28.4.05

REPORT STREET HARASSMENT : TAKING LEGAL ACTION




video sourced from here

Eve teasing maybe perceived as a 'joke or a prank', but it is also recognized as a criminal offence. Aarti Mundkur, Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore, answers our questions on what one can do towards taking legal action when 'eve teased'.

1. All about FIRs and procedure to lodge one.

An FIR (FIRST INFORMATION REPORT) is the complaint that a person lodges at a police station, reporting the incident that is alleged to have occurred. It is the first information that the police receive regarding the commission of a Cognizable Offence, hence First Information Report.

An FIR can only be lodged at a police station. At every police station there is an officer designated as an SHO (Station House Officer) whose job it is to lodge FIRs. Usually, FIRs are lodged at the police station in whose jurisdiction (geographical area that comes under the purview of that police station) the offence has occurred.

It is preferable to lodge the FIR in the jurisdictional police station. If that is not possible, you will have state why, and the police will forward the the FIR to the concerned police station for investigation.

An FIR may be given in writing or orally. Your complaint in writing is reduced to the basic facts and put into a standard format of the FIR. You are entitled to read it make changes etc and also get a copy for yourself FREE OF COST. If you orally lodge a complaint, which the police officer writes down, please read it and make sure that it is accurate.

You have the right to lodge an FIR, irrespective of the circumstances that surround the particular incident. Clothes you are wearing or being out late cannot be reasons given to you for not lodging an FIR. In the event that the officer does not lodge your FIR, you can ask the Inspector of the police station to do so. If that fails, get in touch with the Circle Inspector. Finally, the office of the Commissioner of Police can also lodge an FIR and forward it to the concerned police station. So, in the event that the SHO refuses to lodge your FIR you can work your your way up the hierarchy, and ensure that it is.
It is not necessary that you should name the person you are accusing. It is very common to not know who the person is. If possible try and get a name or a good description. An FIR can be lodged against anyone, including public servants.

Procedure to lodge an FIR.

An FIR should have the following details-
1) a detailed description of the incident- date, time, place included.
2) If you know the accused- then his name and address. If not, as close a description as possible.
3) You must also put down exactly what happened. E.g. If you were felt up- how and where.

2. Do I have to report the incident only to another male officer?
there are all women's police stations that one can complain at. There is one close to the Corporation (Ph: 22290228/ 222 16242) However it is not mandatory for all police stations to have women officers.

3. How long does the whole procedure take? What am I getting involved in by lodging an FIR or reporting the 'eve teaser'?
Lodging of an FIR does not take very long, maybe a few hours, at the most. By lodging one, you are putting the criminal justice mechanism into motion That is, you are asking the police to begin investigating the incident that you have reported. It is then the job of the police to investigate, arrest, take down statements etc. You may be called by the police to identify the person/s they have arrested. The police then have to file what is called a chargesheet and then the case goes to trial before a judge, where you will be the primary witness, along with others, if there are any. It is difficult to say exactly how long this whole process takes. But one can safely say that it will be at least a few months- 4 or more, for the case to actually go to trail before a judge.


4. I think I was eve teased. This guy just looked at me in a way that made me feel sick. How can I take any action against it? I don't even know who he is. What constitutes as sexual harassment in the streets? What according to the law can be seen as 'eve teasing' or street sexual harassment? Is it looking, staring, and groping, stalking? What can police do to the perpetrator/ eve teaser? How is he punishable?

Section 354 of the IPC- requires that there be assault or criminal force used intending to outrage the modesty of a woman or knowing that it will outrage her modesty. A person found guilty can be imprisoned for a maximum period of 2 years, or with a fine, or both. So, under this section a 'look' may not be enough to constitute an offence. For more details look at Section 96 of the Karnataka Police Act.

Section 509 of the IPC is broader in its purview. It includes words, gestures, sounds or exhibition of objects with a view to insult the modesty of a woman. It also includes the words “intrudes upon the privacy of a woman”. The offence is punishable with a maximum imprisonment for one year, or a fine, or both.

