Sexual Harassment Scares Women in India
Even tougher laws cannot stop men from harassing women in India. This was attested by a recent survey conducted in New Delhi where majority of the women said they have been sexually harassed in public places such as on public transportation or a park in 2015.
Numbers do count because the study shows about 40 percent of women surveyed said they were sexually harassed in public places. Indian women too are scared to go out. The study reveals that 33 percent prohibit themselves from going out in public. Furthermore, 17 percent of the respondents stopped working rather than face harassment, or worse, go out in public places.
Mahesh Nalla, a Michigan State University criminologist who conducted the study, has concluded that despite the infamous ‘Nirbhya’ gang rape case that transpired three years ago, Indian women are still afraid.
“Women in India do not feel safe being in public spaces, which is clearly a human rights issue.” – Mahesh Nalla
Why Is Sexual Harassment Prevalent in Emerging Democracies?
Mr. Nalla, a MSU professor of criminal justice and a native of India, said sexual harassment is prevalent in emerging democracies particularly in India where women are empowered to join the work force. This is not only common in India but also to other South Asian countries.
There are other factors leading to the rise of sexual harassment incidents in public places. Congested, unsafe public transportation systems and urbanization are among the factors that make women vulnerable to sexual harassment.
In addition, India is a patriarchal society which dictates that women stay home and take care of children while the husband is the breadwinner of the family.
A Peek Into the Study
Nalla worked in tandem with fellow co-investigator Manish Madan, assistant professor at Stockton University, conducted the survey with the scope of finding answers on issues including perceptions and history of sexual harassment, use of public transportation, safety in public spaces and police effectiveness in dealing with these concerns. [ Stockton Press Release (PDF)]
The study included 1,400 men and women as respondents in the capital city of New Delhi. The respondents were asked to gauge the seriousness of sexual-related cases such as whistling, asking a woman for sexual favors, patting her buttocks or squeezing her breasts.
This research was published in the International Criminal Justice Review.
The research shows that 40 percent of female respondents were sexually harassed in 2015 and 58 percent were sexually harassed at least once during their lifetime.
Sexual Harassment Not Something New
Sexual harassment exists all over the world. It is not something new in India or even its Asian peers in South Asia. In fact, sexual harassment is popularly dubbed as “Eve teasing.”
Way back on Dec. 16, 2012, a young woman was raped and murdered by a group of men on a moving bus in Delhi. Following the incident that made headlines around the world and sparked protests, India enacted new laws that consist of doubling prison terms for rape and criminalized voyeurism and stalking. But sad to say, sexual harassment continues on a broad scale up to this time in India.
Recommendations of the Study
Mr. Nalla outlined recommendations to counter the surge of sexual harassment among women. Education is crucial to inculcate gender equality and consequences of sexual harassment. This should be part of the curriculum in grade school.
Zero tolerance of sexual harassment can be reinforced by public-awareness efforts. This should include public-service messages and visible “zero tolerance on sexual harassment” signs at public transportation particularly in buses.
In addition, installation of security cameras is an effective security measure to respond to sexual harassment cases. Nothing beats the importance of police visibility in public places.
Finally, Mr. Nalla highly recommends the importance and immediacy of addressing women’s safety in public spaces and women’s human rights.