“I was on my way home at Jangpura around 10:30 p.m. As I was walking, a car kept following me. I increased my pace and ran towards the foot-over bridge on the other side,” recalled Fatima, a journalist based in Delhi.

Radhika Chakraborty, a researcher working in Delhi told The Citizen that a man stopped to masturbate in front of her when she was on her way home. “He was sitting in his car and I was waiting for my cab, when I saw him doing the deed. I ran away from there anxiously,” she said.

According to various reports, incidents of sexual harassment, a.k.a ‘eve teasing’ have increased not only in Delhi but various parts of the country. In many cases, the perpetrators are not caught because they are not known to the victim.

‘Eve teasing’ literally translates to irritating or annoying women. An act of physically or psychologically harassing women to make fun, irritate, provoke, annoy, or embarrass them through comments, remarks, gestures, jokes, physical contact, or taunts is known as playfully or maliciously harassing women, as per legalserviceindia.com.

Fatima said that travelling alone at night is scary and she avoids it, even though her work sometimes expects her to do so.

Garima Jain (name changed on request), an independent journalist in Delhi said that she picks up stones in her hands whenever she is travelling at night. “There have been times when I could not get any transportation as it was too late and I had to walk back home from the metro station. While the distance was not much, I have been teased, cars and bikes have stopped in front of me, which is why I walk with stones in my hand,” she said, adding she has been harassed even during the day.

With increasing numbers of students, women going to places like work, school or even restaurants their safety is of the utmost importance. This is especially expected out of society that is well-informed and civilised.

However, the experiences of women and girls in overcrowded buses, metros, trains, and other public transportation systems is not only horrible but painful in nature. From lewd comments to gestures, from groping, many women reached out to The Citizen narrating their ordeal. It sometimes does not end even at touching, and turns into stalking as well.

These incidents have always been part of the violence against women since years, however many believe the incidents to have increased in recent years even more, especially in Delhi, India’s national Capital.

According to the recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, Delhi figures as the most unsafe metro city for women in the country.

On the other hand, the city witnessed a 40 percent spike in crime against women in 2020-2021. Whether it is rape, assault, abduction, or kidnapping, Delhi ranks the highest in all these violent crimes among all metros in the country.

In 2021, Delhi recorded 13,892 cases of crimes against women in 2021 as compared to 2020 when the figure was 9,782, the data showed.

According to the data, there were 43,414 crimes in total across all 19 major cities and the crime cases against women in Delhi account for 32.20 per cent of total crimes in the category among these cities, according to the report.

Considered to be one of the safest cities in India, Mumbai stood second with 5,543 crime cases against women, followed by Bengaluru with 3,127 cases, where both metropolitan cities account for 12.76 per cent and 7.2 per cent respectively, of the total crimes in the 19 cities.

Meanwhile, 1. 3,948 cases of abduction and kidnapping of women were reported in Delhi out of a total of 8,664 cases in all metropolitan cities.

Sushmita, an educator who runs her own organisation, told The Citizen that she left Delhi due to many incidents of harassment. “I have been teased, threatened, acted sexist against and what not in Delhi. I actually ran from Delhi because of all this,” she said.

Ironically, there is no such thing as "eve-teasing" in the Indian Penal Code. But is mentioned as “assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty” according to Section 354 in IPC.

Aarti Manchanda, a Delhi based lawyer said that incidents of ‘eve teasing’ are registered under Section 354. Under section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, non-penetrative sexual assault will be punished with a maximum sentence of two years in prison, a fine, or both.

Meanwhile, Section 509 deals with words, actions, or gestures intended to insult a woman's modesty. Any person who uses words, gestures, or objects with the intention of insulting a woman's modesty or even invading her privacy will be punished with up to one year in prison, a fine, or both.

The recent incidents of Holi that emerged on social media from different parts of the countries are examples of how the dignity of women is “outraged” with men facing no consequences.

An FIR was registered after a video went viral on social media where a young woman from Japan was groped, harassed and manhandled by a group of men in Delhi during Holi celebrations.

In the video, the men are seen grabbing her and smearing colours on her amid chants of "Holi Hai." A boy is also seen smashing an egg on her head. The woman says "bye, bye" in an attempt to escape the group as she is pushed around. She slaps a man who tries to hold her before she finally manages to step away, the video shows.

By the end of her ordeal, the woman was drenched and was almost unrecognisable. The incident happened in Paharganj area, which brims with tourists from all over the world.

After the video went viral, there was a demand for tough action against the perpetrators with the National Commission for Women too tweeting and drawing attention to the video.

The Japanese national, who left India the next day, reacted to the incident in a tweet and called it 'unfortunate'. She said she “participated in the festival with 35 of her friends”, in tweets roughly translated from Japanese.

The woman further expressed her love for India and wrote, “I love everything about India, I have been there many times and it is a fascinating country. India and Japan will forever be 'Tomodachi' (friends).”

The woman had tweeted the video on Thursday before removing it soon after. She said she "was terrified" by the reactions to the video so she "deleted the tweet". "On March 9, I tweeted a video of Holi, but after that, the number of RTs and DMs increased more than I had imagined, and I was terrified, so I deleted the tweet," she tweeted in Japanese. “The police have promised to strengthen their crackdown, and we hope harassment against women will decrease significantly,” the woman stated.

As of now, three people have been arrested. Many other videos showed men forcefully applying colours on women who are visibly trying to run away. In other videos from other parts of the country, women in burqas were thrown water balloons when they were crossing a street.

Meanwhile, on account of Holi, students staying at Delhi University’s hostels were not allowed to leave the premises till 6 pm — a move that has been met with outrage by several women students.

Speaking to The Citizen, activist and founder of the NGO ANHAD, Shabnam Hashmi said that the current political scenario is the major reason why we are witnessing a current increase in incidents of eve teasing and harassment.

“What is happening is connected with the overall political atmosphere of the country. It is because violence has increased many folds across. People are also realising that they can get away with whatever they do because the state is not taking any action,” she said. Hashmi further stated that release of Bilkis Bano’s rapists show how the state machineries support men even after they have committed these heinous crimes.

“When Bilkis’ rapists are released and garlanded, that is a very strong signal to men that they can do what they like with women. There is also gender inequality and the commodification of women’s bodies are some reasons why violence is on the rise,” she added.

Delhi reported 2,022 cases of assault on women with intent to outrage their modesty. Meanwhile, a total of 4,674 cases were registered for cruelty by husbands against women in Delhi.

Before 2013, the law against sexual harassment did not cover a wide range of activities. Sections 294, 354 and 509 were added to the Indian penal code in 1860. After the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013, it now includes Disrobing (Section 354-B), Voyeurism (Section 354-C), and Stalking (Section 354-D).

A survey conducted by the Global Institute of Women’s Leadership of London’s King’s College and Ipsos UK on about 22,500 people belonging to the age group of 16-74 years revealed that about 41% of women and 55% of men from 32 countries in the world claimed that women have gone overboard with their fight for rights. These numbers included 52% people from Gen Z, 40% of baby boomers, 53% of millennial people and about 46% Gen X.

The survey collected gender equality opinions from people from about 32 countries including India, America, Chile, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and Belgium.

The survey included the opinion of Indians where about 15% of the people said that gender inequality “does not exist”.

The same survey showed a very different response from this where about 26% of people from India claimed that they confronted people in situations of sexual harassment and about 30% discussed gender discrimination in the workplace with their employers.

“If the #metoo [movement] has taught us anything, it is that workplace harassment exists and is rampant. And while women complain, nothing happens to the accused, no matter what the industry is,” Meenakshi, a Delhi based independent journalist told The Citizen.