Authors : Chaitanya Chauhan & Rahul Kulhare
Eve teasing is generally used in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh for public sexual harassment or sexually aggressive behaviour toward, women or girls.Eve teasing begins as an attempt to irritate a girl or catch her attention. A lewd stare, a sly whistle, a well-timed clap, an unwarranted bump, a seemingly causal touch, a lingering look at a vulnerable time, the humming of suggestive song, passing downright uncouth comments, cheap gestures, display of indecent snaps or videos, giving “unwelcome call” or “missed call”, sending indecent texts …., all these are typical examples of eve teasing.
Eve-teasing has been a notoriously difficult crime to prove, as perpetrators often devise ingenious ways to attack women, even though many feminist writers term it as “little rapes”, and usually occur in public places, streets, and public transport. Some guidebooks to the region warn female tourists that eve teasing may be avoided by wearing conservative clothing, though eve teasing is reported both by Indian women and by conservatively-dressed foreign women.
Eve teasing is a growing problem in India. According to National Crime Records Bureau, the fastest growing crime in India is violence against women. That explains the magnitude of the situation. Every year, cases pertaining to sexual harassment and violence against women show significant percentage increase. In fact, one just has to look at the newspapers. A thorough look at inside pages dealing with local news will show number of incidents against women. Though, we have grown by leaps and bounds yet the most basic structure of society is showing no signs of improvement. In a patriarchal society, women do not enjoy that kind of status. It is always a battle for independent minded women to prove that they are not promiscuous and amoral.
Eve teasing is rampant throughout India for all young women regardless of race, nationality and colour. At some point, spread of globalisation has also contributed to this shameful fact. Western entertainment portrays women in over the top sexual form and that has proved detrimental in case of Indian women. Eve teasing could take place in any form; right from lecherous glances to perverted touching. Working women and college going girls are always in danger of being eve teased. The normal perception that women instigate males for untoward actions is far from true.
Even if a female files a case against the culprits or raises her voice, she has to prove her modesty. It is she who is always subject to chastity. In a way, equality of men and women is still a fallacy and not a fact. We, as a society we have miles to go before men and women can be treated equally.
Every man needs to be aware of ‘how to treat a woman’. A woman is not just a sexual object. Eve teasing in India has to do with women empowerment and girl education. What’s the point of education if the people are not even willing to respect women? The traditional mindset often blames the eve teasing incidents on women that they provoke male by wearing scanty clothes. That is actually a lame excuse. Even if females wear modern dresses it does not give men licence to harass women. The answer lies in changing the mindset and inculcating morals and values in our education system.
Though the problem received public and media attention in 1960s, it was in the following decades, when more and more women started going out to colleges and work independently, which means they are often no longer accompanied by a male escort as had been a norm in traditional society, that the problem grew to an alarming proportion . Soon the Indian government had to take remedial measures, both judicial and law enforcement, to curb the menace and efforts were made to sensitize the police about the issue, and police started rounding up eve teasers. The deployment of plain-clothed female police officers for the purpose has been particularly effective, other measures seen in various states were setting up of Women’s Helpline in various cities, Women Police stations, and special anti-eve-teasing cells by the police.
Also seen during this period was a marked rise in number women coming forward to report incidence of eve-teasing like cases of sexual harassment due to changing public opinion against eve-teasers. In addition, the severity of eve-teasing incidences grew as well, in some cases leading to acid throwing, which in turn led to states like Tamil Nadu making eve-teasing a non-bailable offense. The number of women’s organization and those working for women’s rights also saw a rise, especially as this period also saw a rise in reports of bride burning. The increase in violent incidents towards women meant previously lackadaisical attitudes towards women’s rights had to be abandoned by law makers. In the coming years, such organizations played a key role in lobbying for the eventual passing of legislation designed to protect women from violent eve-teasing, including ‘The Delhi Prohibition of Eve-teasing Bill 1984’.
The death of a female student, Sarika Shah, in Chennai in 1998, caused by Eve-teasing, brought some tough laws to counter the problem in South India. After this case, there has been about half-a-dozen reports of suicide that have been attributed to pressures caused by eve teasing. In 2007, an eve-teasing resulted in the death of Pearl Gupta, a college student in Delhi. In February 2009, female students from M.S. University (MSU) Vadodara thrashed four young men near the family and community sciences faculty, after they passed lewd comments on a girl student staying in SD Hall hostel.
Many other cases go unreported for fear of reprisals and exposure to public shame. In some cases police let the offenders go, after public humiliation through the murga punishment . In 2008, a Delhi court ordered a 19-year-old youth, after he was caught eve-teasing, to distribute 500 handbills, detailing the consequences of indecent conduct, to youngsters outside schools and colleges.
