This court shudders to think as to what would have happened if the victim was an officer belonging to a lower cadre… If that is the position in which lady officers are placed, it is hard to think as to what will happen if such sexual harassment had taken place on an ordinary lady with no background.’ These remarks of a Madras High Court Bench last week as it took suo motu notice of the struggle faced by a woman IPS officer in bringing to dock her senior, a Special DGP of Tamil Nadu, for alleged sexual harassment and subsequent abuse of authority to influence the case sadly sum up the general patriarchal oppression in our society. Women, irrespective of having achieved high positions in workplaces, remain unsafe from unwelcome overtures of predatory men lurking at every other corner. That a staggering one in three women has faced sexual or physical violence points to the myopic mindset of men that sees women as inferiors or chattels.
Incidentally, technology is coming to the rescue of victims, though many times it also becomes a source of blackmail. The horrible incident of girls at a hostel in Jalgaon, Maharashtra, being reportedly stripped and forced to dance by policemen is another case of rampant misuse of power and position by law enforcers and protectors. The case would have, perhaps, not found resonance in the state’s Assembly and calls for justice not made but for the emergence of its video recording. Equally reprehensible is the alleged sex-for-job scandal that has embroiled Karnataka Water Resources Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi. Though pleading not guilty, he was forced to resign a day later when an incriminating video surfaced.
However, the final delivery of justice to the victims is a long haul even after the registration of the case. The NCRB 2019 report indicates a grim pendency in courts of 90 per cent and a conviction rate of less than 25 per cent in crimes against women. Instilling in boys the values of respecting girls and women and treating them as equals is essential to curb the oppression that they are subjected to.