It can be menacing when you are being stared at by a crowd of locals. I’m used to it and smile vacantly back at them. But if I was a woman and felt I was being mentally undressed by a lecherous gang of men, I would hate it. It is a form of sexual violence – not physical, but psychological intimidation. Now a Keralan police officer says that there is a law against it.
Rishiraj Singh, a state excise commissioner, has said that staring annoyingly at a woman for 14 seconds could lead to a spell behind bars. This pronouncement has been met with a storm on social media questioning how the law might work. #14secondRule
“What happens if you blink during the 14 seconds?”
“How about if you stop after 13.5 seconds, then start again?”
“If you are looking at a possible wife, surely you can check her out for longer than 14 seconds without being arrested?”
“How would they know you were staring if your eyes were hidden by dark sunglasses?”
This was all good natured banter, poking fun at the policemen. But when a young lady from Kerala said that she quite likes “checking out” good-looking men, often spending more than 14 seconds as she does so, the excrement hit the air conditioning.
The result was a wave of nasty trolling about her being a slut, bringing shame on her parents for admitting such lewd behaviour, what about double standards – one law for men and another for women, threats and so on. She stood up for herself admirably and dismissed her anonymous critics.
The official at the heart of the twitter storm, Rishiraj Singh, also said women should take up martial arts and carry a small knife or pepper spray to defend themselves if they feel that their honour is being impugned. But it appears that there isn’t a law limiting leering at all. Mr Singh sports a very impressive handlebar moustache, but even so, I would strongly counsel against gawking at it for a quarter of a minute or more.