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Have you never seen a girl before?

It was September of last year when I was in an almost-empty bus, heading home. I chose to sit in the farthest seat. Not too long after I got in, a group of five men got in and scattered themselves across the bus.

The youngest of them, who seemed to be around my age, sat across from the long rear seat of the bus next to me. The other four had the audacity to turn all the way around to face me and stare shamelessly with smug looks on their faces.

No words were said – just the incessant stare directed at me by all five of them was enough to make me feel defenceless, nervous and angry. I’ve never had the courage to speak up, but I stared directly at the boy next to me. I wondered what would happen if I stared back. He had no dignity to look away. In fact, staring back seemed to excite them even more.

I went on to ask him, Ai ohoma balan inne? Kellek dakala nadda meeta kalin? (“Why are you looking at me like that? Have you never seen a girl before?”) This made them look at me in surprise. I guess they did not expect a girl to confront them. Just as I said this, the boy I spoke to got off the bus immediately. The rest followed.

Photos © Eliza Hatch/Cheer Up Luv for UNFPA and Videos © Studio Zoo

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UNFPA, the lead UN agency responding to gender-based violence in emergencies, is working with the Government of Sri Lanka to tackle sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence, wherever they occur. UNFPA advocates for women and girls at the highest level and engages them in efforts to find lasting solutions. Yet more can be done to protect women and girls and hold their perpetrators to account. You can help. 

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