LEGAL ASPECTS OF EVE TEASING
Indian law recognizes eve teasing as sexual harassment which is considered as a criminal activity.Though Indian law doesn’t use the term ‘eve-teasing’, victims usually take recourse to Section 298 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which sentences a man found guilty of making a girl or woman the target of obscene gestures, remarks, songs or recitation for a maximum tenure of three months. Section 292 of the IPC clearly spells out that showing pornographic or obscene pictures, books or slips to a woman or girl draws a fine of Rs.2000 with two years of rigorous imprisonment for first offenders. In case of repeated offence, when and if proved, the offender will be slapped with a fine of Rs.5000 with five years imprisonment. Under Section 509 of the IPC, obscene gestures, indecent body language and acidic comments directed at any woman or girl carries a penalty of rigorous imprisonment for one year or a fine or both. A Bill on the same subject was earlier introduced and passed by the Rajya Sabha in 1988. While pending before the Lok Sabha, due to dissolution of the Lok Sabha the Bill lapsed.
Proposed Amendments by Government
A proposal for the enactment of the Delhi Prohibition of Eve Teasing Bill, 1992 received from the Ministry of Home Affairs (1992). The proposal referred to the Commission in 1992 contained the Delhi Eve Teasing Bill of 1984 (which has been passed by the Delhi Metropolitan Council for adoption by Parliament.
Fresh recommendation made by National Commission for Women
The short title and the enacting formula have to be suitably amended as the proposed Bill is being brought forward in 1993.
In view of the nature of the offence contemplated in the proposed Bill, the definition of ‘man’ as suggested in clause 2 (b) of the proposed legislation may be omitted.
Clause 3 of the proposed legislation of ‘Eve-teasing’ appears to be only an amalgam of provisions of sections 294 and 509 of the IPC.
The new legislation does not make any improvement but on the contrary appear to have diluted th punishment for the offence (vide clause 4 of the Bill).
General Suggestions and Remarks
The lapsed Bill of 1988 was better drafted than the Delhi Prohibition of Eve Teasing Bill of 1984.Some of the voluntary organizations suggested that the expression ‘Eve Teasing’ should be replaced by a more appropriate expression suitable for the Indian context.
Renascent Judgments over eve teasing
The Delhi High Court upheld on March 6 2010, Friday, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC)’s order terminating the service of a driver and conductor in a 1993 eve-teasing case. Broadening the scope of a writ petition that alleged eve-teasing at the hands of the conductor, the court demanded to know if the Delhi government and DTC had any mechanism to check such incidents.
Justice Kailash Gambhir sought an affidavit on the matter from the government, saying “an overwhelming majority of women in Delhi don’t feel safe”. The HC was hearing an appeal by a conductor, who was suspended for being “hand-in-glove” with some boys who teased female passengers in a DTC bus.
IMPACT OF EVE TEASING ON WOMEN
Eve teasing is a regular occurrence in the lives of Indian women. In fact, the entire Indian sub continental region is afflicted with this malaise. Neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan etc show similar ratios of eve teasing. That indicates a certain kind of wrong mindset of men who harbour no respect for women’s’ dignity. Eve teasing is a traumatic experience for women. It can leave deep psychological scars which can be hard to heal. Eve teasing has resulted into many unfortunate events in the lives of women. Sometimes, it has made parents keeping their daughters at home away from school or even marrying them off at an early age. Paranoid parents concerned about safety and honour of their daughters can literally ruin their future. Ironically, teasing has dangerous consequences for women and not for men as it can deprive them of their freedom, nutrition and education.
Most often than not the incident of eve teasing is blamed on the victims, i.e. women. It is as if males have got license to indulge in any sort of lecherous behaviour and can go away with it. The patriarchal nature of our society has not been able to deal with incidents of eve teasing in right perspective. There have been plenty of instances when women have come out in open sharing their experiences. Different newspapers and websites keep publishing such accounts that reflect feelings of disgust, insult and scared experienced by women. No one can explain the truth of eve teasing and sexual harassment better than the female who has gone through it. Paradoxically, it is women who often blame themselves for having invited harassment. Instead of fighting back, many women tend to believe that it is their fault which caused them such indecent behaviour from lecherous males. It reflects how deeply eve teasing impacts women.
The sufferers of eve teasing feel helplessness, anger and frustration at not being able to do anything about the incident. Incidents of eve teasing can permanently damage the psyche of the victims. It makes them susceptible about everything in life. They find it hard to trust people. They no longer feel inclined to trust their male friends. Sexual harassment or other forms of molestations also impact personal and academic development of women. The experience leaves them bitter and cautious for the rest of their lives.
Eve teasing and sexual harassment are different things and cannot be treated equally. Our laws have to be moiled in such a way that it recognises eve teasing as an individual crime. Separate bill should be passed to curb this menace. Punishment and fine related to the topic should be increased to maximum. People should be trained to tackle this problem and should start reporting this as a crime in order to develop it as a serious issue. More awareness programs should be conducted in order to curb this menace. Individuals should be awair of the consequence of the offence and act accordingly positively. Police men should take care of this problem and take it as other crime and start registering cases against this offence.