Just the act of being in a public space has become fraught with danger and stress for most women. That female tourists attract a particularly nasty, leering type of attention from Indian men has become painfully apparent, but the latest example is the perverted behaviour of a young man in the presence of Delhi woman. Uttering obscenities and displaying offensive pictures, he delighted in his conduct, even posing for a picture which the indignant victim took.
Just days ago, a pervert misbehaved in front of an American tourist in Mumbai. She too took a picture of the man on her cellphone and made it public. The man was arrested, but is now out on bail. This tendency cuts across all classes. Not so long ago, a woman caught a businessman on camera in an aircraft after he allegedly groped her.
It goes without saying that such perverts are cowards, emboldened by the anonymity of the crowd. If they conduct their activities in a crowded space, they can easily melt away into the masses and no one but the victim will be the wiser.
The use of cellphones to take incriminating pictures, and social media to disseminate them, is likely to play a big role in shaming such perverts, and more importantly, in bringing them to book, vital given our very lax law enforcement. Some like the Delhi man in the weekend’s incident seem to be beyond shaming, though his bravado will likely disappear when the long arm of the law reaches out for him.
The Mumbai case is an example of how the law can act on the evidence on social media, something which could fruitfully be replicated elsewhere.
There is the danger that a woman trying to photograph her molester could be harmed; the public should play its part in trying to protect her. All too often crowds remain passive when such incidents take place in public. The police should encourage people to be proactive and vigilant.
In the case of child molesters, we often learn after the incident that people actually noticed the offender trying to befriend the child. Here again, social media could prove a deterrent. It cannot solve the problem, but it might occasion second thoughts in the minds of offenders, who think they can get away with their actions. As things stand, the victims feel far more embarrassed by their actions than they do.
We can talk all we want about Incredible India, but if tourists cannot move around without being groped, flashed at or worse, their experience of visiting this country is likely to be a nightmare. And we should not rest until our own womenfolk can go about their work unmolested. Perhaps the answer, as in the case of so many of our problems, lies in technology.