HYDERABAD: “It is simply not okay to touch me without my permission, and It’s downright infuriating that I have to fight for that basic right over my own body every single day,” Aditi Gautam (name changed), a student of city college posted on her Facebook recently. While posting this, she might not have realized that she was giving words to the anger of lakhs of women and girls in the city, who otherwise have to turn an ignorant eye when eve-teased in public places, crowded buses, theatres, shopping malls, etc.
The police might have created 100 SHE teams to stop the menace of eve teasing, yet authorities lack a holistic approach towards ending the ordeal of women travelling in public buses who are groped, touched inappropriately or pinched by men but have to feign ignorance owing to the stigma attached it.
Pinched in a bus
When Ankita Deshpade (name changed), a content writer with a firm at Lakdikapul, was squeezed around her waist by a middle-aged man while travelling in a crowded bus on her way to work, she lost the man in the crowd before she could catch hold of him or raise an alarm. Feeling shamed and defeated, Ankita continued her journey.
What’s been proposed
Having to guard their backs every time they step out of their homes, what options does a women passenger have when she encounters unwelcome advances or sexual overtures from a pervert in a running bus?
If our authorities – police, traffic and transport –are to be believed, the SHE teams are equipped to deal with such cases, The teams, comprising policewomen and policemen with secret video cameras, will be stationed at public places like bus stops, colleges, crowded junctions, etc, on the look out for men harassing women, says Hyderabad police commissioner (law and order) M Mahender Reddy. “If the offender stalks the victim and boards the bus along with her, our men will do the same. After getting sufficient evidence, the person will be nabbed,” says Reddy.
He also adds that if any man stalks or pesters a woman in moving bus, their best bet is to dail 100. “The identity of the caller will be kept confidential and only information like the bus number and it’s route, etc., will be asked for. The bus will be intercepted at the next stop,” the Commissioner informs.
Echoing his statement is joint transport commissioner (JTC) T Raghunath who urges women to confide in the conductor or bus driver – who will divert the vehicle to the nearby police station – if any untoward incident takes place. “It is the bus driver and the conductor who must come to the initial rescue of the victim, they should pacify the passengers and at the same time be able to nab the offender and hand him over to the police if anything happens in a moving bus,” the JTC says.
Meanwhile, Jitender, additional commisioner of police (traffic) while saying that the matter is a law and order issue, promises to offer cooperation as well.
Don’t humiliate us
So, does this inspire a sense of security among women? Probably, Not. “In our society where women are told that they should dress up in certain way to prevent men from misbehaving with them, how can I trust that police will take action against the pervert who has violated my body. Safety in India for women is an utopian concept and by making noise we will be the only ones who will be humiliated,” says Ayesha Khan, a student.
Women in the city are also apprehensive about the police’s claim of keeping victim’s identity confidential. “The minute I tell the conductor the man is misbehaving, I will be sized up. It is probable that co-passengers will intervene and will tell the stalker to apologise. And, that will be the end of it. There will be no punishment,” says a skeptical Preeti Shah, an IT employee.
The apprehensions of the fairer sex is not unfound. Even though stalking and voyeurism were made a criminal offence under Nirbhaya Act last year, the plight of women hasn’t improved. In fact, a mechanism that will enable smooth functioning of the SHE teams – coordination among the police and RTA--continues to be a faraway dream. “The teams have been formed but we are yet to propose a legislation that will define roles and responsibilities of all associated with safety of women in public places including running buses,” admits the commissioner.