Eve Teasing and Violence Against Women
Eve teasing is a euphemism used in India and sometimes Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal for public sexual harassment or molestation of women by men, with use of the word “Eve” being a reference to the biblical Eve, the first woman. It implies that the woman is in some way responsible for the behaviour of the perpetrators of this act. Considered a problem related to delinquency in youth, it is a form of sexual aggression that ranges in severity from sexually suggestive remarks, brushing in public places and catcalls to outright groping.
Sometimes it is referred to with a coy suggestion of innocent fun, making it appear innocuous with no resulting liability on the part of the perpetrator. Some voluntary organisations have suggested that the expression be replaced by a more appropriate term. According to them, considering the semantic roots of the term in Indian English, Eve teasing refers to the temptress nature of Eve, placing responsibility on the woman as a tease.
Sexual harassment by strangers, as with any type of harassment, has been a notoriously difficult crime to prove, as perpetrators often devise ingenious ways to harass women, even though eve teasing usually occurs in public places, streets, and public transport. Some feminist writers claim that this behaviour is a kind of “little rape”. Some guidebooks to the region warn female tourists to avoid attracting the attention of these kinds of men by wearing conservative clothing.
However, this harassment is reported both by Indian women and by conservatively dressed foreign women. Contents History The problem first received public and media attention in 1960s. In the following decades, more and more women started pursuing college and working independently, meaning that they were often no longer accompanied by a male escort as had been a norm in traditional society. In response, the problem grew to alarming proportions, despite this not being the case in other cultures where women go and come as they please.
Soon the Indian government had to take remedial measures, both judicial and law enforcement, to curb the practice and efforts were made to sensitize the police about the issue, and police started rounding up eve teasers. The deployment of plain-clothed female police officers for the purpose has been particularly effective, other measures seen in various states were setting up of Women’s Helpline in various cities, Women Police stations, and special cells by the police.
Also seen during this period was a marked rise in number women coming forward to report cases of sexual harassment due to changing public opinion against this practice. In addition, the severity of these incidences grew as well, in some cases leading to acid throwing, which in turn led to states like Tamil Nadu making it a non bailable offense. The number of women’s organization and those working for women’s rights also saw a rise, especially as this period also saw a rise in reports of bride burning.
The increase in violent incidents towards women meant previously lackadaisical attitudes towards women’s rights had to be revised and supported by law. In the coming years, such organizations played a key role in lobbying for the passing of legislation designed to protect women from aggressive behaviour from strangers, including ‘The Delhi Prohibition of Eve-teasing Bill 1984’. The death of a female student, Sarika Shah, in Chennai in 1998, brought some tough laws to counter the problem in South India.
After this case, there has been about half-a-dozen reports of suicide that have been attributed to pressures caused by this behaviour. In February 2009, female students from M. S. University (MSU) Vadodara assaulted four young men near the family and community sciences faculty, after they passed lewd comments on a girl student staying in SD Hall hostel. Many other cases go unreported for fear of reprisals and exposure to public shame. In some cases police let the offenders go, after public humiliation through the murga punishment.
In 2008, a Delhi court ordered a 19 year old youth, after he was caught making lewd remarks to passing females, to distribute 500 handbills, detailing the consequences of indecent conduct, to youngsters outside schools and colleges. Depiction in popular culture Some depictions in Indian cinema shows mild teasing as a part of flirtatious beginnings of a courtship, along with the usual accompaniment of song and dance routines, which invariably results in the heroine submitting to the hero’s advances towards the end of the song, and young men tend to emulate he example, depicted so flawlessly on screen and which gave rise to the Roadside Romeo which even made it a film version in Roadside Romeo (2007) (Starring Saif Ali Khan). It also has been popularly depicted that when a girl is teased in this way, the hero will come and beat the guy up, such as in the Telugu films Madhumasam and Magadheera and also the Hindi film Wanted. Nowadays, this issue is also featured in Indian television soaps. Legal redress
Though Indian law doesn’t use the term ‘Eve Teasing’, victims usually seek recourse through Section 298 (A) and (B) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which sentences a man found guilty of making a girl or woman the target of obscene gestures, remarks, songs or recitation to a maximum jail sentence of three months. Section 292 of the IPC clearly spells out that showing pornographic or obscene pictures, books or slips to a woman or girl draws a fine of Rs. 2000 with two years of imprisonment of either description for first offenders. In the case of a repeated offence, the offender may have a fine of Rs. 000 with five years imprisonment imposed. Under Section 509 of the IPC, obscene gestures, indecent body language and acidic comments directed at any woman or girl or exhibits any such object or intrudes upon the privacy of woman carries a penalty of simple imprisonment for one year or a fine or both. The ‘National Commission for Women’ (NCW) also proposed No 9. Eve Teasing (New Legislation) 1988. The Indian Parliament is currently considering The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010, which would add protections for female workers in most workplaces.
It was passed by the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) on 3 September 2012. As of September 2012, it has not been passed by the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament). Public response The Blank Noise Project‘s intervention on Majestic bus stand, against Eve Teasing. ‘Fearless Karnataka’ or ‘Nirbhaya Karnataka’ is a coalition of many individuals and groups including ‘Alternative Law Forum’, ‘Blank Noise’, ‘Maraa’, ‘Samvada’ and ‘Vimochana’.
After rise of eve teasing cases in 2000s, it organized several public awareness campaigns, including ‘Take Back the Night’, followed by another public art project titled, The Blank Noise Project, starting in Bangalore in 2003. A similar program to fight eve-teasing was also hosted in Mumbai in 2008. In Delhi, one of India’s most dangerous cities for women, the Department of Women and Child Development established a steering committee in 2009 to prepare the city for the Commonwealth Games to be held in 2010.
In Mumbai, Ladies Special trains have been introduced to allow women working and studying in the city to travel without the fear of being sexually harassed, for the length of the journey at least. Given that the number of women needing to travel has doubled since 1995, there is a very strong demand for these kinds of services. Today “Ladies Special” Compartments are present in all local trains of the big cities. In other trains, ladies are advised to travel in AC Coaches as these would be free of the economically poor and socially backward men.