Friday, 7 May, 2021
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OPINION

Sexual Harassment First Step Towards Rape



Sanju Maharjan

We all travel through different ways to attend our works. Those who use public vehicles the most are the students. And the female students are most likely to suffer from such acts in the public vehicles. Maybe the perpetrators find young females as easy targets since they would not dare to speak about it in public.
‘Do not wear short clothes if you want to avoid harassment. It’s normal to happen in a public vehicle. Girls should not choose the last seat in the public vehicles while travelling alone. Stop travelling alone especially during the night.’ All these comments people pass in society have made me feel like we are normalising something immoral. When a woman is travelling alone the public support is expected during such situations.
Should being harassed and sexually assaulted by men not make them feel ashamed for their act? Theoretically yes, but in practice it's the opposite -- the ones who suffer are the ones who are made to feel guilty. Many cases of harassment go unreported and the ones who take up their courage to report them do not get heard properly by the concerned authority because it has been already been normalised in the society.
Harassment in public vehicles and workplaces go largely unnoticed and ignored. Only when it turns into rape and murder then the people start to condemn the crime and demand justice. But is harassment not the first step towards rape? Why do the people ignore it and not nip it in the bud?
People take harassment as if it is not a crime. It has been recognised as a crime by section 224 of the Criminal Code 2074.The perpetrator shall be liable to a sentence of imprisonment for a term of maximum three years and a fine of up to thirty thousand rupees. Any unusual act by a person which makes the other person uncomfortable such as touching, staring, whistling, passing bad comments, or using vulgar words, spoken or written or by gesture or by way of electronic medium, or showing any pornography to, or teasing or annoying with sexual motive without consent is considered harassment.
With male domination and traditional mindset continuing even today, women feel embarrassed to register a complaint to the police because they fear that the shame of the act would fall upon them instead of the perpetrators.
This persistent violence affects the survivors in many ways particularly manifestation of physical, mental and social disorders and consequently, it reduces their ability to participate in educational and professional activities and in public life. The trauma from this can last for quite a long period of time.
The perpetrators of harassment may become rapists in future. Not speaking against their actions will just encourage them and give them power to continue their violent acts. What is the use of laws if they are not implemented?