Kolkata Man Caught Masturbating At Railway Station, But Is It Fair To Demonize Him?

Kolkata Man Caught Masturbating At Railway Station, But Is It Fair To Demonize Him?

A few passengers drew the attention of the railway staff, however, before he could be caught, the man fled the scene

On Sunday afternoon, a man was caught masturbating at the Bandel Railway Station in West Bengal. A female passenger on a Howrah-bound train filmed the incident and broadcasted it live on Facebook. Once the video was shared, the man was, quite predictably, shamed online. Words like “pervert” and “sicko” were thrown around. But could there have been more to the story?

After the woman live-streamed the incident on Facebook, authorities swung into action. A few passengers drew the attention of the railway staff, however, before he could be caught, the man fled the scene.

“At the Bandel station, a man loosened his pyjamas and started masturbating outside the women’s coach. When he saw that people had started noticing him, he wore his pants and left,” said a Burdwan GRP official, on the condition of anonymity. “That man was mentally unstable,” she added. Railway staffers also confirmed that the man was mentally challenged. Which brings us to the question, is a trial by social media fair in a situation wherein, the perpetrator is possibly unaware of what’s socially acceptable and what isn’t?

Speaking to InUth, psychiatrist Dr Praveen Tripathi, said that such cases should not be treated in a straight-forward manner. “The term ‘mentally retarded’ is used for people who have lower IQs. If someone has a low IQ, it is quite possible that they cannot grasp social norms properly.”

rape and sexual harassment

Representational Image

“It might be difficult for a person with a low IQ to comprehend that masturbating in public is socially unacceptable,” he said, acknowledging the possibility of the man being an exhibitionist, a common occurrence these days. “If this man had a genuine medical problem and he’s just a victim of circumstance, we should be more sensitive and not see it as an act of perversion or sexual assault. In that case, it is unfortunate, that people are jumping to conclusions,” he added.

Dr Vibha Singh, a psychologist also told InUth that a person described as “mentally unstable” may not be aware of what’s socially acceptable and what isn’t. However, having witnessed a similar incident herself, Singh said that people shouldn’t hesitate from reporting these incidents, as most people who commit such crimes are of sound mind. Earlier in May, a man was spotted masturbating on a bus in Kolkata. A woman had posted a video of the incident online, which helped nab the criminal.

“Had that woman known that that person was mentally challenged,” Singh said, “she probably wouldn’t have filmed the incident.” She added, “No one would be able to do anything other than reporting it, ignoring it, or getting out of that situation. There’s no other way.”

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