The offence of stalking is bailable — an offender can get bail from the police station himself.
In the Lok Sabha, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor recently proposed a bill to make stalking a non-bailable offence.
The bill says stalkers must be subjected to judicial scrutiny before being allowed out on bail.
It also proposes amendments to the definition of stalking in Section 354D of the IPC to make it gender-neutral.
While stringent laws on stalking are welcomed by many (a study said almost 80 per cent of stalking cases lead to acid attacks, rapes and even murder), there is concern about the proposal to make it gender-neutral.
“I am apprehensive tweaking the law will allow it to be misused against women,” says Siji Malayil, lawyer. “I don’t know of many excesses being committed by women.”
There are many reasons India is not ready for gender-neutral laws, one being patriarchy and deep-rooted misogyny.
Such laws will be misused to create fear in the minds of women, says Sangita Unni, psychologist and counsellor.
“It is not that I am not empathetic towards men. I have had male patients complaining of domestic violence and feeling victimised, though I have not seen a case of sexual harassment against men. But each of these cases can be dealt with on an individual basis and we do have men’s rights groups working in this regard,” she says.
She is against an overhaul of the law as, in her view, Indian society is not ready for it yet.
Men can be victims too. It is better we put in stronger safeguards in place rather than amend the law, says law student Rahul Sharma.
Siji agrees. “We have excellent laws in place to protect both men and women but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, the more the laws, the more the confusion,” she says.