Do not consider ‘eve teasing’ as trivial. It is actually sexual harassment. Along with the law, we need a mindset change around this issue.
We Indians…or rather Asians have a problem of trivializing important issues and giving undue importance to smaller issues. So, a unique cricketing shot by Dhoni becomes the ‘helicopter shot’ and the nation starts talking about it while serious issues like sexual harassment of women come to be spoken of as eve teasing or street teasing!
When you say ‘eve teasing’, what comes to your mind? Many would say that women being looked at (ogled at), being subject to whistles and remarks, being pushed or touched (groped?)…all these come under eve teasing. As women living in India, one tends to accept that ‘it comes with the territory’.
The fathers and brothers of the house will warn you about it (and maybe forbid you from going out alone/after dark), and the mothers and sisters of the house will tell you a technique or two to deal with it. Nothing more than that! Why is it that it is so easy to sexually harass a woman and get away with it?
Are we women truly aware of the laws that are anti ‘eve teasing’? Most forms of harassment are punishable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Offenders can get up to 3 months of imprisonment under Sections 298 (A) and (B) of the IPC for any obscene acts against a woman, including verbal or implied. Showing any pornographic images or text to a woman invites 2 years imprisonment under Section 292 of the IPC. Section 354 of the IPC metes out the same punishment if any force is used against a woman to outrage her modesty.
Further, if any lewd behavior against a woman is proved, section 509 of the IPC dishes out an year’s imprisonment or a fine.
From the looks of it, a significant number of laws exist to dissuade obscene behavior against women. But as you can see, there is hardly any uniformity in those laws with overlaps and varying degrees of punishment (or leeway).
Most importantly, all of these offences are bailable, which means these modern day ‘Duhshasans’ get to skip imprisonment by producing bail. And then comes the task of “proving” the crime, which is another task altogether.
It’s time we realized that current measures are not enough. Women are not safe, and the law doesn’t really measure up. First of all, I believe that the law needs to make these offences non-bailable. And that will just be the start of the journey.
And as we take that journey, we need a shift in our thoughts as well. It is time to retire the term ‘eve teasing’ as the seemingly harmless term hides a major concern called sexual harassment.
Unless we tell it like it is, who is going to bother listening to us? Not every Draupadi has a Lord Krishna after all!