In Focus 2nd December, 2014

Was it a Crime?.

Sexual harassment, euphemistically called ‘eve teasing,’ is a major problem in India. We hear news of a women being harassed at work places, on public transport, in public places and even in their homes. Social media has being an active news feeder of such heinous crimes.

A college friend of mine had her own experience with sexual harassment. In school, she used to go to school and come back home by rickshaw. A bunch of young boys would follow her back and forth daily. This went on for weeks. She was so scared that she tried to change her route but even that didn’t deter them. She didn’t want to involve her parents as she was afraid it would cost her freedom to go school. One day after putting up with her stalkers for about a month she decided to take a stand. She told the policemen sitting at chauraha about the boys following her. This was all it took for those boys to run from the place. After that day the gang stopped following her and she freely finished her schooling without fear of being harassed.

This was one such story among the many which we hear daily. We get ourselves angry for a moment or two and then go on with our life as we think that just following a girl is “not a big deal”. But, as a law student, I would like to tell you that stalking is a crime under Section 354 (c) of Indian Penal Code with a punishment of 3 years at most.

One of the newest acts brought up by the Legislature is “The Sexual Harassment of women at workplace, (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal), Act 2013.” But the question of the hour is – are women of our country aware about their rights and liberties? The answer to the question would be “No”, and this is the major reason behind increasing cases of sexual harassment. My friend knew she was being followed but she didn’t react for a month. This was only because she didn’t know the law. What if she had known her rights? what if she had filed a complaint or just sent an FIR through post? The situation would have been definitely different.

The bottom line is – none of need to be afraid of taking action. We all have our rights, and we all have the ability to interrupt the violence that we face or that those around us face. We just need to act.

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