The video of a college going girl in Odisha’s Jajpur district beating a man, who sexually harassed her, has gone viral on social media.
In the grainy video shot on a mobile phone, a girl is seen repeatedly slapping the man as her scooterette lies on the road. She throws several kicks at him while continuing to slap him. The man is then seen apologising profusely while promising not to repeat the ‘act’ in future.
The girl and her friends were reportedly being stalked and harassed by two motorcycle-borne men while they were returning from college.
This is not the first time that an incident of women beating up men, who allegedly molested or sexually assaulted them, has surfaced in Odisha in the recent past.
Earlier this month, another video of a 23-year-old woman beating and heckling her alleged harassers in Cuttack’s busy Badambadi area surfaced. The woman, who is from coastal Bhadrak area, reacted after she was harassed by two bike-borne men while she was buying fruits from a vendor in the evening on January 7.
The two men were taken aback when she started abusing and beating one of them with her hand and shoes. The police arrived late and could only arrest one of them.
On January 6, a group of girls were stalked and attacked by a group of men while returning from Bhubaneswar’s Nandankanan zoo. The girls shot the video of their alleged harassers despite the danger of physical threat. After the video went viral and an outrage over police inaction ensued, 5 men were arrested from the area.
In August last year, a video of a man doing sit-ups inside the Utkal University campus went viral.
Binod Kumar Sahu, a 50-year-old tutor, reportedly passed lewd comments at a girl student of the university as she was on her way to the hostel in the evening. The girl called up her friends who thrashed Sahu with a bamboo stick and made him apologise. She even shared the incident on her Facebook page.
Again in October last year, a group of Karate-trained girls in Bhubaneswar beat up five men for allegedly passing lewd remarks and trying to molest them during Dussehra celebrations.
The fightback by the girls in Odisha, where cases of molestation and sexual harassment are quite common, is a new phenomenon. According to the National Crime Record Bureau, 2,251 rape cases were reported in 2015 in Odisha compared to 1,978 in 2014.
Last week, a minor girl from Kalahandi died after she was set on fire by her uncle and another man for protesting sexual harassment. In August last year, two men had beaten the parents of a girl to death for protesting their lewd comments and lodging a complaint with the police in Ganjam district.
Sex crimes are common across India but women usually do not report assaults for fear of the associated social stigma.
As part of efforts to tighten legislation following the fatal gangrape of a 23-year-old student in a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012, the refusal to register complaints of certain crimes against women was made a punishable offence in 2013.
In April last year, the Union telecommunications ministry said all mobile phones sold in India from January 2017 must have a panic button to enable the user to call for help. From January 2018, all mobile phones must also have a built-in global positioning system (GPS) to make the user safer.
Women’s rights activists say the girls’ fightback is a welcome development but cautioned it would hardly deter men from harassing women.
“How long would the girls stay silent? The girls who fought back have shown they would not take thing lying down. But not many girls get support from their parents and near and dear. Everything that girls do is closely scrutinised while the cops do a shoddy job of bringing the perpetrators to book,” women activist Tapasi Praharaj.