These days there are many incidences where men masturbate publically and police fail to nab these culprits in spite of having their images. Well, the maximum you can do is file a case or report under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with ‘assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty’, Section 509 which deals with ‘gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman’, and/or Section 268, which handles cases of public nuisance. But, nowhere in the IPC or Indian law for that matter, ‘masturbation in public’ is listed as a crime. May be this is the reason that these men dare to indulge in such act and get scot-free by law.
Recently, Delhi Police has swung into action and announced a reward for any information of the man who was caught masturbating in a crowded bus on February 7, 2018. The victim was travelling in a crowded bus when a man sitting next to her started masturbating. She was left stunned but then she made a video of the incident and posted it on social media to make people aware of the instance. People don’t even consider something like this is a form of sexual harassment.
An FIR has been lodged with Vasant Vihar Police under sections 354 (sexual harassment), 354A, and 294 (obscene act in public place) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). A probe is underway but police is clueless and helpless to get the culprit to book. Delhi police have announced a reward of Rs 25,000 for anyone who provides information about the man. The identity of the informant will be kept anonymous.
Well, take the October 19 case of an Uber driver in Hyderabad who masturbated in the cab while the passenger, Uma Sharma travelled with him to the airport. He kept looking at her through the rear-view mirror and masturbated while driving, while she kept herself busy talking on the phone or reading texts throughout the journey. Sharma noticed him masturbating and confronted him. But he negligently asked her “what was wrong?” as though nothing had happened. Sharma screamed, asked him to stop the vehicle and found another one to take her to the airport.
A year ago, Dubai-based journalist Anita Iyer had a screaming match with another friend at Mumbai’s Marine Drive for asking her to calm down when she yelled at a man for masturbating in public. She was angry that she was being told ‘at least he didn’t touch you’.
Another story was shared by a woman about a man masturbating while staring at her niece in a train from Dehradun to Delhi on October 1. The niece’s friend filmed the entire incident and informed the woman about what was happening. The man appeared unfazed in spite of knowing that he was being filmed for his crime.
The woman and her niece must have been astonished before the horror set in, when they first realised why exactly he was moving his hand up and down under his blanket, while watching the niece talk to her aunt. There are hundreds of such incidences in India, men are busy getting self-pleasures in public but yet to be booked and punished. The message these all victims were getting was loud and clear — Public masturbation is not an act of assault, so why cry? The whole time, the man who masturbated at these women did not move from his seat and just watched these females.
What are men getting out of this? A lot of public masturbators may suffer from paraphilia — a condition where one has fetishes towards unusual objects or phenomenon. Ghoulishness is just one of them. It’s not a disease as much as it is an intense fetish. Everyone has crazes — some people have foot, role-play and cross-dressing fetishes. But with public masturbators, the difference is that their fetish harms the object of their fetish — Women in public. The difference between most fetishes and public masturbation is that acting on the former is consensual, while the latter isn’t. A city like Mumbai hardly finds space, let alone favourable ones, to express sexual desires with a partner. So, some men find themselves wanting release from their frustration in public places like bus stops and trains. Guys tend to masturbate all over the place… ranging from exhibitionist activities to ‘in the dead of a moonless night blindfolded’…
Although a complaint can be filed in such cases but there is no specific punishment for public masturbation under the Indian legal system. “Laws are enacted for conditions, not specific situations. Broadly, it is an obscene act and is punishable. New amendments in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) inserted voyeurism, stalking as well as other crimes. Laws are always evolving. In the absence of specific laws that can punish this crime, it is hard to find data on how many such cases are booked in the country. However, incidents of masturbation in public in India, often find mention on blogs and social media.
But, the Indian law does not use the word “masturbation” anywhere. Moreover, women do not report such cases to the police often, due to many reasons — including the inconvenience of getting involved in legal tangles. Police complaint is not the only solution to this problem. There is a need for developing cities in a way that the streets are safer and not secluded, and a woman can find help at hand whenever needed.
(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on firstname.lastname@example.org)