Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Outraging the Modesty of a Woman

According to this The Times of India article, a physical fight of some sort, involving both pilots and two flight attendants, broke out in the cockpit area during an Air India passenger flight. It's really not clear from the multiple accounts cited in the article and the accompanying video who was fighting whom over what, but it may be relevant that Air India pilots have just called off a strike, as political issues are some of the worst to have in a cockpit. I can't see reasonable people coming to blows and leaving the aircraft controls unattended over which version of the ETA the FA used in her PA without some underlying quarrel.

To me the most interesting thing about the whole mess is the charge against the pilots of "outraging the modesty of a woman." Clearly that means something in Indian law. It's a common phrase in Indian news articles and it appears to cover almost everything from grabbing a woman's hand inappropriately, to rape. It appears analogous to the Canadian concept of sexual assault. Compare the Canadian concept to the Indian judgment cited here, downgrading a charge of rape to one of outraging the modesty of a woman. (Texans may need to stop and read the Canadian link before commenting: the Canadian definition is significantly different from the Texas one cited there).

"Intention is not the sole criterion of the offence punishable under Section 354 IPC and it can be committed by a person assaulting or using criminal force to any woman, if he knows that by such an act the modesty of the woman is likely to be affected."

In many cases the Indian wording may be better than the phrase sexual assault, but in some the Indian wording may trivialize a serious offence that falls short of rape. One wonders if the modesty of a man can also be outraged.

ClustrMaps shows me a lot of red dots on India, so perhaps a regular reader will know more about outraged modesty and Air India policy and practice with respect to who is or is not on the flight deck, and the state of the cockpit door in flight. At any rate, I am liking the phrase, "Sir, you are outraging my modesty," for distracting someone whose behaviour hasn't yet escalated to a point calling for physical or legal defence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thats only because the word "sexual" was historically taboo in India and some of the old legal wording might not have changed yet (the word "sexual" is in wider use today than previously). Culturally, there is generally no condonement of sexual assault and my guess is that the wording is not an attempt to trivialize the issue. Unfortunately, misbehavior with women flight attendants by alcoholic male passengers was quite common historically. This is less a cultural issue and more an enforcement issue due to corruption (only the wealthy can fly in India) and the generally lax law and order (compared to western countries, but still pretty good amongst developing countries).