In the past few years, we saw some of the most horrifying murders that had their roots in stalking. Jilted lovers and men, who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, from women who were simply not interested in them. They would go on to avenge their unrequited love by killing them in disturbing ways.
Most recently, a 22-year-old man from Uttarkashi allegedly raped and murdered the 12-year-old sister of a girl whom he was stalking for some time now. The man — Mukesh Lal — was harassing the girl which led her to leave the village and live with her relatives. This enraged the accused and he committed the disturbing crime. The girl had never filed a complaint against Mukesh.
What is the basic problem with stalking cases?
- Women require more education on how the legal system works to file a complaint.
- Police need more sensitization when dealing with stalking cases.
- Stalking cases — when unreported — go to the extent of becoming horrifying murder cases.
- Men find it hard to deal with rejection because of the disorientation of their power status.
CONSISTENT RISE IN CASES
Between 2014 and 2016, the home ministry recorded a consistent rise in cases of stalking in the country. In 2016, there were 7,132 cases of stalking, in 2015, the figure was 6,266 while in 2014, 4,699 stalking cases were registered. And these are only the number of cases reported and not the total cases that happened. A huge number of cases that started with stalking and never got reported ended up in murders or acid attacks, so there is no data on that.
AWARENESS ABOUT FILING CASES
One of the major reasons of non-reportage of these cases is that women across the country are not aware of ways to approach the police. Varnika Kundu, who experienced a frightening incident of stalking in Chandigarh when she was driving back to her home after work at night, spoke to SheThePeople.TV on the menace. She specifically talked about how important it is for women to know that they can call the cops in cases of distress.
“It is crucial for everyone regardless of age, social standing and gender to know how the legal system works. You need to know what the process of filing an FIR is from the moment you walk in to a police station till your case finishes. People should be aware because it is an intimidating process. If people are more educated about police and the courts etc, then they will feel more at ease with reporting cases,” she said.
SENSITIZATION OF THE POLICE
While she said that in her case, the police were cooperative, Kundu also accepts that it is not the standard. “The police have no sensitivity around stalking. A lot of women feel afraid, and with good cause, that cops won’t take them seriously. We grow up learning that if a boy is trying to harass a girl, then we should lock up the girl in the house instead of actually solving the problem and more such patriarchal notions. The police also come from the same society and have their set of challenges.”
What is also interesting is that the law against stalking is very new in itself. It was only on February 3, 2013, that then Preident Pranab Mukherjee passed the ordinance which widened the scope and ambit of the laws dealing with sexual violence against women and considered stalking as a serious crime. The punishment for stalking via physical or electronic via phone calls, text messages or emails became a criminal offence and punishable up to three years in jail.
SOCIAL TREATMENT OF STALKING
Women also have to face a lot of social stigma and character analysis in cases of stalking. Society judges them for their behaviour with others, the kind of clothes they wear, what time they go out, etc. In Kundu’s case, she is a DJ and often has gigs at night, hence she returns home past midnight. So she said that when the news went around and gained media attention, she also had to go through a character analysis. One of the other reasons for stalking crimes going unreported is how the family would react to the girl filing it.
“It is crucial for everyone regardless of age, social standing and gender to know how the legal system works. You need to know what the process of filing an FIR is from the moment you walk in to a police station till your case finishes,” – Varnika Kundu
WHY MEN CAN’T TAKE A NO
Talking about why men cannot take rejection in a decent manner, psychologist Anita Mishra said, “Society in India particularly has not groomed and nurtured men with the way we are expanding with technology. Today, women also get an education, go out and work outside of house etc. so their power status has taken a quantum leap. Initially, society cherished masculinity and that established men’s authority. But today, we are sort of dislocating this stature of men. This has triggered the male ego, especially with the advent of social media because it is so common for anybody to look up anybody on the internet and get minute details of their lives.”
“So for men, when we don’t teach them sensitivity and restrict them from acknowledging their emotional side, the only way to deal with non-consent is to get rid of that particular person.”
Cases like Chennai’s Infosys employee, 24-year-old Swathi who was hacked to death by her stalker, UP’s incident where a man set a woman ablaze, also killed her mother and grandmother, because she was marrying another man and many more that happened in 2017 and shocked the country. But why should we have to wait until women have to die or get disfigured to file a case?