The act of staring: Is it a part of sexual harassment?

The act of staring: Is it a part of sexual harassment?


Sexual harassment at work and public places has always traumatized Indian women and restricted their emancipation. From groping to molestation, Indian women have faced it all. While new legislations are being made to curb such practices, a new debate on whether staring is a form of sexual harassment has stirred.


Senior Kerela IPS officer got vocal on this issue and said that if a man stares as a woman for more than 14 seconds, he can be charged with harassment. Apart from this, he also advised women and girls to carry a knife and pepper spray in their handbags for self-defense. Read on to know more about the act of staring in India and why it is important for the government to criminalize the act of staring.


Staring is demeaning

The act of staring: Is it a part of sexual harassment?

You wake up early in the morning. Hop on that morning bus, jostle your way through the crowded bus and find a seat reserved for people of your gender. You heave a sigh of relief but realize that there are men ogling at you continuously. You wonder which feature of yours mesmerizes them so much. You look down at your clothes only to realize that not even a shred of your skin is visible which can excite them.

Relentless staring makes one feel uncomfortable. The perpetrators committing this crime are not confined to public places. It happens in educational institutions and work places as well. A number of women are forced to leave their jobs to shield themselves from the discomfort that is caused by such men.


Solutions to this form of sexual harassment

The act of staring: Is it a part of sexual harassment?

Police authorities do not really pay heed to the resistance shown by victims against this act. It is not something they feel should be acted upon. According to them, physical harm amounts to more severe a crime. Women, left with very limited options, end up resorting to innovative methods to get rid of such problems. Staring back at the perpetrator works wonders as he often gets embarrassed and starts looking the other way.

This reminds of an incident. My friends and I were travelling in the general compartment of the Delhi Metro. We were sitting in a row. There was a man, in his forties, who was constantly staring at us. We ignored for a few minutes but he was adamant to show how deviant he was. My friend advised us to stare him back at the count of three. We followed her diktats and stared at him till the moment he got down at the next metro station. The scene was hilarious and we still laugh about it but stringent measures need to be taken to keep such perverts in check.


How institutions can help:

Educational institutions and workplaces must endeavor to open special cells that openly talk about such issues. Belittling the act of staring gives the perpetrator the courage to do whatever he feels like. Stopping him in the first place is important to thwart the execution of any other crime which his dirty mind might be planning.


It is time to take the issue of staring seriously by not calling it “trivial”. Women should not be told to ignore such acts and instead, encouraged to report them in public. The authorities should think about expanding the ambit of the sexual harassment and include these cases as well which have an equal psychological impact on the mind the way molestation has.



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