Courage And A Cellphone : The Weapons Of The Modern Indian Woman Against Abuse?

Courage And A Cellphone : The Weapons Of The Modern Indian Woman Against Abuse?

(A trending story today talks about a shameful incident on 24th March 2015 where two men onboard the Delhi-Guwahati-Imphal Indigo flight (6E 221) were caught filming an air-hostess. A co-passenger protested this behaviour to which they remained defiant. When the plane stopped for refueling, the duo escaped the airplane while the authorities are still searching for them. Luckily their images were captured here.) 

Onboard @IndiGo6E 221 now, these morons were clicking pics of the Air Hostess when she was bending to fix things 1/n
— Angellica Aribam (@AngellicAribam) March 24, 2015

The incident reminded us of yet another incident in January which signals the power mobile phone use gives to Indian Women against daily abuse and harassment.
“Boys will be boys” was the pitch of a senior national leader when the question of the tough anti-rape law being passed by the Parliament in 2013, was raised. The statement was part of a larger narrative in a speech which said that men and women get close and then, post certain differences, women claim rape as vengeance. The statement was also an accurate representation of the patriarchal Indian mind-set which often levels blame on victims/survivors of sexual crime rather than the male accused. Thankfully, this is changing.
A viral video from an IndiGo flight to Bhubhaneshwar on 27th January, shows a 60 year old man trying to hide his face as a woman accuses him of molesting her during the flight. As per her Facebook post, the man shown in the video tried to touch her through the seat gaps. She was too shocked to react at first but after the plane landed, she got up to see the man trying make another attempt to touch her. The video shows her yelling at him in front of the passengers as he attempts to hide his face and tenders continuous apologies. A second video shows the man, an entrepreneur from Bhubhaneshwar, smiling and offering to write a written apology for touching her.

What is more shocking is that when questioned whether he has a daughter and how he would feel if such an incident occurred with her, the man brazenly retorts that if someone were to write a written apology, he would forgive them. A police complaint was filed by the 32-year-old woman against the man who was arrested but let off with a notice. He will have to appear before the court when a hearing is scheduled for the case. The video evidence shows the man repeatedly confessing to touching her and never denies the charges levied against him.
While the Facebook post of the woman thanked the police and the IndiGo staff for their support, the user also stated that she took the video and grabbed the attention of her fellow passengers only because she knew that the law would do nothing. Such is the grave disbelief of the Indian woman in the justice system.

The incidents of sexual harassment, molestation and assault, often dubbed down in a mild manner as “eve teasing”, are a daily ordeal for most Indian women, who are forced to suffer them in silence. The perpetrators of such crimes are further emboldened to repeat their crimes or even threaten victims, such as the Shakti Mills Gangrape where the accused took photos of the survivor and threatened to release them if she went to the police. Now however, the same mobile camera is being used to call out the lechers and the guilty. However wide the chasm between the two incidents are, the truth is - they both stem from the same shockingly regressive value system, not to mention an increased audacity in perpetrators thanks to shoddy law enforcement and the cultural belief that women would be far too ashamed at the ‘loss of their honour’ to do anything about it. It’s time we took shame out of the equation, the power out of perpertrators’ hands and use the very tools they thought they could volley to implement their own despicable acts, against them. A little quid pro quo is exactly what this plague demands.

[Note to readers—it’s important you know that the rhetoric of the law is on your side, even if its implementation often works against us.]

The Criminal Amendment Act,2013 has made Sexual Harassment under section 354A as part of the Indian Penal Code where it entails rigorous imprisonment of five years or a fine. The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace Act, 2013 further empowers women to combat Sexual Harassment at the workplace hence, if need be, you have every right to file a complaint with the police in a situation where harassment such as this occurs.

Words: Devang Pathak  

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