A Mumbai court has sentenced a man to a year and a half in jail for sexually harassing a 15-year-old girl by catcalling her using the word “item”.
“Not being related in any way and not being in any kind of relationship, it was wholly inappropriate of the [man] to act in the way in which he did… having addressed her by using the term ‘item’ … used generally by boys to address girls in a derogatory fashion as it objectifies them in a sexual manner,” the court held, refusing to give a lighter punishment, that of probation with promise of good behaviour, to the man, a businessman from Sakinaka area of the megacity.
“Using the term ‘item’ to address any girl is obviously insulting in nature,” the court at Borivali said in its judgment on October 20 in the seven-year-old case.
Though the man, Abrar Noor Mohammad Khan, and his friends allegedly harassed her frequently, the girl and her parents went to the police after an incident of July 14, 2015. “At about 1.30 pm, the girl had gone to her school for some work. When she was returning at about 2.10 pm and walking through a lane… [Khan] who was sitting with his friends in the lane came behind her, pulled her hair and said ‘kya item kidhar ja rahi ho’,” the prosecution told the court.
Khan had claimed — without any evidence provided later – that he was friends with the girl, whose parents had lodged a false complaint as they did not like their being friends.
The prosecution demanded “a sentence sufficient to send out a proper message to the society at large”, and specifically to people who “make the lives of the girls miserable, by teasing them and touching them inappropriately when they walk on the road”.
While acquitting him of graver and some related charges, the court gave him one-and-a-half-year jail under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code for sexual harassment, and a similar sentence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Both sentences will run parallel, so he would serve only 18 months in jail. He’d already served about four months in custody after his arrest, which would be subtracted from this.
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