In the case of both these provisions, it is difficult to say what exactly constitutes an offence. Courts have held that whistling, passing comments about a woman's body, singing songs etc, come under S.509. In any case, a 'look' that makes you uncomfortable may be very difficult to establish as an act that outrages your modesty.

Groping and stalking are definitely acts that come under the purview of both sections.
What is important is that neither section uses the explicit words eve teasing or sexual harassment. Although the latter is what the sections are trying to address. The focus is on the modesty of the woman.




6. Which police person can I complain to? Can I complain to the traffic police?
If you intend to initiate a criminal case you must lodge an FIR at the police station. The traffic police can assist you in reaching the police station or if they have witnessed the incident can be made witness. Sometimes it may be enough to create a scene by getting the traffic police involved and causing embarrassment to the man.

7. If I report him, how do I protect myself after that?
Its unlikely that you will need any kind of protection. Once he is arrested, he will have to get bail before he gets out of jail. You can ask the police for protection, if there are threats etc that are made. Bail may even be canceled if there are threats etc being made to the complainant.

13 comments:

  1. This is great!!
    The first question hasn't been answered though... can it be in another station? I'm assuming not.

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  2. Dear BNP

    It is a humiliating experience to go to a police station in Mumbai. Try telling a policeman (or woman) that you were 'teased'. As far as they are concerned if no 'harm' was done, they want to know what the problem is!!!

    Not to discourage anyone from going to the police, but the truth is you're likely to be discouraged from filing a FIR because of the paperwork involved and dragging out of cases. The lack of empathy is palpable across the board - irrespective whether it is a male or a female police officer taking your statement. They have bigger things to worry about.

    Personally, I'd rather take the law into my own hands and beat up the offender. I wish it would have been otherwise.

    May the BNP make the difference so I can someday, feel comfortable walking into a police station and not be judged by the fact that I wear trousers or speak English - therefore I might have 'asked for it'.

    Thanks guys, for the info and keep the good work going. It's making a big difference.

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  3. hi.. im new to this site.. and i think u guys r doin a fantastic job..by the way..i had a bad experience a few days back.. and i was so taken back that i didnt know how to react or rather..what was the appropriate thing to do..i was travellin by the bus two days back and this guy sittin next to asks me which perfume im wearin?i thought i didnt hear him right..anyway.. i told him it was none of ur business.. and then.. he just started takin as if ti himself.. "it smells good.. u smell good.. u smell hot.." and just kept goin..i felt so sick..finally i told him to shutup or i will call the conductor..but that didnt really have any effect on him..
    could someone please tell me what i could have done ?i felt like slappin him.. but thought that might b a little too much..

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  4. Anonymous7:28 pm

    I hope you don't mind my perspective. I was not eve teased while visiting your country, but have been sexually harassed and even assaulted in several others, including Germany, Egypt, and my home, the U.S.A.

    It is my opinion that even if the police are indifferent or unsympathetic when you file a report, it is necessary that they receive a constant stream of reports from victims so they will be forced to take this seriously.

    Our complaints have resulted in a public campaign against this behavior on our subway system here in Boston. The idea is to encourage more women to report these incidents, and to warn the perpetrators that police are watching for them.

    Poster on subway and article about the campaign:
    http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=158x13903

    Groper arrested after bus driver stops him:
    http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/news_events/?id=16593&month=&year=

    Another perpetrator's photo circulated:
    http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/12/07/girl_photographs_alleged_t_molester/

    I hope you find this encouraging, and keep pressing the police and public officials to respect women by taking this issue seriously.

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  5. I completely agree. They dont take this seriously as not many cases are reported. People themselves dont take it seriously. We have to make ourself be heard, we cannot let the system discouraged us. If ten of us raise a voice today, it will certainly make things better for the eleventh person tomorrow!

    Even by just making a scene and yelling at an eve-teaser will certainly make him or the others watching to think twwice before doing something like that next. Many other spectators may start supporting the victims after witnessing a couple of such incidences. Also girls may be encouraged to raise their voice knowing that they are not alone.

