On Saturday, December 7, this newspaper carried a report about a US-based businesswoman who was allegedly molested by the employee of a boutique located inside Taj Mahal Palace hotel, Colaba. The accused was arrested by the Colaba police on the same day, after the woman filed an FIR.
The report stated that the woman had placed an order for outfits at the well-known Burlingtons’ store, inside the hotel. The lady complained against the designer for touching her inappropriately while taking her measurements. Arun Jackson James was produced before the metropolitan magistrate court and was remanded to police custody.
While the hotel claims they are cooperating fully with the investigation and are determined to support their guest in every way possible, it is shocking to think that such an incident can happen inside Mumbai’s iconic five-star hotel. While the accused is not a Taj employee, one cannot take away from the fact that the incident casts a shadow over Taj, as the boutique is located in the hotel.
It is highly disappointing and shameful to note that molestation cases continue to make the news. It is also important to note that public spaces are shrinking for women.
First, it was our roads, where women reported harassment. Then it was public transport — train stations, buses and usually thickly crowded places, where often the molester can melt into the crowd or remain anonymous. Places such as offices and hotels, even the upmarket ones, are not safe for women.
Although, one cannot use sweeping generalisations, it is evident that more complaints, even taking into account that more women are coming forward or there is greater scrutiny, does mean that places one thought could be safe, are not so any longer.
For years now, unspoken rules say that women should not ‘linger’ on roads like men do, because it might invite trouble. It is wiser not to be alone at certain spots at certain times.
It is not just molestation but violence against women, of which molestation is one part that is worrying. College campuses, ATM booths, and now a top class hotel room.
There has to be an effort to see that women can be free to access these spaces without fear.