HomeLaw NotesLaw and WomenMenace of Eve Teasing: The Problem and the Solution

Menace of Eve Teasing: The Problem and the Solution

Incident I

was in the Metro two or three stations away from getting down. It was a very crowded metro. Suddenly I noticed a guy touching me. I could see the guilt in his eyes but he did not budge. I did not say anything assuming that he would make an excuse of an overcrowded metro. My stop was not next, I went and stood in front of him my back facing his face. I stood on his feet digging my heels in his toes. I stood there till my stop. This time he did not react except doing tch tch now and then. Ultimately he moved away.

Incident II

I took my dog for a walk at around 6:30 in the morning. I was wearing a night shirt and capris. There was a guy on a bike who suddenly stopped and asked for directions. His English seemed perfect and looked like he belonged to a well off family. I started telling him and suddenly looked down. He was groping himself. His pant’s zip was opened and he was touching himself. I had a dog and a huge stick in my hands. I could not react. I was too shocked. I just gave him whatever directions I could remember.  And as I was walking away he farted, loud enough to alert my dog. I still kept walking. He still did not leave the colony and kept zooming there. I could not muster the courage to take my dog for a walk for another week.

Incident III

I was walking on the road when a car suddenly deviated from its path and came really close and then went back to its path. Its windows were darkened and it was 8 at night. It might have been an accident or maybe not. But it scared me for that split second when I thought I will be pushed into the car screaming and protesting and the passerby’s will continue doing what they were doing.

What is eve teasing?

Eve teasing as we know it is an action of perversion like touching, rubbing, groping, staring, pinching, slapping, display of private parts and even pornographic material. Many other acts can be added to this compendium. Eve teasing is a crime committed against women everyday but the criminals are not punished and they continue violating a women’s privacy assuming they have a right to do so. It is an offence every woman faces in her life and not just once and ignores the offence and accepts it as a price she has to pay for being a woman.  Since not much importance is accorded to the offence and the offenders are not punished it encourages them to continue their behaviour and even escalate it too more heinous offences like assault and rape as they know they can get away with it.

The origin of the word eve teasing does not lie in British or American English. It is a euphemism used in the Indian subcontinent to refer to the problem of street sexual harassment. Eve was supposed to be the first woman from whom all women descended. According to the term Eve or the woman is being teased. But it is alleged that the term is a joke on the crime as Eve who is being teased was a temptress who wants to be teased. Such euphemisms should be discarded and a befitting term like street sexual harassment should be used as it does not trivialize the impact of the crime.  Our society has matured to accept the usage of sexual harassment in lieu of pretentious terms.

Attitude of society towards eve teasing:

Society’s attitude towards this particular violence against women has been dismal. The skewed perception is discernable through this definition available at urban dictionary.com (one of many) – Many females wear tight Shalwar Qameez so as to entice Eve-Teasing, which they enjoy a lot, considering it a compliment for their good looks and fancy dress. Others enjoy the caresses they receive from their male admirers. According to most of the people women invite eve teasers as their clothes tempt them. Hence they enjoy the vile reactions they receive. In other words THEY ASK FOR IT. Such an attitude curbs the woman’s freedom to wear clothes of her choice as it may provoke the reaction of men. Hence, it is acceptable for a man to have no control over his animalistic desires but a woman should always be veiled to save herself from such nefarious actions. But in reality clothes are not a factor behind eve teasing and neither, as assumed, in rape. They are just an excuse to exonerate man and blame the woman.

Our culture accepts this behavior of men by setting norms like boys will be boys thus giving a carte blanche to males to vent their sexual frustration by violating a woman’s privacy as this is the kind of behavior expected of them. The fact that it leaves an atrocious emotional and mental impact is not considered as women are still seen for just sexual interest.  This is also visible through the actions of passersby to eve teasing. Nobody reacts, nobody comes to help and it encourages the eve teaser to continue in his contemptuous pursuits. Thus eve teasing is not seen as a crime but a part of a girl’s daily life. Whether it is the bus, metro, or market there is some touching or rubbing.  And the remedies provided are to ignore, to wear loose clothes, to not stare back, to avoid going to crowded places and many others which just translate to DON’T REACT as it may provoke retaliation. Such solutions again reinforce the notion that eve teasing is normal and no action will be taken against the person indulging in the act. A man will not be punished for his behaviour and if women want to save themselves they have to guard themselves. This attitude is depicted in the Delhi Police Chief’s idea of avoiding rapes by not travelling alone at night. Again it is like saying men won’t be punished, if you want to be safe stop behaving like a 21st century person or take responsibility for being a victim.

