Though eve- teasing and molestation are offence in India, women face these often while travelling in public transport, walking on the street and at work places.
Woefully, women ignore such offences to avoid the harassment of going to police or court of law and endure a mental agony. Eve-teasing is an act of perversion that includes actions like touching, rubbing, groping, staring, pinching, slapping a woman or showing her private parts or pornographic material, which intrude upon her privacy.
Although eve-teasing has not been defined as an offence in any law in India, similar behaviour is punishable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the legal remedy available to the victim is lodging a complaint with the police or magistrate. Section 298 (A) and (B) of Indian Penal Code prescribes upto three months imprisonment for making obscene gestures or remarks to a woman.
For showing pornographic or obscene pictures, books or slips to a woman, Section 292 of the IPC prescribes upto two years imprisonment. The same punishment, with or without a fine, is meted out under Section is 354 (IPC) to those who use force or assault a woman to outrage her modesty.
If the complaint of making obscene gestures, indecent body language and lewd comments concerning a woman or exhibiting any such object, which intrudes upon the woman’s privacy is proved, Section 509 of the IPC prescribes punishment upto one year imprisonment or fine.
However, these offences are bailable. More often than not, the offender easily gets away with a bail immediately on his arrest, which protects him from suffering in jail custody. The high prevalence of these offences point out that legislature should look into these provisions of law afresh and make them non-bailable to prevent their occurrence.
But experts also feel that if this happens, women may misuse the law to falsely implicate anyone. The need of the hour is thus to raise awareness about the existing law at least, if not modifying it. Most of these acts cases go unreported at present, as victims are not aware if these are offences.
Psychologists are of the opinion that the men indulge in these acts as they are either sexually repressed or believe that they are more powerful — physically and emotionally than women. Law and police should take the offence seriously to protect the modesty of women.
The author is a Calcutta High Court advocate