Consent Before Colors

Containers with powdered paint

#ConsentBeforeColors is a hashtag which talks about the perils of being forced to play Holi and soon people used it to talk about sexual harassment that women face on this day.

Holi is the festival of colors celebrated in India, Nepal, Mauritius and while I don't really know the religious belief behind this festival but on this day, it is a free-for-all carnival of colors where we play, chase and color each other with dry powder and colored water, with some carrying water guns and colored water-filled balloons for a friendly water fight. Holi is a great, beautiful, and happy festival where people spread colors, happiness and joy. But a few people turn it into something bad and dangerous as shown in this video

Consent = give permission for something to happen/approve/accept. This is the definition from the Oxford dictionary and I'm sure you might be asking why I am actually quoting definitions from the dictionary?

It is because we don't talk about consent enough and some people don't know what it is and on Holi, the word "consent" seem to vanish from the dictionary. I'll explain.

When you go to school or work on Holi people say: "make sure you carry an umbrella, wear solid black clothes which cover everything". This is to prevent you from getting hit by water balloons that people will throw at you when you walk on the streets. No it's not fun when someone throws water balloons at you, against your will. Some people might even want to hit you near your private parts irrespective of the "Holi allowance card", the festival actually sometimes becomes a tool for bullying women into unavoidable drenching. And people say "Don't mind, it's Holi today…"

They attack you with colors even if you protest against it. They almost molest you under the pretext of playing Holi. Why? Why do the norms of consent changes during the duration of the festival?

Holi does not mean that someone can touch you anywhere without consent, make you feel uncomfortable and unsafe, can apply colors to your body inappropriately and can get away with it using the simple excuse of "Don't mind, it's Holi"

With rape cases, molestation, and harassment cases being reported around Holi, it is considered unsafe for women in India. It's already hard to deal with street harassment every day but on Holi, it's like it is sort of legitimized for an entire day. Perpetrators sometimes take advantage of the fact that they are concealed by colors and some drink and misbehave with women. One such incident took place in U.P. when a boy rubbed chemical mix color on a girl’s face in order to take revenge. This is the story of every 2 out of ten women.

“These things are bound to happen” is the standard answer given. But, that's totally wrong because these incidents should not happen and should never be normalized. Harassment is a crime even on Holi which does not give anyone the license to harass or molest.

Consent is what needs to be addressed on Holi. If someone says no and is not willing to play, do not bully them. Give your kids a tutorial in adult consent and stop the eve teasing and sexual harassment of women. Just stop!

And don't harass pets and dogs on the street, the chemicals in the powders are too harsh for them and they may also lick them and get sick. Don't harass the environment either and stay safe.

Holi is a joyful and fun festival filled with joy, unity and goodness and we should keep it that way. Don't let the colors silence your voice against sexual harassment and let's make sure that this wonderful festival is safe for everyone.