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  6. Anonymous11:50 pm

    Another way of eve teasing happening in Bangalore is
    Shadowing the girl or fixing cameras in her living place to capture everything she does.Normally none will be aware of it also even though they are being focused in their daily activity. Group of Guys are involved in this - they work in corporates (IT Companies) and these type of cameras aren't visible to find where they have been fixed inside your room.They are tiny black objects fixed on anything at home. Later in night the light will be focused on your windows from outside using some latest technical instrument which will capture your poster during your deep sleep. Mainly girls living alone and in area like madiwala please be aware of it.

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  7. Anonymous11:29 pm

    I am a school going girl of class eleventh.Few days ago a young labour boy squezed my boobs while I was climbing up the stairs,he hurriedly did this ran down the stairs and took shelter in a pitch dark desolate place.I could not understand what actually happened I thought he accidently banged against me.By the time I could realize;it was too late I ran to my class to avoid the worse.I could not see his face rather I was too scared to do so.I feel so bad of my inability to take any action against that boy.
    I have a regular coaching there but I am too frightened to go to that place please tell me what should I do in the future if such thing happens?

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  8. blank noise girl11:41 pm

    hi anon. sorry to hear about it. by all means i think you should definitely go to that place over and over again and confront the situation if you feel ready to. today is was a 'labour' boy, tomorrow it could be someone at your workplace, that does not mean you will stop going to work? you should not change your life around this, but instead address it.

    i understand you feel fear but it's important to remember that it was NOT your fault. did you tell anyone in the apartment building? could you take a photo of the place and email it to us at blanknoise at gmail dot com.

    you might find this relevant:
    http://flickr.com/photos/blanknoisethisplace

    there are ways of looking at this, but the question is- what would you like to do? would you like to identify this person? talk to this person? get this person arrested? what is your response?

    let's keep talking and figure out strategies for that place. it would be important i think to let the guy KNOW he cannot get away with it, and that you won;t be quiet about it. how is the question.
    one way is by informing people in the building- and the coaching class

    2. by creating a sign/ a notice in that place referring to the incident and that boy. you could also publish the law- section 354 ipc.

    let;s talk.
    bn girl

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  9. Who has the time to file FIR for just eve-teasing? And now days the way girls are wearing clothes, eve-teasing is inevitable - btw is there any law for filing FIR for wearing indecent clothes? I think the root cause should be tackled first :)

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  10. shame on gagrin4:00 pm

    gagrin. you don't deserve a response unless you read the entire blog. it should answer all your questions about girls and clothes and men and attitudes. shame.

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  11. Gagrin kinda people have tarnish the image of other men.

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  12. Great job...
    This should be shared on social media to create more awareness.

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  13. Anonymous3:11 am

    It was around 1:35 a.m today, I was talking on the phone and sitting on the steps when i saw a man walk by in the road below. I didn't pay any attention to him, i just absentmindedly watched him walk by. And then a moment later he turned back, took a few steps, and stopped walking. Then i realized that he was looking at me and jerking himself off. I shouted at my brother, who was inside, to come out quickly and ran down after him. He quickly ran away and disappeared in the corner. My brother and i ran after him till the end of the lane and had to come back. After that, we went inside and my brother went to sleep. I was browsing through the internet in the hall when at around 2:00 a.m i saw a hand and what looked like a penis entering through the open window. I shouted at my brother to come out and ran out after the intruder. I saw him climbing quickly towards our terrace and ran after him. When i reached the terrace, i saw him on the terrace of the third building from ours. I threw a newspaper roll at him, which i have managed to pick from our neighbors balcony on the way.
    I tried calling up the police station, but the number was not working. By then my grandmother has woken up too. I did not tell her about the real incident as she will get very scared.
    I did not see his face clearly, he is around 5.6 or 5.7 in height, medium build, dark skinned and has short hair. He was wearing blue shorts and a black or dark colored t-shirt.
    I am going to speak with my landlord in the morning and file an FIR in the nearest police station too. I just hope the police will be able to catch him through finger prints, as i am sure he has left some behind in his haste to get away.
    I am still a little shaken as i type this incident. I hope i get the right help from the police in the morning.

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