Gendered Production of Spaces in Pettah

One night, my family dropped me in Pettah, Colombo, at around 8:00 pm so that I could take a bus to Moratuwa. Just after they left, as I was walking towards the pedestrian crossing to get to the bus stand, a man holding the hand of his elderly mother gave me a questioning look as if wondering ‘where do these girls go alone late at night?’. Another guy who noticed this incident began stalking me so, as a precaution, I took refuge by joining three guys who were about to cross the road. But they started to make fun of me. One guy said, “Ah you waited for us to cross the road with you, right?” “Do you want us to die for you?” the second guy interjected. The last guy even invited me to join them. Then they all kept repeating, “Will you come?”

These men made fun of me because they perceived me as an object to release their stress. I’d had a really long day, was exhausted and using public spaces added an extra pressure to my day because I am a woman. Fortunately, a bus came soon. Most of my Sri Lankan friends with whom I shared this story insisted that I should not have walked in Pettah that late at night. Some other women were curious about why my family left me alone in Pettah and exclaimed, “My family would never do that.”