Before the law on rape was amended, stalking was not taken seriously, but that is changing
It took the country’s conscience by storm…somewhat like the Nirbhaya gang rape case of 2012, though not so virulently. The lady had been stalked for two weeks, at least, in East Bengaluru. Then one night, two men on a scooter chased her, came too close for her comfort. She stepped aside, knowing not what to do. The two beasts got down.
One of the two pounced on her. She tried to fight back, and he pushed her towards the other man. All around, passersby were watching this but no one came to rescue her. They molested her and threw her to the ground. The entire incident was revealed in a CCTV video recorded near a house in Kammanahalli in East Bangaluru.
The portrayal of women chased and harassed by spiteful jilted men in Indian films have made stalking a spiffy, romantic thing to do. Being piqued by a stalker, as movies from different parts of India show, ultimately leads to the woman succumbing to him, like in the Shahrukh Khan-Juhi Chawla starrer ‘Darr’. The film portrayed the stalker as a psychologically disturbed person who wins over the gal’s sympathy!
It is indeed highly disturbing that such incidents, reported or unreported, goes on in every nook and corner of the country. Such crimes have been spiralling since a long time. And in the country’s rape capital, Delhi, there were as many as 889 cases in 2015. Despite the formulation of stringent laws, there are 9,083 trial cases reported and 4,600 cases pending. Intriguingly, 146 cases have been withdrawn. Of all the cases on stalking, 84.2 per cent are pending in various courts across the country.
Stalking wasn’t considered a serious crime in India until the law was amended in 2013, a few months into the tumultuous wake of the Nirbhaya gang rape case, in which the young medical student was abducted in a bus and left mortally wounded by a group of men. Before this legal intervention, most Indians seemed to consider stalking as a form of flirting and that perception infelicitously still exists.
Stalking has always been considered in India as just another form of harmless persuasion in the mien of the Great Indian Romance.
In fact, when the anti-rape bill was discussed in the Lok Sabha, quite a few lawmakers expressed their disapproval at the proposal of making stalking a punishable offense.
Karuna 22 was stabbed to death by her stalker in North Delhi but her family had settled for a compromise with the stalker’s family. Similar is the case of Laxmi who was stabbed in Delhi’s Inderpuri. Laxmi’s family had also approached the police with a complaint against her stalker, but the matter was settled when stalker’s family gave the police a written statement that he would not trouble Laxmi. Stalking, an offence under Section 354 D of the India Penal Code is a bailable offence. Senior Delhi Police officers say stalking is more of a social than a law and order issue.
There can be a number of reasons why someone stalks women, from unemployment to lack of purpose in life, to plain obsession or the sheer kick of victimising the more privileged, says a prominent psychiatrist. There is an increase in intolerance, with many ‘culture-radicals’ insisting that women invite stalking by the way they dress. Impatience and lack of empathy for the others’ rights to exercise their choice of companions
Actor Shilpa Shukla thinks poor upbringing also leads to deviation, where two-minutes-noodles and instant coffee-like instant gratification at any cost seems the way out. “We need a more ethics-based society to solve this crisis. Young kids need to be taught to respect women,” she says.
In most cases, the motive could be revenge or the inability to accept the truth of rejection, or a mental turbulence that’s occurring at the time of the attack. Social activist Ranjana Kumari finds much-touted male chauvinism as a major factor. “Men are not ready to take ‘no’ for ‘no.’ They must learn to deal with new age woman.”
Their craze to share everything online makes fanatic netizens more vulnerable to stalking. With Facebook and Twitter, people happily reveal their locations. Applications like Four Square share one’s moving locations.
Latika Singh (name changed), a PR professional, had to give up all her social networking after she was repeatedly tortured on Facebook by an unknown man. “He posted lewd comments on my Facebook wall and wrote vulgar messages. He also wrote his fantasies below my picture and it was mighty embarrassing. When I checked my account after a while, I was aghast to see all that,” she says.
Instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, BBM, Viber, Line, WeChat have become prominent instruments to harass strangers. We do not follow security protocol and allow everybody easy access through apps.
There is a clear need of social and legal awareness. Generally, a girl hesitates in sharing her personal life with the family. Thanks to the recent amendments in the law, today we have some legal options against stalking, which often ends up in rape. After the amendments, Section 354 D defines stalking as any man who follows a woman and tends to contact such a woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly, despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman.
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