Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Commonwealth Games: Indian Masseur Charged with Sexual Harassment

On the heels of Blog-a-thon 2006 highlighting street/sexual harassment of women in India and Nachiketa's post bemoaning the harassment (euphemistically called "eve-teasing" in India) of women on New Delhi's streets, comes this news that a masseur in the Indian contingent that has traveled to Melbourne for the Commonwealth Games, has been charged with sexually harassing a 16-year old cleaner in the sports village.

Now, the charges are still under investigation by the Australian authorities, but what was he thinking?

That he could behave as he wanted with that girl? That she would not take offence? That she would be cowed down by this "status" as an official of the Indian contingent and would not complain? That even if she complained, the police would laugh her off? That the authorities would not countenance her allegations?

Well, whatever he might have aniticipated would happen in the wake of his alleged actions, he could not have anticipated at the speed with which the authorities have reacted in Australia. According to CNN/IBN, his alleged victim complained to the Commonwealth Village police, and the Australian authorities have confiscated his passport pending further investigation. The accused Indian official will be produced in front of a magistrate on March 16th.

Needless to say, this is a highly embarassing moment not only for Indian sport, but for Indian diplomacy as well. What should have been a joyful two weeks of representing India and hopefully putting on a good show in the sports arenas has now turned into two weeks of hiding from the glare of reports a sleazy incident in a room in the sports village.

Indian officials are left in the awkward position of having to deal with an issue that happens all too often within their own borders but is equally often ignored, explained away as "men will be men", or worst of all, blamed on the victim as "deserving what she got" because she might have been too "forward".

But Australia is not India, now, is it?

I don't think we're in Kansas any more, Toto.


The accused went to court today (March 16). The hearing has been rescheduled for Friday. According to his lawyer, he pled "not guilty". He has been expelled from the Indian contingent and alternative living arrangements have been made for him outside the Village. He faces two counts - one count of unlawful assault and one count of indecent assault. Each of these carries a maximum penalty of 2 years.


Vikrum said...

Hi Sujatha,

I am just not surprised to hear this news. The one nice thing about this story is that the courts are taking swift legal action. While I am constantly saddened by the ordeals that women have to face in India, at least in this one case this man did not get away with it.

I really liked this part of your piece:

Indian officials are left in the awkward position of having to deal with an issue that happens all too often within their own borders but is equally often ignored, explained away as "men will be men", or worst of all, blamed on the victim as "deserving what she got" because she might have been too "forward".

You're absolutely right. I get the impression that the majority of Indians believe that women groping/sexual harrassment is a biological function of being male. After all, "boys will be boys." And, of course, "Did you see what she was wearing? She wanted it..."

Living outside of India gives you a different perspective. It is not a coincidence that every Indian woman I have talked to about the subject has reported that she has been groped by men in public at some point in her life. Yet I have met many women from other countries who have never been touched even once.

It is society (not biology) that raises men to act like this. It's society that teaches men that it's okay to grab women in public. And the acceptability of sexual harrassment/groping is combined with the sexual repression all over the subcontinent.

I am proud of the Blank Noise Project. But one thing that is clear to me - clear because I have lived in different places - is that Blank Noise is a distinctly Indian project. While women have an unequal status in most every part of the world, if you are a woman in, say, New York, it's not an absolute constant that you will be groped on the subway or on the bus; it is a constant in India.

Taz Snow said...

Too true it is not India! We seem to be backward degenerates in this respect....methinks, despite the ass-whuping, Toto will never truly realize that he is no longer in Kansas :o(

Vijay said...

To top it, our dear masseur has had a bad reputation over a long time, and yet he has been selected in the Indian Contingent. Speaks badly on the selection process itself. I think it is more embarassing for the Officials who eventually selected this guy.

Anonymous said...

damn him! damn him!

Anonymous said...

damn him! damn him!

Anonymous said...

I wonder how deflated he must have been.
Imagine a man muscled with a mush, self image of a He man, a gift from the heaven for womenkind, at whose feet all women grovel, suddenly being hauled off, for all things making advances to a girl!!!
Practically like death unless he is very dumb.

Nik-Ol said...

Yes, damn him and damn those corrupt officials who selected him. #@^@#%$@#%^

Sujatha Bagal said...

Hello all, sorry for not responding to your comments sooner.

Vikrum, thank you for your comment. I agree that the Blank Noise Project is a distinctly Indian thing. I can attest to the fact that of all the countries I've lived in/visited, this is the only place where this happens.

taz, I have a feeling that that will be the case too.;(

Vijay, wasn't aware of that aspect. Wow!

Princess, out4fun, I have to agree, I must say.

anon: not sure if he will learn his lesson.

bharath said...

you have pre-judged the man as guilty and the girl as a victim.

whatever points to a news source in your blog doesn't indicate that or provide evidence for that.

despite this, you may well stand to be right in this. but that is besides the point.

I guess what I am saying is: there is a reason the justice statue is blindfolded.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Bharath, point taken. I guess I wanted to draw attention to the stark differences in the manner in which the two systems proceed in matters such as this in the two countries and the expectations (obviously wrong as the accused found out) out of which he might have acted.

Anonymous said...

hi sujatha,
i read your Post, I want be p ragmatic on this.The flaw is in the culture (of india).In india guys and girls are not allowed to mix freely as you see in other countries like us,uk.Those guys there will naturally not like doing this activities like touching, pinching coz in their culture a wife/husband of a man / woman can Kiss and hug her/his friend who is a boy in front of her/his Husband/Wife, there SEX is like buying a CANDY.Why would a GUY pinch or grope some girl in public when he knows that he can have SEX easily which is a much higher in pleasure.There guys and gals touchING eachother is not considered as a sexual activity/pleasure its very normal. There a guy/gal can call any gal/GUY whom he/she likes to go for a date BUT in india it is considered as SEXUAL HARASSMENT.(here,If a stranger guy calls a gal and if he says he wants to date...he is no more...)
So in india guys who do all those things are the once who dont get sex properly here, they think all those activities are pleasure... they dont understand the BEAUTY OF SEX (when its mutual)if they had good experience of Mutual SEX, IM sure they will never get pleasure from these activities.Im being very very practical please dont think im supporting ALL THOSE HAPPENING here I'm also like you against it. Im just explaining why the % is more in india.
Second , Staring is very common.Im in Bangalore everday i see atleast 3 to 4 girls stare at me atleast also i wanna add some more, I'm actually from chennai.I have experienced atleast more than 10 times girls passing comments on me in college (but not abusive like guys) and once a group of junior girls (like 10 gals) sang a famous sexy song "KATIPIDI KATTIPIDI DA" at me which means "HUG ME HUG ME" .Again here, wanna tell you that i'm not proving that IM "HRITICK" or "some khan". what i wanna say is even some gals do pass comments or songs.BUT i have never felt BAD because they were not much abusive.But definitly i agree with you sometimes men pass abusive comments which is not acceptable.If its a friendly environment i think passing comments or songs is ok But not on the streets