Eve Teasing: A Crime in India

One such manifestation of a form of violence against women is the crime of eve-teasing, which is usually treated as low priority crime though it is a very serious issue causing immense mental torture and humiliation to women and girls when they are insulted and sexually harassed especially on roads and public transport. Most of these cases go unreported due to various reasons. It violates a women’s basic right to live with dignity. It is a form of sexual aggression that ranges in severity from sexually suggestive remarks to inadvertent brushing in public places. Women are subjected to this social evil irrespective of their caste, race or creed their dressing, age, looks, education, professional and marital status, though they are ironically criticized for inviting molesters by the way they dress.

“Eve-teasing” is an attitude, a mindset , a set of behavior that is construed as an insult and an act of humiliation of the female sex. Though the Indian Penal Code does not define the word eve-teasing, there are three sections which deal with crime of eve-teasing. These are Sections 509, 294 and 354.

Section 509- Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman- whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Section 294- Obscene acts and songs Whoever , to the annoyance of others-
a) Does any obsecene act in any public place, or
b) Sings, recites or utters any obscenes song, balled or words, in or near any public place,
shall be punished with imprisionment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, with fine , or with both.

Section 354- Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty-
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine or with both.

These sections make gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman or acts intrude upon her privacy a, crime, but it is very difficult to exploit these provisions to deal with various expressions of sexual harassment. The provisions under these sections and the procedural laws are complex and the type of proof that is required make it very difficult to get the culprit punished.

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