Eve Teasing: A perennial problem in today’s society

Eve Teasing: A perennial problem in today’s society

Author: Vishnu S Warrier

Eve teasing in public places has become a perennial problem in today’s society. Recently there have been incidents of Eve teasing leading to serious injuries to, and even death of women. Eve teasing generally occurs in public places which, with a little effort, can be effectively curbed. Consequences of not curbing such a menace, needless to say, at times become disastrous.

There are many instances where girls of young age are being harassed in the public places, which sometimes leading to serious psychological problems and even committing suicide. Every citizen in our country has right to live with dignity and honour which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Sexual harassment like eve- teasing of women amounts to violation of rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15 as well.

The Indian Journal of Criminology and Criminalistics (January-June 1995 Edn.) has categorized eve teasing into five heads like; (a) Verbal eve teasing; (b) Physical eve teasing; (c) Psychological harassment; (d) Sexual harassment; and Harassment through some objects.

There is no uniform law in our country to curb Eve teasing effectively in or within the precinct of educational institutions, places of worship, bus stands, metro-stations, railway stations, cinema theatres, parks, beaches, and places of festival, public service vehicles or any other similar place. Normally, complaints on Eve teasing are registered under Section 254 or Section 509 of IPC.

Section 294 is read as follows: “Whoever, to the annoyance of others- (a) does any obscene act in any public place, or (b) sings, recites or utters any obscene song; ballad or words, in or near any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both“.

Section 509 is read as follows: “Whoever intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending, that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine or with both“.

The burden is on the prosecution to prove that the accused had uttered the words or made the sound or gesture and that such word, sound or gesture was intended by the accused to be heard or seen by some woman. Normally, it is difficult to establish this and, seldom, woman files complaints and often the wrong doers are left unpunished even if complaint is filed since there is no effective mechanism to monitor and follow up such acts.

However, Eve teasing is a conduct which attracts penal action but it is seen, only in one State, a Statute has been enacted, that is State of Tamil Nadu to contain the same, the consequence of which may at times drastic. The necessity of a proper legislation to curb Eve teasing is of extreme importance; even the Tamil Nadu Legislation has no teeth.

Latest Development: The Parliament is currently considering the Protection of Woman against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010, which is intended to protect female workers in most workplaces. Honourable Supreme Court is of the opinion that, Provisions of that Bill are not sufficient to curb Eve teasing. Before undertaking suitable legislation to curb Eve teasing, it is necessary to take at least some urgent measures so that it can be curtailed to some extent.

While hearing, The Deputy Inspector General of Police & ANR. Vs. S. Samuthiram a bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra, of Honourable Supreme Court in public interest, gave following directions to curb Eve teasing:

  • All the State Governments and Union Territories are directed to depute plain clothed female police officers in the precincts of bus-stands and stops, railway stations, metro stations, cinema theatres, shopping malls, parks, beaches, public service vehicles, places of worship etc. so as to monitor and supervise incidents of Eve teasing.
  • There will be a further direction to the State Government and Union Territories to install CCTV in strategic positions which itself would be a deterrent and if detected, the offender could be caught.
  • Persons in-charge of the educational institutions, places of worship, cinema theatres, railway stations, bus-stands have to take steps as they deem fit to prevent Eve teasing, within their precincts and, on a complaint being made, they must pass on the information to the nearest police station or the Women’s Help Centre.
  • Where any incident of Eve teasing is committed in a public service vehicle either by the passengers or the persons in charge of the vehicle, the crew of such vehicle shall, on a complaint made by the aggrieved person, take such vehicle to the nearest police station and give information to the police. Failure to do so should lead to cancellation of the permit to ply.
  • State Governments and Union Territories are directed to establish Women’ Helpline in various cities and towns, so as to curb Eve teasing within three months.
  • Suitable boards cautioning such act of Eve teasing be exhibited in all public places including precincts of educational institutions, bus stands, railway stations, cinema theatres, parties, beaches, public service vehicles, places of worship etc.
  • Responsibility is also on the passers-by and on noticing such incident; they should also report the same to the nearest police station or to Women Helpline to save the victims from such crimes.
  • The State Governments and Union Territories of India would take adequate and effective measures by issuing suitable instructions to the concerned authorities including the District Collectors and the District Superintendent of Police so as to take effective and proper measures to curb such incidents of Eve teasing.

Eve teasing is not a new social issue. It is in existence from age old days. Almost every girl/women is a victim of eve teasing at least once in their life. Generally people neglect this on the ground that, it is quite common among youth. However, if it crosses the limits it will surely leads to serious social issues. Eve teasing is nothing but a serious offence against the honour, dignity and self-respect of a woman. Henceforth, let’s assume that the Government/Appropriate Authority will implement the Guidelines issued by the Apex Court in its strict sense. Also let’s hope that public won’t misuse/misinterpret these guidelines.

Still one Question remains; who is responsible for Eve Teasing: Boys or Girls?

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