Keenan-Reuben murders: Mumbai demands stringent sexual harassment laws

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Mumbai:  After the shocking deaths of Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes, Mumbaikars are demanding laws that deal with sexual harassment should be made more stringent. Several campaigns have sprung up in and around the Maharashtra capital in support of the demand.

"Two sections, section 354 and section 509 deal with sexual harassment of the IPC. They are very weak. We have requested them to make both the sections non-bailable," said Reuben Mascarenhas, Coordinator, Yuva Satta.

Section 354 which deals with molestation cases and section 509 which is for sexual harassment cases are both bailable offences in Maharashtra; unlike Delhi, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, where these sections are non-bailable.

The more worrying part for the state of Maharashtra is that the conviction rate in such cases is very poor. Maharashtra's conviction rate in such cases in 2010 was just 5 % in sexual harassment cases and a mere 8.5 % in matters of molestation. These are way below the national averages.

The NGOs, fighting for the cause, are seeking the support of all 36 MLAs in the city. They aim to collect 1 lakh signatures and then demand the government to toughen the laws.

When Baba Siddiqui, a MLA in Mumbai, was asked by NDTV if he feels scared when his daughter is out late at night, he replied, "Frankly speaking that fear in Mumbai was never there. But such an incident creates a mental block and what Reuben said that we need stringent laws if it is there in other states, I fully agree with him that we should strengthen our law. That's why we are sending this petition."

Keenan and Reuben were attacked by a bunch of goons outside a popular eatery in Amboli on October 20 and died of multiple stab injuries after they tried to fight away eve-teasers. The two tried to shield their female friends from a group of eve-teasers after they came out following dinner at the eatery in Andheri (West). The eve-teasers retreated, only to return with over a dozen others and launch a brutal assault on Keenan and Reuben.

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