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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 20, May 13, 2023

Proud to be the daughters of this nation but how safe are we . . . | Girija K S

Saturday 13 May 2023


by Girija K S *

Two recent incidents of sexual harassment have haunted me and made the conscious section of society think about where are we heading, and what message are we going to give to the future generation.....

The first pertains to the realm of sports and the second that of Kalakshetra, Chennai - a place where the rich cultural tradition (i.e. a place where music, Bharathanatyam) is taught. Both these have come to the forefront for the wrong reasons and people who are accused have occupied the highest positions in both cases more powerful, influential, and misogynistic.

For the first time in the country, the sporting community has come out in the open protesting against the alleged sexual harassment by the president of the Wrestling Federation of India, and also an elected representative Mr Brij Bhushan. Women wrestlers Saakshi Malik, Vineet Phogat, and others, who themselves are not only the proud daughters of this nation but have won medals in the commonwealth games, began their protest this January which was short-lived and withdrew after they were assured that a committee would be formed. Mary Kom, a renowned boxing champion headed the committee and submitted the report. However, no action was taken. In this case, a minor wrestler has been subjected to sexual assault which triggered the protest. So they decided to start their dharna again and this time more support came after they went to the media. Sania Mirza, Neeraj Chopra, Brindra, and Veerendra Sehwag were among those who raised their voice and stood by their fraternity. Police were forced to register two FIRs after this.

However, the Indian Olympic Association chairperson, a renowned athlete whom the entire nation adored has passed a silly comment by saying that the nation’s pride is lost due to the protests. Ms. P T Usha should have understood that the country’s pride is lost not in seeking justice but by doing wrong and forcing her own brethren to come out in the streets demanding action. Where does the pride lie... Is it in seeking justice or hiding the truth by protecting the perpetrators? The fingers have always been pointed toward women when such incidents occur. Can we rest assured that no girl will be subjected to such acts? How many girls/women refrain from reporting incidents of harassment just so that they and their family members are not branded?

In the second incident, a clean chit again was given to the trust members on whom allegations of sexual assault were reported. This has continued for years but in vain. A renowned classical singer Sri. T.N. Krishna outrightly opposed the move of the trust members and demanded justice for the victims. However, they went scot-free...

These two incidents raise questions about the spaces that society defines and demands of women. These are neither some random cases too but if we look into the statistics, it reveals that there are a wide number of cases but reporting is 1% and amongst this, the punishment that is given is even less. What does this show and why do women refrain from lodging a complaint and even if it is registered in how many cases punishment is given,??? Why is it not taken seriously and what does society expect from her - to be silent and tolerating as though nothing has happened and it is normal?

Rise in the cases of sexual harassment in the workplace in India :

The report released in May 2022 said that over 50 percent of respondents experienced sexual harassment at least once and out of them 55.2% decided not to file a complaint. Now as I am writing this article, I see an actress filing a complaint against a former DySP in Kochi.

# Metoo movement that was started a few years back gained such huge momentum that worldwide women came out saying openly that they too were victims at one particular time. However, they have come out openly now as they have gained the confidence to speak about it. However, every time a woman stands up for herself, she is humiliated and her integrity is questioned and either the misogynistic talks are made or branded. One actress in the Kannada industry spoke about sexual harassment by a famous male artist during the #Me too movement, she was denied all other opportunities and had to struggle hard while the male artist enjoyed his position, power, and all benefits. Why this indifference ??? Power corrupts and more power corrupts more... But what do our laws say?

Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act 2013 : (POSH Act)

After the Bawari Devi incident and the Vishaka guidelines that followed, the POSH Act came into force in the year 2013 and since then women are protected within the frame of this Act. Severe punishment is meted out to the perpetrators of the crime. The Act has also made it mandatory to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at all centers of the workplace with the purpose of providing harassment-free spaces. However, how many are aware of this Act or how free are the workplaces?

POCSO Act : (Prevention of Children from Sexual Offence) Act 2012 was enacted to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children (upto 18 years) from offenses of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography while safeguarding the interest of the child at every stage of the judicial process. 5 years of punishment is pronounced and if it is repeated offence then the number of years is extended depending upon the severity of the crime. Here again, even after the proclamation of the Act, Data from the NCRB indicates that while the number of cases registered under POCSO increased by more than 30% between 2016 & 2020, the pendency of these cases in courts crossed 94% by the end of 2020. Child sexual abuse continues to date and in most cases, the perpetrators would be known to the victims. Hence parents refrain from complaining. Studies have shown how such acts affect the psychological well-being of the child and continue to haunt the child the entire life.

At a time when women are entering into all spheres of social life, we find such incidents which hamper their enthusiasm and spirit.

Despite these laws crimes against women are on the rise and the recent is that of minor wrestlers. Who is responsible for this??? We as a society are answerable to all victims who are haunted by the trauma and social apathy on the other. Unless justice is upheld by the courts and unless we as a society stop seeing women as symbols of entertainment and give them the equal space to live with dignity we fail as a nation.


1. Data: POCSO cases increased by 30% in 5 years while pendency rate in Courts crossed 94% by Data: POCSO cases increased by 30% in 5 years while pendency rate in Courts crossed 94% by Pavithra K M
2. Ministry of Women and child development - Models of Pocso Act
3. Rising crimes against Indian women in five charts by Geeta Pandey
4. The Longterm Impact of Child Abuse

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