It’s been more eight months since the lockdown, and we are pretty much getting into the new normal — but something that remained unchanged is the sexual abuse of most women by male abusers.
On November 08, when a Bengaluru based writer asked, “is flashing an offence in India?”, half of the Instagrammers got into a debate!
But what left me startled were the comments made by multiple people on the social media platforms — which showed me their instant disdain towards not only the womenfolk but also the fact that how many people are unaware of the basic form of sexual harassments and how, knowingly or unknowingly, they kept normalising a lot of them all this while.
This incident which was first covered by us was later given limelight by a lot of digital media platforms, but the one thing that kept anguishing me was the constant contemptation by these men which eventually made me write this.
What is ‘flashing’?
First and foremost, for people asking, ‘yeh flashing kya hota hai’, here’s something you need to understand:
Flashing is a term coined for the act of showing/ revealing your ‘private parts’ to another person; this is something that’s done intentionally, and yes, this is an offence.
The Indian law doesn’t particularly cover the offensive, harassing and sexually abusive act of flashing or cyber-flashing but over time, the law authorities have shared their opinion and concern over this, and though the law doesn’t count it under a crime, there have been enough incidents where the offender have been punished or jailed for the same.
Since the reported cases of such incidents are relatively low in our country, there hasn’t been enough legal developments, but the chances of meeting someone, especially a woman, who would have encountered such an incident at least once would be quite common.
And as if this wasn’t enough, ask any girl/ woman and most of them would probably have got a cyber-flashing story to tell — with social media users growing more than ever, several male users have been found sending unsolicited pictures of their genitalia, pornography or other sorts of visual sexually offensive images into women’s inboxes.
And oh, let me clear the fact that cyber flashing amounts to cyber sexual harassment!!
Is flashing a real crime?
Coming back to the objective of my writing; yes, flashing is an offence. “Such behaviour is a form of exhibitionism which derives pleasure from shocking and intimidating the other party,” says Pulkit Sharma, a clinical psychologist. “When they flash their private parts to someone, the expression of disgust and fear is turn on for these people. In India, girls are taught to hide their private parts, but men aren’t. By flashing, they give the message that they are not at all vulnerable, and the woman in the situation is!”
In the cases reported before, the offenders have been put behind bars for a minimum of six months to upto two years. And though it leaves a lifelong traumatic impression on the victim, not everyone is convinced about the seriousness of the issue.
When singer and activist Chinmayi Sripaada had asked her female Twitter/ Instagram followers to share their experiences of being flashed, she was sent more than 600 responses in only a few days.
Speaking of victims, school going, or teenage girls are often flashed. “School-going girls are less sexually experienced, and their reactions are way more pronounced than older women. So they are not only easy targets but also most targeted,” says the middle school counsellor Vandana Nangya.
In fact, auto drivers flashing outside schools or on the routes to working women’s hostels is also very common. A lot of women faces these experiences on buses and trains too, which makes it more difficult for them to commute. Eventually, they either change their routes or jobs.
The outcasted response
Half of the janta doesn’t even know what ‘flashing’ means, and this shows the clear lack of awareness about the basic forms of harassments too.
And these comments made by so many men would give you a clear idea of how lightly the society we live in take these issues.
Is this because they have been raised this way or because they weren’t taught about the disgust, the fear and the trauma it brings?
And those arguing that women should also be punished for flashing themselves lack a clear sense of understanding. The victim could be of any gender and so can be the offender — what one must be concerned about is the offence. The psychology behind flashing is not just limited to the exposure of obscenity but also to the fact that the offender knows that he/ she could potentially get off it easily and safely — that’s how less it matters!
This is not about Milind Soman or Poonam Pandey — this is about the consent, about the etiquettes, about the correct psychology.
Our nation soon should come up with specific laws regarding flashing — in clear terms. And it won’t happen until the adequate amount of awareness is spread awareness among the masses about such forms of sexual harassment.
Until then, do not back out to report such cases — because every time you choose silence, someone else suffers!
PS: All the comments were screengrabbed within 12 hours of posting on the social media!