Most do not go to police as offenders escape
Bengaluru has registered a high crime rate of harassment of women. It competes with Ahmedabad, Delhi and Hyderabad in crimes against women, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
According to the NCRB 2020 report, Bengaluru has a crime rate of 0.5 in cases pertaining to outraging the modesty of women, and of 13.8 in cases of assault on women with intent to outrage their modesty.
Women in Bengaluru face unpleasant situations when they go about their normal lives. Sandra Cruz, 21, a Mount Caramel College student, informed The Observer: “It happened right in front of my college. A man was there standing and flashing his private parts. I was with my friend. We silently walked away because it’s not like every day you encounter such a situation. It took us a few seconds to realize what we saw… and when we turned back, the man had disappeared.”
Utkarsha Muley, 21, who recently moved to the city, had a similar story. She was terrified when a middle-aged man started following her near Shanti Nagar. “I was in a bus, and he followed me there. I got off the bus and he got off too. Luckily, I saw some cops near Bangalore Café and asked for their help, she shared.
Muley’s mother, Aarti, who is worried about her daughter’s safety, said: “I always ask her to share her live location with me whenever she is out in the city. When such things happen, I understand the importance of teaching our girls self-defence, which my daughter never got to learn.”
Groping and stalking are among the various forms of harassment that women face.
Tanisha Kannan, 21, said: “In 2019, I was waiting for an Uber outside the building where I was an intern. As I was waiting, a car pulled over and (a man inside it) started pestering me. He asked to go for a drink with me, and harassed me verbally. I asked him to leave me alone and went inside the building.”
A 21-year-old student said: “I was in an autorickshaw near the Deepanjalinagar Metro station and told the driver the OTP. Just then, a man leaned into the auto and groped my breast. I shouted out of shock and he walked away as if nothing happened. It all happened very fast.”
Not many women file complaints as in most cases the offender runs away. Neither Cruz, nor Kannan nor the 21-year-old victim of groping went to the police.
“We couldn’t file a complaint because the man was gone. We didn’t even tell our family members because then they would worry and debar us from going to such areas,” Cruz said.
Basavanthraya Patil, a head constable at the Basvanagudi women’s police station, feels that cases of harassment are under-reported. Since the offender runs away in many cases, women tend to not file a complaint. At least 3-4 complaints are filed daily.
“We go to the place, look if there are any CCTV cameras to identify the accused. It is very difficult to do that in many cases as the accused runs away and is hard to identify him,” Patil added.
Harassment can have a traumatizing effect on the psyche of the victim. Trina Banerjee, a clinical psychologist in Bengaluru, said : “Harassment, be it sexual or of any other kind, has a deep effect on the psychology of the victim. It is an invasion of privacy…. It leads to a lot of pain and emotional turmoil. The effects are long-lasting, they keep coming back to the victim. It makes the victim vigilant. They live in fear.”
Many times victims try to ignore the incident. “Talking to a friend or a family member about it and filing a complaint against the accused usually help. One essential thing is that the victim should never feel that it was her mistake which happens in many cases.”
Women in not just Bengaluru but across the country face this problem. An offender can be punished to a term extendable to a year under Section 509 and up to three years under Section 354 along with a fine.