Also not many cases of eve teasing are filed, most women just ignore the offenders to avoid retaliation. Not many are aware of the law that exists against eve teasing. It is mainly perceived as a minor offence and many give the argument that it is not as serious as rape therefore it does not require serious punishment. We do not realize in our fear and ignorance that we are setting grounds for much heinous crimes by letting the offender get away with eve teasing.

Our media does not represent eve teasing in bad light but a way for attracting a girl’s attention and impressing her eventually. Inspired from films eve teasers tease women in pursuit of impressing her eventually.  But the reality is entirely different as eve teasing humiliates the girl and traumatizes her. Nobody can be happy by doing something against their will.

The LAW on eve teasing-

Under Indian Penal Code the term eve teasing is not used. There are three sections under which action can be taken against eve teasers. Section 294 punishes any obscene act or recital of any obscene songs or ballad or words in a public place with a punishment of three months or fine or both.

Section 509 (Indian Penal Code) punishes anyone who, to intrude upon the privacy of a woman or with an intent to outrage her modesty utters any word, makes any sound or gesture or exhibits an object with an imprisonment for one year or fine or both. It is a cognizable as well as a bailable offence. A question can be raised as to what constitutes an obscene act. For example in the case of Ram Das v State of West Bengal  the court decided that removing one’s pants before sleeping is not obscene as anyone would do the same to be comfortable. The facts of the case were that a man removed his pants (he was wearing underpants) in a train in front of two women and their male partners which resulted in a fight between them during which he pushed one of the women. Another question is why should the act be restricted to a public space? If it is committed in a private place under which section will the offender be punished?

Another section is 354 (IPC) according to which anyone who uses forces or assaults a woman to outrage her modesty will be punished with 2 years of imprisonment or fine or both.

In addition to these laws The Delhi Prohibition of Eve Teasing Act 1984 and Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Eve teasing 1988 was introduced but many argued that the existing laws were sufficient to deal with the offence provided both the people and the authorities are aware as well as use the provisions.

Often eve teasing and sexual harassment at workplace are assumed to be the same. This doubt arises due to lack of definition of the term eve teasing and its easy use to describe incidents of sexual harassment. Hence, there is a need to discard the term eve teasing and adopt the term street sexual harassment.

Another issue is the kind of punishments meted out to offenders. The law provides 2 years of imprisonment or fine or both. But is this enough? Will such punishment be able to change the attitude of the offender or will it just arouse feelings of revenge. In an innovative effort a Delhi court made one such offender distribute handbills raising awareness on eve teasing.

In another instance the police gave the offender the punishment of sitting like a murga (cock).

As different as these punishments might be and even humiliating these just show how trivially the offence has been treated by our enforcement agencies and justice delivery system. An eve teaser is usually just admonished by the police or given a light beating but only rarely is a case filed against them. Such attitude renders the law empty and futile.

What should be done to curb the menace of eve teasing?

Awareness is of paramount importance as regards the issue of eve teasing. Most of the people are not aware that eve teasing is an offence and legal action can be taken against eve teasers. This arises out of the fact that eve teasing has been normalized in our society. It has become a part of the routine of a girl’s life that it is not given a second thought. Nobody reacts, neither the victim nor the witnesses. How many of us have sought a legal solution to eve teasing knowing that one is available. We have accepted the culturally approved concept that boys will be boys. Reports are filed when the situation reaches a dangerous level otherwise such acts are dismissed as inconsequential. Recourse to law is not taken as it results in court-kacheri ke chakkar. But we do not realize that if we nip the problem in the bud the problem will not escalate to heinous crimes.

Also our attitude towards the women who face eve teasing has to change. Instead of blaming them we should take action against the offenders. Most of the offenders don’t see that their acts are offences capable of leaving trauma. Generally it has been seen that men don’t feel guilty about treating women as sexual objects as due to such aggression only they can be seen as real men. Such predisposition towards eve teasing has to be changed. The projection of women as sex objects even in 21st century where women have started working and holding influential positions has not undergone any change. They are still perceived by many as a thing to be used. But the question is how to bring about a change of such magnitude where attitudes ingrained for such an offensive period can be altered. The answer may lie in spreading awareness about women being as human as men, providing them with the same liberties and restrictions as men in their homes so that the brothers can see that they are equal to them and not mere sexual objects.

Another matter of importance is the punishment provided to the offender should not be minor but should have the impact of deterring him and others to commit such an offence again. A punishment of two years that is provided is sufficient if prison doctors are provided which help in reshaping their picture of women in the mind of the offender. Mere admonishing or thrashing of offenders won’t solve the problem. A stringent and effective action has to be taken.

The solution to eve teasing lies in reaction. As scary as the prospect of retaliation maybe it is always vital to react. It discourages the eve teaser. He is given the impression that his act will bring consequences for him. The next time he ventures to repeat such an act he will remember that it can backfire. So TAKE ACTION!!!

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