The Railway Police Force (RPF) in Mumbai, reacted with disdain and indifference after a complaint of an alleged molestation. RPF personnel asked a man who had witnessed the incident where a foreigner was molested to let it go, since “children” were involved. This particular incident took place on platform no 4, of Ghatkopar. A foreigner alighted from the ladies’ compartment of the train when the boys standing at the door of the compartment targeted the woman. Two of the teenagers pulled her t-shirt. Another boy groped her. A witness complained to the RPF, but to no avail.
In another case, a group of three men allegedly molested a 27-year-old, who tried saving a youth they were assaulting. When she went to the police station, a brazen police sub-inspector refused to register a molestation case, giving a bizarre reason that being touched inappropriately by a group of men was not sexual assault or a crime.
Besides being a pointer to the unabated violence against women in the city, these two front-page reports published in this paper yesterday also throw light on the mindset vis-à-vis women. There is a tendency to dismiss such incidents as too flippant to take note of. If some police personnel themselves feel that inappropriate touching is not molestation, it gives an indication of how authorities need to be sensitised on this issue on an urgent basis. In the other case, to simply tell an eye-witness that the boys were children, shows a patronising attitude. These children if not corrected today, will do the same to a woman tomorrow, and as adults too.
Sexual violence against women takes different forms, there is verbal molestation, which means passing comments and physical molestation like groping and touching inappropriately. Even 12 and 14 year-olds know what they are doing and one cannot excuse them as children. Every crime like the ones above has to be taken cognisance of, because it is a loss of dignity for women, is hugely intimidating and can scar them to some degree. These are molestation cases, plain and simple. Treat them with the seriousness they deserve.