A country with rich matriarchal traditions and a strong woman prime minister does not have a uniform and strict law against eve-teasing. Finally, the highest court of the nation had to step in on Nov 30 to issue guidelines on the social menace, which necessarily needs to be tackled in every household and educational institutions.
The immediate provocation for Supreme Court was a case from Tamil Nadu, which incidentally has a tight law, but last month's incidents of death and shooting over eve-teasing should make us do a soul-searching.
On Nov 29, the Aligarh Muslim University suspended three students for their alleged involvement in an eve-teasing incident on campus.
The students allegedly tried to intimidate senior university officials upon being reprimanded and fired shots from a country made pistol.
In Gurgaon on Nov 27, an eve-teasing incident led a group of men to open fire at a college student outside the police post near Sector 10 on Pataudi Road.
On Nov 21 in Nagpur, a youth lost his life in a brawl over an eve-teasing incident at Mhada Colony, Nari Road, in Jaripatka.
In Surat, an eve teasing suspect was beaten to death by locals in Limbayat area of the city.
These are known and documented incidents in a span of a week. However, hundreds of such cases go unreported because of parents or girls themselves chose to ignore them as routine hazardous of Indian society.
But the Supreme Court termed the consequences of eve-teasing as 'disastrous', issued guidelines to curb the menace. The court said, "Eve-teasing today has become a pernicious, horrid and disgusting practice. More and more girls and women go to educational institutions, workplaces, etc, and their protection is of extreme importance to a civilised and cultured society."
A bench of Justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra has directed "all the state governments and Union territories to depute plain-clothes female police officers in the precincts of bus stands, 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."
"The experiences of women and girlchildren in overcrowded buses, metros, trains, etc, are horrendous, and a painful ordeal."
The court said the guidelines were necessary as "we notice that there is no uniform law in this country to curb eve-teasing effectively in or within the precincts 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".
It is a great shame that we produce so much cacophony over television and social gatherings but have not had time to dwell on a uniform law on the issue that affects our mothers, sisters, wives and children.
The court also set a time-bound action and gave three months to establish women's helpline in various cities and towns.
Here are other rules handed down by the judges:
a) There will be a direction to the State governments and the Union Territories to install CCTV in strategic positions which itself would be a deterrent and if detected, the offender could be caught.
b) Persons in charge of educational institutions, places of worship, cinema theatres, railway stations and bus stands have to take steps 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 Women's Help Centre.
c) Where either passengers or persons in-charge of a public service vehicle indulge in eve-teasing, the crew shall, on a complaint made by the aggrieved person, take the vehicle to the nearest police station and give information to the police. Failure to do so should lead to cancellation of the permit to ply.
d) The State governments and Union Territories are directed to establish Women's Helpline in various cities and towns, so as to curb eve-teasing within three months.
e) Suitable boards cautioning against eve-teasing should be exhibited in the precincts of educational institutions, bus stands, railway stations, cinema theatres, parties, beaches, public service vehicles, places of worship, etc.
f) Responsibility is also on passers-by who should report such incidents to the nearest police station or to the Women's Helpline.
g) The State governments and the Union Territories should take effective measures by issuing suitable instructions to authorities including the District Collectors and the Superintendent of Police on effective and proper measures to curb eve-teasing.
Meanwhile, some states can learn from Madhya Pradesh. Its Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has said those indulging in eve-teasing will not get a driving licence, passport and other government facilities.
A database of eve-teasers and those indulging in similar offences would be prepared and appropriate action would be taken against them, he said.
A toll-free telephone number for registering complaints about eve-teasing and misbehaviour would also become operational soon, the Chief Minister said.