Considering the overall rise in crime against women in India,in general and street sexual harassment in particular,I embarked on to study street sexual harassment in Indiaas a public health problem.This study was funded partially by Alliancefor Community Capacity Building in North East India.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: Given the sensitivity of street sexual harassmentas a public health research, we hadto contemplate the risk, stigma, taboo,and prejudices associated with street sexual assaults.The study aimed to examine the causes of streetsexual assaults, and the ways that the participants

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: negotiated with the street sexual harassmentin public spaces.[Research Design]For this research, I chose in-depth interviewsbecause in-depth interviews helpsus to dig deeper layers in our conversational style,

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: and often leads to unanticipated and unexpected questions.In order to recruit the participants,a questionnaire was designed taking into considerationthe general framework, that is the name, whichwas given as optional, email ID, phone number,

  • 06:11

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: then the marital status, then the income.Then, plus the religion, the class,caste, and importantly, a willingness to take partin in-depth interviews.So the questionnaire was--the way one has to-- while framing the questionnaire,

  • 06:33

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: it has to be taken into account that the questionnaire isframed in such a way that attractsthe respondents to take part in the questionnaire survey.And in the questionnaire, I also framed one of the questionsas willingness to take part in in-depth interviews.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: So based on the questionnaire, I had recruited 550 participantsfrom different cities of India, such as Delhi, Kolkata,Varanasi, Guwahati, then Agartala,and Shillong between 2012 and 2015,aged between 18 to 65 years.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: [Ethical Approval and Considerations]In order to conduct this research,the ethical approval form was filled inand was signed by and was approved by Alliancefor Community Capacity Building, which

  • 07:37

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: is the funding organization.And Alliance for Community Capacity Building,as I have already said, they partially funded this research.In order to guarantee anonymity of the participants,we offered pseudonym and we also saidthat any personal information such as their names,

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: their location, their income, or their other personal detailsthat might reveal their identitieswill be kept confidential.However, while conducting in-depth interviews,it is not possible to maintain 100% anonymity.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: This is because I, as a researcher,met all my participants personally.I had their personal information with me.Nonetheless, I had to bestow that--I had to guarantee them that none of your personal details

  • 08:39

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: would be made available in the public domain.To get consent from each of the participants,we had prepared up form, ethical consent form,which was mandatory for each of the participants to sign it

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: where it mentioned that the participation is voluntaryand that no remuneration or any compensationwould be paid for the participants, and they were--the form also mentioned that theywere free to withdraw from the interviews at any timeshould they wish to do so.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: And also, if they do not want to answer fully or ceaseto answer any questions in the middle of the interview,they were at liberty to do so.[Data Collection]Gatekeepers are important persons

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: when you conduct a research.It is through them you get access to your participants.So they have the power to actuallyeither facilitate a research processor block your research process.So for my research, I contacted one gatekeeper through whichI contacted the first person.

  • 10:04

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: Then, as I was using questionnaire surveyas a route to accessing the participantsfor in-depth interviews, so from the first participantI used a snowball approach to contact all other participants.So in my case of conducting the research,

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: the gatekeeper played a very minimal role,although in many research, gatekeepers,they play a vital role in facilitating the researchprocess.It is important to gain the confidence of the communitywhere you are researching.So in order to gain confidence of the community,

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: you need to actually reduce the gap between the researcherand the participants.So it is important that how--the question is, how do you reducethe gap between the researcher and the participants?It is true, your body language, that is, the kinesics.

  • 11:08

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: Then, the kind words and communication,which should be a steady communicationbetween the participants and the researchers from the time youare contacting the participants until the research is complete.And after that, you need to provide themwith a thank-you letter after your research is completed.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: It is important that the researchersshould learn the language of the research participants.They should not actually restrictthe participants to speak in a specific language.Instead, the researchers should learn the languageor hire an interpreter and develop a very good relation

  • 11:54

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: with the interpreter or research assistantin the field to collect rich data from the field.With the consent of each of the interviewees,all the interviews were tape-recorded.But in one of the--

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: as a general experience, the interviewswith the participants went very wellbecause interviews were conductedin a conversational style.As a researcher and as a woman myself,who had faced sexual harassment in the public streets of India,I do share my experience of facing sexual assaults

