Updated: Aug 20, 2022
“I am not free while any women is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own” - AUDRA LORDE
On May 2014 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his first speech addressed the issue of protecting girl children and women from violence he also demanded every politician must work together to protect the female power of our country ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party have taken many measure to control the harassments of women in every state of India but the impact the measures created are very different from the reality. Street harassment is the most ubiquitous and insidious form of violence against women it is happening at an alarming rate, street harassment is defined as unnecessary remarks, gestures, unwanted whistling, passing sexist comments, actions that are forced on people in a public place without their consent, Catcalling, leering, sexual names, demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, grouping, sexual assault and rape. Street harassments constitutes a serious encroachment of basic rights of women, the nature, magnitude and forms of harassment may vary but the very crux of the problem remains the same. In India different challenges across varying degrees for different identities of women basically violence of women justified and perpetuated through patriarchy. It justifies sexual assault on the street. In South Asia eve teasing whereas teasing is not a harassment that which boys do for fun. In global scale street sexual harassment is viewed as a non issue. Eve teasing often escalates into full on stalking in India and only about a quarter of the cases lodged end in conviction 80% of the accused are out on the bail before their crime is documented. Currently there is not a law in India that deals with the phenomenon of eve teasing directly instead victims have to register their complaints under the nebulous section 294 of the IPC which out-laws obscene acts or words in public or section 509 which punishes people who make an action or say something against the “modesty of a woman”. Neither is enforced effectively in India.
The ideology of current political party advances in terms of regulating the street harassment with strict politicized police force i.e it mobilizes an institution with the police force later the party can easily control it. Politicians and Affiliated Organization allow to identify individual instance of harassment and oversee punishments. BJPs idea of reducing the violence against women is a welcome measure provided none of the other political parties have not taken this bold measure but there is a mishap in executing these measures. The party while focusing on women’s rights on the street it undercut the women’s right at home. Government repeatedly attacked section 498A of IPC which provides criminal sanctions against domestic violence arguing that women misuse 498A, the Ministry of Home affairs has proposed making the law negotiable out of court and increasing fines for “false” complaints. Women now a days face significant barriers when claiming the rights against domestic violence and require multiple forms of organization help to make any kind of progress. The proposed amendments make this already difficult legal landscape even more inhospitable by affirming a fictitious discourse of women’s mendacity encouraging extra judicial settlements and raising financial stakes of registered complaints. Politicians and affiliated Voluntary Organizations have engaged in sexual violence against Muslim women and girls in several communal riots. This includes the 1992 Babri Masjid riots, the 2002 Gujarat riots that took place when Modi was the Chief Minister of the state and the 2013 riots in Muzzafarnagar where 50 Muslim Women were gang raped by Hindu men. Much of this violence occurred on the street the very space the government ostensibly seeks to regulate it. The political rivals target subordinate social groups Muslim and working class men, and engaging in moral policing targeting homosexuality and extra marital, inter caste and inter faith sexual relations between men and women. By drawing attention to street harassment while ignoring workplace and undercutting women’s right against domestic violence creates an imbalanced attention to certain forms of violence over others demands an explanation.
Increase in sexual harassment cases being reported is a trend India has witnessed for a number of years. The NCRB data highlights that sexual harassment is a risk in all facets of life eg in shelter homes, in the workplace, in the home and on the public transport. The NCRB data highlighted the plight of women in shelter homes. Uttar Pradesh reports more sexual harassment cases in shelter homes than any other state. The maximum number of cases of sexual harassment in shelter homes go unreported because it is operated by political party workers. The public often approach the government to introduce an Standard Operating Procedure but delay in action spice up the crime rates in the city. Police appointments, postings and promotions are controlled by state governments and by default the political parties that run them. Politicians and affiliated member organizations use the police to exercise discretion defining which acts constitute harassment and how harassment is regulated. The UP police forces collaboration with all men Hindu nationalist paramilitary-organizations widespread reports of extra-legal punishment is telling in this regard as are reports of policing squads engaging in moral policing cleansing the public sphere of homosexuality and restricting sexual activity between men and women of different social groups. Sexual harassment is not just a series of isolated or impulsive acts but is backed by widespread sexism, body politics and inadequate resource allocation towards women safety. Street harassment disproportionately affects women throughout their lives. It is part of a larger epidemic of violence posing a significant threat to women’s autonomy. Harassment is magnified when we belittle it, stigmatize it or choose to ignore it where we are not just survivors but also agents of social change.