Who says eve-teasing is not harassment
A serious crime against women is dismissed lightly by giving it a softer name,
says Shoma A. Chatterji
and sexual harassment both victimise women more than men, as is
evident in South Asian societies like India. The power hierarchy
between the victimiser, mostly a man, and the victim, mostly a
girl or a woman, is almost the same with the former using his
power over the latter within patriarchy. Is it a gender-specific
crime as is generally understood? Is there a difference in the
power hierarchy implied that sustains between the victimiser and
the victim in degree or in kind between the two? Should
punishments in either case differ?
Twentynine-year-old Reuben Fernandez and 24-year-old Keenan Santos were brutally stabbed by four drunken men in Mumbai because they protested against their women friends being insulted by those goons
violates a woman’s basic right to live with dignity. Will
women forever remain targets and victims of eve-teasing? Will
their rescuers continue to be unwilling martyrs to a dead cause?
One needs to explore and analyse why, irrespective of their
dress, their age, their looks, their education or profession,
women are being subjected to harassment from obscene telephone
calls, stalking, and last but not the least — eve-teasing.
These questions are significant against the backdrop of the
killing of two young men in Mumbai last month, who were killed
because they protested against their women friends being
insulted by four drunken men.
Reuben Fernandez and 24-year-old Keenan Santos were brutally
stabbed by these men. These murders have raised the hackles of
citizens on a national scale.
In July this
year, two persons of a family were allegedly killed and two
others injured in a clash for opposing eve-teasing at Harphali
village in Palwal district, Haryana. Layak Ram and his nephew
Naveen were killed while Shashi and Gambeer were critically
injured in a clash, which erupted when Ram accused a
neighbourhood boy of eve-teasing his daughter.
Women are often criticised for ‘inviting’ molesters by wearing ‘seductive’ dresses. This theory, however, collapses since poor village women, who do not dress seductively, are also harassed
In April, 1998,
Elvis Mukherjee of Kolkata, studying for his higher secondary
exams, was murdered because he had protested against a bunch of
eve-teasers. His killers are still at large. On July 6, 2002, in
Sodepur, near Kolkata, eve-teasers chopped off three fingers of
a 55-year-old tea vendor when he protested against some boys,
who always teased girls getting off the train at Sodepur railway
station to go to college.
is just a euphemism for sexual harassment or molestation, where
the woman is bullied by unwelcome remarks, comments, gestures or
other acts that are sexual in nature. It is only when people are
unclear in their minds or scared of the perceived consequences
that they would keep quiet and let the perpetrator continue with
and become a victim of it. Women should stand up in such
situations than subject themselves to physical or psychological
pain," says Dr Sanjay Chugh, practicing psychiatrist, New
Women are often
criticised for ‘inviting’ molesters by way of their ‘seductive’
way of dressing up and make-up. But this theory collapses in the
face of eve-teasing of rustic, illiterate and poor village women
who do not dress seductively. What does ‘seductive’ dressing
mean? Who decides what is ‘seductive’ dressing and what is
not? Women’s rights activist Maitreyee Chatterjee says that
even a burqa cannot guarantee safety. "Section 354
of the Indian Penal Code, which mentions the arrest of a culprit
for attempt to outrage the modesty of a woman, does not have any
condition about the victim’s dress. Any sexual advance that
offends the dignity of women should be considered rape."
Activists are waking up to the seriousness of the problem and are trying to sensitise society Photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui
Anindita Sarbadhikari says that eve-teasing and molestation are
acts of perversion. "It is foolish to think that molesters
get turned on by the victim’s dress. Then why are there so
many rapes in Islamic countries?"
molestation and sexual harassment, eve-teasing is generally
understood in feminist theory to be an expression not of
unbridled lust and desire, but of power.
Bangalore constantly face leers from passers-by, taxi and
rickshaw drivers. In buses, groping is common. Once, when a
woman yelled at the person touching her, she was thrown off the
bus! This fear does not exist only for women, who use public
transport or walk. You can get teased even in your self-driven
car, if you have to stop to change a flat tyre.
filmmaker and Junior Research Fellow at the College of Art and
Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, says, "I believe
there is a very thin line between sexual harassment and
eve-teasing because no matter what men say about eve-teasing
being a ‘little fun’; it is as heinous as sexual harassment,
for it causes mental agony, social humiliation and forces one to
ostracise oneself out of fear.
consultant psychologist, Winthrob Hospital, Guwahati, insists
that eve-teasing and sexual harassment lie along the same
continuum as both victimise girls and women by ridiculing and
humiliation. "Eve-teasing is generally resorted to by a
group of people, who might not know the woman they are
victimising. It may be verbal or non-verbal. But in some cases,
feeling and touching could also happen. Sexual harassment began
at the workplace and later extended beyond the work environment.
It is gender-specific to women in India but not in the western
world. Sexual harassment is more specific and direct. It may be
in the form of words, sending dirty text messages, obscene
pictures, innuendo, suggestive remarks and sometimes, direct
sexual attack. When eve-teasing transcends the verbal and
becomes physical, it goes beyond eve-teasing and becomes sexual
harassment," she says.
suggested by some senior police officers of Bangalore seems to
be quite rational and effective at the same time. "Whipping
them black and blue," they suggest, adding, "Besides
offering the victim instant justice, it would also help the
legal system from getting clogged with cases where most often
than not, the culprit is let off."
policewomen pose as women commuters and pull up men when they
attempt to molest or tease them. But problems may arise if this
action of pretence by the policewomen is seen as entrapment.
Women constables in Kolkata’s Salt Lake area are also
functioning as undercover agents from the Bidhan Nagar (north)
police station by acting as decoys. Three young woman constables
were able to round up a total of 60 offenders within the first
month in April 2007 of their operation. All the offenders, say
the policewomen, were between 18 and 28.
posted at Bidhan Nagar P.S., Kolkata, thinks that laws against
eve-teasing are not stringent. "There is no law that can
bring them to task," he says. "They are penalised with
a meagre fine ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 100 or three days’
imprisonment in lieu of the fine. Until proper and more
stringent punishment is meted out, one cannot stop this,"
protest against violence to their person by men, other women,
social groups or the machineries of the government, they are
The eyes of the man who accosts
a woman with evil intentions will be extracted, wrote Chanakya
in the Arthashastra, while defending the rule of
Chandragupta Maurya. Two hundred years later, the woman is not
spared the evil intentions of men. Their eyes are hardly the
only offending organs of their body used to insult a woman.
a victim should do
The victim/complainant should go to the nearest police
station and file an FIR within the mandatory rules
She should take note that the FIR is written down in the
register and take the registration number or ask for a receipt
of the same
It is then the duty of the police to investigate into the
incident vide the constitutional powers it has at its disposal
It is advisable to consult a lawyer before registering
law on eve-teasing
In the Indian Penal Code, the word ‘eve-teasing’ does
not exist. Eve-teasing is an attitude, a behaviour pattern that
is construed as an insult and an act of humiliation of the
female sex. However, recourse to certain sections of the IPC can
be taken by victims of eve-teasing.
Section 298 (A) and (B) of the Indian Penal Code
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 2,000 with two
years of rigorous imprisonment for first-time offender. In case
of repeated offence, when and if proved, the offender will be
slapped with a fine of Rs 5, 000 with five years’
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 of one-year or a fine