Special Legislation Need Of Hour To tackle eve-teasing
The growing incidents of eve-teasing are a cause of great concern. It is unfortunate that crime against women is spreading like a deadly virus, which we can ignore at our own great risk. No nation can even survive let alone prosper where women are not safe.
The whole nation was left aghast at the horrendous gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi last year. The victim later died after battling for life in a Singapore hospital.
The eve-teasing has to be combated on a war footing and special legislation needs to be enacted in this regard. It brooks no more delay. Sadly enough, adequate laws have not been enacted so far to tackle this grave menace. To say the least, all our successive governments since 1947 have scarcely paid any attention to tackle eve-teasing. This must end now once and for all!
It is high time the government started taking concrete and firm steps to combat the increasing incidents of eve-teasing all across the country. Those guilty of eve-teasing should cool their heels for at least a few months. The tragedy of tragedy, however, is that India still does not have a special legislation to tackle this evil.
It would be in the fitness of things to point out here that even the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Deputy Inspector General Of Police & Anr. vs. S. Samuthiram minced no words to point out categorically that the menace of eve-teasing needs special legislation. In this landmark case, the apex court said, “Eve-teasing is a euphemism, a conduct which attracts penal action but it is seen, only in one state, a statue has been enacted, that is Tamil Nadu to contain the same, the consequence of which may at times be drastic.” Eve-teasing led to the death of a woman in 1998 in Tamil Nadu which led the government bringing an ordinance, namely, the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Eve-Teasing Ordinance, 1998, which later became an Act, namely the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Eve-Teasing Ordinance, 1998 (for short ‘the Eve-Teasing Act).
The statement of objects and reasons of the eve-teasing Act reads as follows: “Eve-teasing in public places has been a perennial problem. Recently, incidents of eve-teasing leading to serious injuries to, and even death of a woman have come to the notice of the government. The government is of the view that eve-teasing is a menace to society as a whole and has to be eradicated. With this in view, the government decided to prohibit eve-teasing in the state of Tamil Nadu.”
It was also observed by the Supreme Court pointed out, “We notice that there is no uniform law in this country to curb eve-teasing effectively in or within the precinct of educational institutions, places of worship, bus stands, metro stations, railway stations, cinema theatres, parks, beaches, places of festival, public service vehicles or any other similar place. Eve-teasing generally occurs in public places which, with a little effort, can be effectively curbed. Consequences of not curbing such a menace, needless to say, at times disastrous. There are many instances where girls of young age are being harassed, which sometimes may lead to serious psychological problems and even committing suicide. Every citizen in this country has right to live with dignity and honour which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The sexual harassment like eve-teasing amounts to violation of rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 15, as well. We notice in the absence of effective legislation to contain eve-teasing, normally, complaints are registered under Section 294 or Section 509 IPC.”
Here, too, it was observed they don’t prove effective. Even the only one legislation, Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Eve Teasing Act, 1998, has no teeth. The need for proper legislation was emphasised by the Supreme Court and pending legislation, directions were given. This brooks no delay and government must take swift action as emphasised by the apex court now.
It is noteworthy to quote here what the Supreme Court in its judgment in the landmark case of Deputy Inspector General of Police & Anr. Vs. S. Samuthiram reads- The Parliament is currently considering the protection of woman against sexual harassment at workplace Bill, 2010, which is intended to protect female workers in most workplaces. Provisions of that Bill are not sufficient to curb eve-teasing. Before undertaking suitable legislation to curb eve-teasing, it is necessary to take at least some urgent measures so that it can be curtailed to some extent. In public interest, we are therefore, inclined to give the following directions:
- All the state governments and union territories are directed to depute plain-clothed female officers on the precincts of bus stands and stops, railway stations, metro stations, cinema theatres, shopping malls, parks, beaches, public service vehicles, places of worship etc, so as to monitor and supervise incidents of eve-teasing.
- There will be a further direction to the state government and union territories to install CCTV in strategic positions which itself would be a deterrent and if detected, the offender would be caught.
- Persons in charge of the educational institutions, places of worship, cinema theatres, railway stations, bus stands have to take steps as they deem fit to prevent eve-teasing, within their precincts and, on a complaint being made, they must pass on the information to the nearest police station or the Women’s Help Centre.
- Where any incident of eve-teasing is committed in a public service vehicle either by the passengers or the persons in charge of the vehicle, the crew of such vehicle shall, on a complaint made by the aggrieved person, take such vehicle to the nearest police station and give information to the police. Failure to do so should lead to the cancellation of the permit to ply.
- State governments and union territories are directed to establish Women’s Helpline in various cities and towns to curb the menace within three months.
- Suitable boards cautioning such act of eve-teasing be exhibited in all public places, including the precincts of educational institutions, bus stands, railway stations, cinema theatres, parties, beaches, public service vehicles, places of worship etc.
- Responsibility is also on the passers-by and on noticing such incident, they should also report the same to the nearest police station or to Women Helpline.
- The state governments and union territories of India would take adequate and effective measures by issuing suitable instructions to the concerned authorities, including district collectors and district superintendent of police to take effective and proper measures to curb the menace.
Dignity and well being of women is paramount and no compromise under any circumstances can be done on that. It is the bounden duty of government to promptly enact a strict law to curb the menace of eve-teasing with an iron hand.
The government cannot simply wash its hands away from this rapidly multiplying cancerous menace. Under no circumstances, the guilty should be allowed to get off scot-free.
There has to be zero tolerance not only for heinous crimes like rape and gang-rape but also for offences like eve-teasing, for which a special legislation needs to be enacted at the earliest.
By Sanjeev Sirohi