What does the law say about bullies?

Be it the taunts from our family about our lifestyle or our relatives’ comments on how we choose to dress up. Be it the ragging we face in schools because we seemed different from the crowd or be it being catcalled for choosing to be ourselves in college. Be it being subjected to workplace humiliation or be it receiving sarcastic comments about how our bodies swayed while walking the streets. The number of bullies in our lives can be countless and so can be the places and positions they are found in.

Sometimes we don’t even register a bully until it has seeped through our psyche and done the damage it had intended to. No matter who, no matter in what form and no matter how strong the victim, bullies need to be quieted so they don’t create more of themselves. 

How to know if any act is a form of bullying? Where to draw the line ourselves? How to deal with this issue? And how to mitigate the act?

Forms and differentiae of bully

Bullying is an act which presents itself in physical, verbal, and psychological form and includes actions like sexual harassment, unwanted touches, unsolicited opinions, rumor mongering, deliberate boycotting, offensive mockery, cyber hate followed by a list that never seems to end.  In the Quigley v Complex Tooling and Moulding Ltd case, the court held that for any behaviour to be considered bullying, it must be  repeated, inappropriate and capable of undermining dignity.

There is always an internal conflict in people while trying to identify if they are being a subject to bullying or if it’s just in their head but turns out it is not as difficult. Bullying carries an objective of making others feel small and of bringing their self- esteem down while any good natured interaction does not take away the element of friendly exchange in a social setting. 

If you are being exposed to certain words or actions that are hurtful, embarrassing, or threatening to you and are continued despite your expressions of discomfort, you are being bullied, and no, it is not just in your head. 

Consequences of bullying 

The act of bullying should not be tolerated when viewed combinedly with the fact that not only the bullied but the bullies themselves suffer from certain consequences. The victims experience anger, vulnerability, helplessness, isolation, tendency of substance abuse, inferiority complex and such which may lead them to chronic forms of deteriorated mental health and may even push them into contemplating suicide. Bullying has also contributed to the aggravation of pre-existing conditions of skin, stomach, heart, and brain in victims. The perpetrators of bullying lack empathy and sensitivity are already a victim of anxiety, bitterness and frustration, the outlet of which they are always in search of. 

Statistics collected in a research conducted by STOMP Out Bullying which is the leading national anti-bullying and cyberbullying organization in U.S have shown that 1 out of 4 teens get bullied, 9 out of 10 students belonging to the LGBTIQ+ community experienced online harassment and at school, 5.4 million students choose staying home over going out on any given day because of the fear of being bullied, and standing up against the bullies becomes unthinkable because of the fact that arguments with a bully will end in a physical attack from them 80% of the time. Playground statistics say that a kid is bullied every 7 minutes where intervention from peers and other adults make up only 15% of the total cases. 

International Initiatives

UNESCO and the French Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports held an international conference on school bullying with an aim to build global momentum to end bullying in 2020. Schools have a formal obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to protect children from all forms of violence, both physical and psychological. 

  • The State of New Jersey started enforcing ‘The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights’ in September 2011 which is by far the toughest law against bullying. It requires schools to report each case of bullying to the State based on which the schools shall be graded for their quality. This has alerted the school administration to draft effective policies to run a cohesive learning environment among students.
  • The Philippine’s ‘Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 demands a compulsory anti-bullying policy in place for all the elementary and secondary schools throughout the country.
  • In 2011, Australia’s state, Victoria passed ‘Brodie’s Law’ which declared serious bullying an offence.

National Provisions

Unfortunately, Nepal is lagging behind in the promulgation of an ‘all-encompassing’ act to strictly address the issues of all forms of bullying and harassment. Having said that, Nepal does curtail the evil acts of causing or attempts of causing physical and mental trauma in the Country Criminal Code Act 2074. Section 191 of the said Act not only prohibits acts causing bodily harm but also mental infirmity. Similarly, Section 306 criminalizes the act of defaming another person.

However, all these prohibited acts only speak on the explicit actions that require proof and may be easily provided. The cases of intangible forms of bullying that cause psychological impacts in equal measure do not get accounted and prosecuted legally in the absence of laws that criminalize such activities.

Until and unless our legal framework expands itself to include all the different types of harassment, the bullies are only bolstered to further their brutality that usually escapes  much of our visions. Because, as is our society and the mentality persisting here, people do not even register bullies for what they are and are always found favoring a dismissive approach when anybody attempts to bring the bullies to the periphery of justice.

Conclusion

Bullying is not just about the impact on the bullied. It speaks in volumes of the inhumane culture we are promoting. It causes ripples of unhealthy behaviours and dangerous outcomes throughout human civilization. To avoid them, we should be careful about the choice of words and gestures we use towards others. We should be alert in noticing any act of bullying around us and muster courage for positive intervention. Above all, there is an imperative need to lift up the spirit of self-love and self-dignity so we have enough courage to reject any demeaning behaviors we have to face even without others’ endorsement.

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