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: in different cities of India.So I too shared my painful storiesof getting sexually assaulted.So the interviews were in a conversational style,but these interviews were with a purpose,so it is called conversation with a purpose,

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: but the participants were also at libertyto ask questions which were not thought of previously by me,which is known as reciprocal interviewing.So I prepared myself to answer questionsthat I might encounter during the interviewing process.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: All the interviews lasted for about an houror one hour and a half.[Data Analysis]It is important to avoid, actually,procrastination of translating and transcribing

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: the interviews.It is important to do the translation justafter an interview is finished.So all the interviews were translated and transcribed soonafter each interview was finished.So I listened to each of the interviews

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: meticulously and tried to make literal translationof the same, but in some cases, the full literal translationof some sentences were not possible.So in that case where verbatim translation was not possible,so I conveyed the meaning of the sentence.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: From the transcription and translation,I could analyze the data on different themes that emerged.For example, the personal attributeslike the name, the kinds of--the family, structure, income, class, religion, caste.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: Then based-- and the kinds of harassment they faced.Then, the location of the harassment.Then, the perpetrators, whether they are knownor unknown to the victims.Then, the extent of the trauma the participants had faced.The ways of coping and reporting it to the police,

  • 15:25

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: and how they negotiated the public space.[Challenges Faced and Lessons Learned]In order to avoid technical glitches,

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: I took notes while conducting the interviews.Actually, this had happened with one of my interviews.I did not realize that the audio recorder of my interviewhad failed to record while conducting oneof the interviews, but at the--until I actually sat down to translate

  • 16:09

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: and transcribe the same in the evening.But since I could do it, since the whole interviewwas fresh in my mind as I did not procrastinate and satdown immediately to actually--to translate and transcribe the same.Yeah.Actually, the research has few limitations.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: Firstly, given the sensitiveness of the subjectof street sexual harassment, many womenmight have purposefully concealedsome of the horrid instances of sexual assaultsthey might have gone through, which they could not actuallyshare with me, even though I was a woman.

  • 16:53

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: Then, second, the perpetrators were purposefully notinterviewed.Thirdly, some of the traumatic experiencesare beyond words, and being--after hearing the traumatic experiences of sexual assaults,being a woman, and I could actually relate how it feels

  • 17:15

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: and I became exposed to vicarious trauma.I feel that a researcher, especially from the West,if they want to go to conduct research in India,they should basically lower their expectations,and they should actually carry few--

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: although it may sound common sense, but it is important.[Buy sealed bottled drinking water]For example, they should stick to bottled waterrather than carrying--having water from the readily available taps over there.[Carry mosquito net and mosquito repellents]They should carry mosquito nets and mosquito repellents.[Carry hand sanitizers and toilet paper]Also carry hand sanitizers, paper towels, toilet papers,

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: and liquid soaps.You don't need to carry it from overseas,but you can buy it locally in the shops over there.And to avoid unwanted attention, youneed to dress modestly, as far as practicable.[Dress modestly][Recommendations for Future Research]

  • 18:23

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: I think the findings of this researchwill help in framing stringent public health policies.Nevertheless, the findings of this researchcan be replicated not only in other parts of India,but elsewhere in different developingcountries of the world.

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    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: Moreover, researchers from the West planningto embark on a similar public health researchshould read literature on cultural differencesbetween India and the West to avoid any cultural shock,and before arriving in India, they should actually

  • 19:08

    RITUPARNA BHATTACHARYYA [continued]: lower their expectation.[FURTHER READING][MUSIC PLAYING]


Rituparna Bhattacharyya, Research Consultant and Editor-in-Chief (joint) of Space and Culture India, discusses a case study of street sexual harassment as a public health issue in India, including the research design, ethical considerations, data collection and analysis, and challenges.

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Researching Street Sexual Harassment as a Public Health Issue in India

Rituparna Bhattacharyya, Research Consultant and Editor-in-Chief (joint) of Space and Culture India, discusses a case study of street sexual harassment as a public health issue in India, including the research design, ethical considerations, data collection and analysis, and challenges.

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