Molestation is a form of a sexual crime and is considered as one of the serious issues. This term has nowhere been defined in the Indian Law. As defined literally, it means that there is a sexual force upon somebody without any consent. This victim can be a child, an adult, irrespective of an age. It can include- forcefully having a sexual contact, showing pornography to any person without any comments, passing sexual verbal comments or any such kind of a behaviour where there is no approval or consent. It has a very wide meaning and cannot be given a comprehensive definition. Though the Indian Law does not define ‘molestation’ but it still has provisions to protect a women’s dignity. Sections 294, 354, 355 and 509 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 provide for outraging someone’s modesty.
Shelters for women and girls, which typically house victims of domestic abuse or sex trafficking, along with those who have run away from home or been kicked out by their families, are notoriously overcrowded, squalid and often dangerous. But the case involving the shelter in the north Indian state of Bihar, which paid the compensation, was particularly striking because of the number of victims. Over a period of years, 34 of them were raped by shelter employees and officials of the state welfare department, according to the police. At least one was as young as 10; the oldest was 19.
A number of rape cases in India in the past few months have put a spotlight on the issue of gender-based attacks in the country. Experts say deep-seated patriarchy has created a “second-class” status for women in India. Rape is a non-bailable offense in the Indian penal code. But people do get bail because of a lack of evidence in many cases. The accused are often sheltered by police, or politicians. The rape problem in India is not just a legal issue, as one cannot ignore its social aspect. There is a patriarchal society in India, which gives more importance to men. Women are usually considered second-class citizens
Sexual violence is rife in India with nearly 110 rapes reported every day but activists say that figure is the tip of the iceberg as most cases go unreported.
Earlier, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has acknowledged that India is known as the “rape capital of the world.” According to National Crime Records Bureau, more than 28,000 cases of rape were reported across India in 2020. NCRB data from September 2021 also showed that more than 370,000 cases of crimes against women were reported in the country in the previous year.
Experts believe the real figures are much higher as many women do not report such cases due to fear or shame or both. The bitter truth is that many Indians do not consider women to be human. A New Delhi-based criminal psychologist and advocate Anuja Trehan Kapur said, “Rape is a non-bailable offense in Indian penal code, but people do get bail because of a lack of evidence in many cases. The accused are often sheltered by police, or politicians, or even lawyers”. From time to time U.K, U.S, France, and Swiss governments issued advisories for their nationals travelling to India/ living in India advising women—in particular—to exercise caution.
Likewise, there are many instances of rape cases against foreign women as well in India. In 2022, a British woman was allegedly raped near the Arambol beach in Goa in front of her male partner by a local man under the pretext of giving her a massage. On 2 December 2022, a 37-year-old Russian tourist at a hotel in Calangute (Goa) was raped by two room boys (Indians) while keeping the victim under the influence of alcohol. In July 2018, a Russian woman (tourist) was also gang-raped in Tiruvannamalai town, Tamil Nadu state
There is not stop to these incidents. Government authorities have failed to protect women in India as they are victim of the extremist society and elements within that. In January 2017, a twenty-five-year-old American tourist was assaulted and raped by five men in a five-star hotel of New Delhi. In Feb 2015, a Japanese woman was raped by Indian tourist guide in Jaipur. She was drugged/ raped. 20-year-old victim was offered to show her around Jaipur – famous for its grand palaces and forts on his motorbike before assaulting her in outskirts of “Pink City” in the evening.
Safety of woman has to be a minimum priority of everyone be it Government or any individual. It is evident that Government has taken various steps and made legislations and provisions in law so as to protect a woman’s dignity and modesty. But the question arises as to why there are crimes committed almost every day.
The writer is Mphil scholar and government officer in Punjab