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Chennai's eve teasing track record

Aug 22, 2006 08:42 AM IST India India

Chennai: Tuesday is Madras Day. As the 368-year-old metropolis recollects its history, CNN-IBN brings you an insight into the rigors and challenges faced by the Chennai woman on the move.

"It's a problem being a two-wheeler rider itself. As a girl, it becomes twice as tough because there are people who want space on the road and then there are people who want you!” a resident, Amita D Monte said.

So what does one do to ignore the harassment on the streets of Chennai?

"What do I usually do? I just ignore them,” Amita said. It is what many women do however offended and angry they are.

"You know that no one's going to come to your support. It's a middle-class mentality. So we just ignore them,” another resident said.

Ten years ago, the crowds were smaller and safer but today, traveling in a train, the first thing a woman looks for is the ladies compartment.

"I've been to other cities like Delhi, but Chennai is as bad," a resident said.

Women in Chennai have found their own ways to handle the heckling, whistling, and feeling up they have to face the minute they step out of their homes.

"Safety pin, pepper spray and elbowing them away,” a daily commuter explained on tackling the men on the streets.

Many used to believe that it's only one class or type of men who sexually harass women. But nowadays women tell say that even college boys are turning aggressive.

What Women Want
"I've been to other cities like Delhi, but Chennai is as bad"
"There are always men commenting, and saying things. You've got to be on guard"
"Safety pin, pepper spray, elbowing them away"
"You know that no one's going to come to your support. It's a middle-class mentality. So we just ignore them,"

In 1998, when a 20-year-old college-goer Sarika Shah died after being physically harassed, the Tamil Nadu government passed the Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, telling Chennai's women "we're behind you," giving them a weapon to bind violating hands.

But does the woman in Chennai use this weapon?

"A lot of women come and file FIRs now. Of course, they are scared, and many won't come forward, but a surprising number still do," Additional Police Commissioner, Chennai, SR Jangid said.

"I thought 10 times, but I filed the FIR. My case went to court, and the guy had to pay a fine of Rs 10000. His college knows he's a sick man," a victim of eve teasing, Praveena said.

Eve Teasing Track Record
Year FIRs Convicted
2002 968 773
2003 212 124
2004 184 78
2005 208 15

Police records show that the women do fight back, but over the years, the police and courts seem to have taken things easy. Last year, only 15 out of 208 men were convicted.

The Tamil Nadu government clearly realises that street harassment is serious enough to merit a separate law. But what hasn't changed is the attitude towards the crime and outraging the modesty of a woman.

If Chennai is serious about treating its women better, then it might be time to change not just the letter of the law, but also its words.