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Eve Teasing Scourge: POLICE & PUBLIC MUST ACT, by 25 Nov, 2011 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 25 November 2011

Eve Teasing Scourge


By S.Saraswathi


The recent incident in Mumbai wherein two men were beaten to death while trying to help a victim of eve teasing in full public view on the road and in broad daylight has shocked the entire nation. Eve teasing has become very common and in fact grows day by day as more and more women come out of homes to participate in out-of-home activities. This crime does neither require much planning, nor help for victims is readily pouring in, nor is proof of the crime easy to show and punishment for the offender is rare.


Indeed, eve teasing, which is predominantly an urban crime, is so common in metropolitan cities that it is hardly treated as an offence. School and college-going girls, and women commuting to their workplace in cities have to learn to live with this evil as part of unavoidable problems in the changing role they undergo as women. Eve teasing is a daily experience for them on the roads, bus-stops, public transport, restaurants and other public places, and even within school and college campuses. It hardly makes news unless it results in a death sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, and very often as a suicide.


Graded by the severity of the offence in terms of its impact on the victimized, it stands last in the line, behind rape, molestation and sexual harassment. The National Crime Research Bureau recognizes 11 types of crimes against women, namely, rape, kidnapping and abduction, dowry death, physical and mental torture including wife battering, molestation, sexual harassment, importation of girls, sati, immoral traffic, indecent representation of women, and dowry demand. Most of these are offences under the Indian Penal Code and there are specific laws relating to some of these. However, there is no central legislation against eve teasing. 


Worse common people generally have no knowledge of laws and punishments on even matters they face in everyday life. On problems like crimes against women, they depend on common sense, morality, conventions and traditions, and established normal practices which may or may not coincide with legal position. Such crimes are treated mostly as personal or family matters to be quietly tackled without publicity. Law and police intervene only in instances of cognizable offences. And, this has facilitated the growth of crimes against women.


Eve teasing – a term peculiar to India and its neighbouring countries – Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan -  refers to sexual harassment of women in public places in various forms like verbal remarks, obscene gestures, winking, whistling, staring, physical advances like pinching, fondling, and rubbing against in public places. The very term eve teasing seems to put the woman in the offensive as being the tempter who provokes the offence by her appearance and behaviour. It is not in vogue in western countries. In India too the term is not used in law.


Certain sections of the IPC deal with offences mentioned under eve teasing.  Section 354 prohibits assault or criminal force on woman with the intention of outraging her modesty and prescribes a punishment for violations which may extend to imprisonment for 2 years or fine or both. Section 298(A) and (B) punishes a man found guilty of making a girl or woman target of obscene gestures, remarks, or songs with imprisonment for three months. Showing obscene or pornographic pictures, books, or slips on a girl or woman is an offence punishable with simple or rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs.2,000 for the first offence and 5 years of imprisonment with a fine of Rs.5,000 for subsequent offences under Section 292.  Intrusion into the privacy of a woman with obscene pictures, indecent body language, and insulting comments are punishable under Section 509 of the IPC with simple imprisonment for one year or fine or both.


In 1998, the Government of Tamil Nadu had enacted a law after the death of a college girl subjected to eve teasing outside the college while in the company of her college mates. This Act provides for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment and fine of not less than Rs.50,000 for causing death of a woman by such harassment. Following this incident plain clothed police are posted outside colleges, but eve teasing has not stopped. In 2002, the law was amended to include a punishment of rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and fine of Rs.50,000 in the case of suicide of a woman after harassment.


India is set to be weak on the Law of Torts which provides the principles for obtaining remedy for a victim of a “civil wrong” inflicted by any person, which does not fall under any particular law.  This deprives the victim of quick remedy in the case of sexual insults. It is the duty of every person to respect the civil rights of everyone in society and any breach of that duty is a wrongful act under the Law of Torts. It also violates human rights protected under law.


Thus there prevails a wide gap between legal rights and actual conditions in the Indian society because of the stronghold of many traditional institutions such as caste and patriarchy. The place of women in society is also determined more by conventional notions than legal entitlements. Unless these change, law will be an insufficient instrument of social change. Our effort should be as much on educating the public as on making legislation.


Even foreigners are not spared this irritant in India about which every Indian must feel ashamed. Several ideas are given to fight the menace of eve teasing both by passive and active reaction. The timid and rather conservative sections want to avoid direct confrontation with the culprits and give advice to women and girls in the matter of dress, company, manner of talking, etc. The more bold sections want to teach them the art of self-defence and retaliation.


This apart, a psychological angle is provided to this social problem by those who attribute eve teasing to frustration and depression and to age-related behaviour.. Whatever be the reason, eve teasing is a delinquent act and must be treated as such and punished. The nation should be spared the shock and humiliation.---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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