No End To Harassment: ‘How Can A Girl Provide Proof That She Was Molested?’

Posted by Debdutta Mohanty in Gender-Based Violence, Society
January 13, 2017

I lived in Bangalore for nine years and hearing about the molestation case was not at all shocking news for me, the experience I have had was why. Again the reaction of ministers and police didn’t shock me. When you talk about such incidents in Bangalore, there is a discussion which leads to arguments on the lines of South India vs. North India. Well, let me be very clear, it is not about the north, south, east or west. If something is wrong, let’s accept it first.

Well, my friend faced such an incident while she was travelling in a train in 2008. It was neither South India nor was it North India. Mind you; such incidents happen in trains too. Whom do we blame for it, the place, the people or the culture?

At that time she was studying in a college in Pune. She was travelling from Pune to Rourkela and had lodged a complaint against a man who had molested her during the train journey. She raised the alarm, and the railway police beat him up, but my friend was adamant to teach him a lesson so insisted that a complaint be registered. Accordingly, a police complaint was filed in Bhusawal (it being the jurisdiction) and the man spent three months behind bars. This was the third instance where the young woman had pressed charges against molesters.

Eight years after this train incident, i.e. in 2016, she received a summon from the court to appear for the hearing of the case. (She had provided her permanent address in the complaint along with the phone number.) It being the first time she had received a summon for filing an FIR about sexual harassment, she was perplexed and chose to ignore it. But calls from the police didn’t stop, telling her that if she didn’t appear in the court, an arrest warrant would be issued against her.

This woman is now cursing herself for choosing to take action against that man. It was only eight years later that she’s being made to do rounds of the court for this thing. She had filed such cases previously too and no such thing had happened. Now, the advocate of the defendant is badgering her. She’s terrified and overwhelmed with these legal proceedings, something she wasn’t prepared for.

She says if she knew filing a case would have meant this kind of torture eight years later, disrupting her life and causing her mental stress, she wouldn’t have done it. The defendant’s advocate is telling her there is no proof his client sexually harassed her. Her family and friends are admonishing her for being stupid and running to the police for the case, they are sick of the police calls and tell her she should have never taken this step.

My point is, how can a girl provide proof that she was molested? The law is meant to protect them, but here our legal process is such that it’s causing strange troubles to the one who chose to use it to protect herself. Her “funda” was to teach these guys a lesson so that they don’t dare molest anyone again. But the unexpected court trips have left her so hassled and mentally drained that now she regrets doing that.

The slow legal proceedings have ruined the case. My friend says, “this case should close as soon as possible. I am tired of the system.” The system itself fails to support the victim and gives ample time to the other party to get their hands clean.

My question here is, if such cases happen whom should a girl approach? Family, friends or the police? Is there anyone to give the right response at the right time? I wish we find answers to these questions soon. Not fighting over silly things like South India, North India, place or people, I think the need of the hour is to change our mindsets soon.