#TalkingStalking: Shashi Tharoor Joins The Fight Against Stalking
The Quint has been running a campaign named Talking Stalking for the last few months, encouraging survivors of stalking to come forward and tell their stories. After hearing story after story of horrific incidents, we decided to try and do something which could actually make a difference.
We drafted a detailed proposal with senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal, arguing why our criminal laws need to be amended to change the designation of stalking to non-bailable. This change of designation should help ensure stalking is taken more seriously and that stalkers are subjected to judicial scrutiny before being allowed out on bail, to minimise the risk of further attacks on survivors.
‘Talking About Stalking is a Very Good Beginning to Prevent Much Worse Things Later’
Member of Parliament Dr Shashi Tharoor agreed to work with us on this, and we drafted a Private Member’s Bill with his team, which has been submitted to Parliament and is likely to be discussed in the Budget Session. Dr Tharoor has previously taken up important issues as Private Member’s Bills and helped increase public awareness about these, for instance when he proposed amending the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to stop the criminalisation of consensual gay sex under Section 377.
In addition to stalking, the Bill also proposes amending the designation of Sections 354A (unwanted sexual contact) and 354C (voyeurism) to make these also non-bailable offences. It also includes amendments to the definition of stalking in Section 354D of the IPC to make it gender-neutral and include the safeguards proposed by the Verma Committee.
Dr Tharoor decided to join the team because he feels that it is an “underappreciated crime”, which people tend to think of as a harmless activity even though that’s clearly not the case. Noting how stalking is not just a serious enough crime in itself but can also lead to further crimes, he says:
People who stalk can often develop an unhealthy obsession, which can then translate into acts of violence when they’re rejected, and we’ve heard of acid attacks, we’ve heard of knife attacks, we’ve heard of kidnappings, we’ve heard of all sorts of undesirable things that began as a so-called innocent stalking. So better to nip it in the bud before it gets to a stage where it can become more dangerous.
‘If You Give the Guy Bail, God Knows What He’ll do Next’
Dr Tharoor is firmly of the opinion that designating stalking as a non-bailable offence is needed because:
If this amendment is brought in, he feels that this could provide grounds for sending a strong signal to society that stalking is unacceptable – and that there are consequences to indulging in it. Currently, because stalking is a bailable offence, even if a complaint against a stalker is made to the police, they can get bail from the police, without any conditions. If it is non-bailable, a magistrate will have to assess whether the stalker should get bail, and on what conditions.
Need for Public Awareness
Central to taking all of this forward will be increased public awareness. As Dr Tharoor puts it:
So I strongly believe in public awareness. I believe strongly in public education, that is ensuring that our youngsters, particularly boys, are given serious gender sensitivity lessons in school from an early age, and I believe in changing the mindset of the society which both of these things will contribute to.
You can also support our initiative to make the law on stalking more effective. Sign our petition with Varnika Kundu on Change.org to stand behind the Bill.
Camerapersons: Abhay Sharma, Shivkumar Maurya, Chandan Kashyap
Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui