Law on Eve-Teasing in India

Eve-teasing is passing of objectionable or adverse remarks to a woman in a public place like street, market, malls, public transportation, etc. The term ‘Eve-Teasing’ has not been defined in the Indian law. The term ‘eve teasing’ has some demerits. Eve represents temptress and the term actually signifies that eves (women) tempt or provoke males for vulgar comments and behaviors. Ironically, that also means women cause the problem and are also a victim to it. But that is almost like blaming the victims for their sufferings. It also depicts an element of male chauvinism.

The term ‘eve-teasing’ refers to sexual assault or sexual harassment of women, verbally or by making vulgar gestures. Eve-teasing in simple words means harassment of a woman by making vulgar gestures, sexual remarks, winking, whistling, staring, touching her inappropriately, groping, etc.

As per the guidelines given by the Supreme Court in the case of Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan dt. 13-8-1997, sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behavior (whether directly or by implication) as:

  1. physical contact and advances;
  2. a demand or request for sexual favours;
  3. sexually colored remarks;
  4. showing pornography;
  5. any other unwelcome physical verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Law on Eve-teasing in India

Prior to 2013 the law on sexual harassment was not so wide and clear. Earlier the sections dealing with sexual harassment were 294 (Obscene acts and songs), 354 (Outraging the modesty) and 509 (Insulting the modesty) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. But after the passing of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the offences of Sexual harassment (354-A, IPC), Disrobing (354-B, IPC), Voyeurism (354-C, IPC) and Stalking (354-D, IPC) were added, thus expanding the meaning of the sexual harassment.

  1. Obscene acts and songs

Section 294 intends to promote public decency and morality.

Section 294 of the IPC punishes a person if he annoys by:

  1. Doing any obscene act: or
  2. Singing, reciting or uttering any obscene song, ballad or words

Punishment – Maximum 3 months or fine or both

Bailable Offence

  1. Outraging the modesty of a woman

According to Oxford English Dictionary (3rd Edn.) modesty is the quality of being modest and in relation to woman means “womanly propriety of behavior; scrupulous chastity of thought, speech and conduct”.

Section 354 of the IPC punishes a person if he assaults or uses criminal force with the intention of outraging the modesty of a woman.

Punishment – Minimum 1 year but which may extend to 5 years plus fine

Non-Bailable Offence

The expression ‘woman’ in section 354 includes woman of all age including a child. In the case of State of Punjab v. Major Singh dt. 28-4-1966, it was held by the Supreme Court that the essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex. Even a female of tender age from her very birth possesses the modesty which is the attribute of her sex.

  1. Insulting the modesty of a woman

Section 509 of the IPC punishes a person if he:

  1. utters any word
  2. makes any sound or gesture, or
  3. exhibits any object

With the intention 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.

Punishment – Maximum 3 years and fine

Bailable Offence

The object of section 509 is to protect the modesty and chastity of a woman. Any song, picture, or figure exhibiting lewd suggestions are considered as immoral and insulting women’s modesty.

  1. Sexual Harassment

Section 354-A of the IPC punishes a person if he commits any of the acts:

  1. physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or
  2. demand or request for sexual favours; or
  3. showing pornography against the will of a woman; or
  4. making sexually coloured remarks

Punishment – Maximum 3 years or fine or both [For sexually coloured remarks – 1 year or fine or both]

Bailable Offence

  1. Disrobing

Disrobing is humiliating a woman publicly by stripping her or making her nude.

Section 354-B of the IPC punishes a person if he assaults or uses criminal force on a woman with the intention of –

  1. Disrobing, or
  2. Compelling her to be naked

Punishment – Minimum 3 years but which may extend to 7 years plus fine

Non-Bailable Offence

  1. Voyeurism

Voyeurism is the practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other actions usually considered to be of a private nature.

Section 354-C of the IPC punishes a man if he –

  1. Watches, or
  2. Captures the image of a woman, or
  3. Disseminates such images

Engaged in a private act or in the circumstances where she expects that no one is observing her.

However, if the victim consents to the capturing of the image or the act but not to the dissemination to third persons but still if the person disseminates those images then also he will be liable for the offence of voyeurism.

Punishment – Minimum 1 year but which may extend to 3 years plus fine [Subsequent conviction – Minimum 3 years but which may extend to 7 years plus fine]

Bailable Offence [Subsequent offence – Non-bailable]

  1. Stalking

Stalking is following or contacting the victim in person or monitoring her by electronic means despite indication of disinterest shown by her.

Section 354-D of the IPC punishes a man if he follows or contacts a woman despite clear indication of disinterest by such woman.

  1. Physically – Physically following or contacting or attempting to contact woman to foster personal interaction
  2. Electronically – Monitoring the use by a woman of the internet, e-mail or any other form of electronic communication

However, a person will not be liable for the offence of stalking if he proves that:

  1. It was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime
  2. It was pursued under any law or to comply with any condition or requirement
  3. There was reasonable or justified conduct

Punishment – Maximum 3 years plus fine [Subsequent conviction – Maximum 5 years plus fine]

Bailable Offence [Subsequent offence – Non-bailable]

What a victim should do?

The victim/complainant should immediately go to the nearest police station or the nearest women’s police station, or at the public grievance cell at the Commissioner of Police’s office and file a FIR. She should note that the FIR is written down in the register and take the registration number or ask for a receipt of the same. If there are further inquiries, being a woman, it is victim’s right to request the police to come at her home and collect the information. It is advisable to consult a lawyer before registering the F.I.R.

At the time of incident she can call on 100 (Police) or 1091 (Women helpline number)

Society and the Parents role in curbing eve-teasing

The eve-teasers belong to the society only. Whenever a girl faces eve-teasing she must raise a hue and cry immediately. Public reaction and condemnation scares the wits out of the eve-teaser. The public must help the victim and nab the eve-teaser rather than remaining a mute spectator. The people and the police must make sure that the deeds of the eve-teaser are known to his parents. This will make him feel guilty and the sense of shame will ensure that they never resort to such a thing again. Parents should talk with their daughters and ask them to be bold when faced by such an incident and they should also advise their sons to not ever indulge in such cheap acts. Obviously, family values influence one’s character and deeds.

Eve teasing is a form of sexual harassment indulged in by men, never mind their intelligence or their education. Eve teasing violates a woman’s basic right to live in dignity. Men need to change their attitude towards the woman. It is a complex problem and it requires more attention that what it has actually got.


Author: Law Leader

Legal Insight Is Human Right

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