Opinion: Passenger Clicks Obscene Photos Of Cabin Crew; How Common Is This Issue?

DCW Chairperson Swati Maliwal issued notices to the DCP, IGI Airport and DG, DGCA after a viral video alleged that a Spicejet passenger took obscene photos of a cabin crew member.

Opinion: Passenger Clicks Obscene Photos Of Cabin Crew; How Common Is This Issue? Image for representation

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) recently issued notices to the Delhi Police and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) over an alleged sexual harassment issue on a domestic flight. As per the airline statement, the incident happened on August 2, when a passenger travelling on SpiceJet flight SG157 operating from Delhi to Mumbai was found clicking pictures of the cabin crew. The passenger deleted the pictures and gave a written apology for the act to the cabin crew and the incident was not reported by the airline. 

However, a female passenger travelling on the same flight made a video on the matter, which went viral. The DCW, taking suo moto cognisance of a purported video of the incident on Instagram, issued notices to the Delhi Police and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) over the matter. The DCW said it has issued notices to the DCP, IGI Airport and Director General, DGCA and asked the Delhi Police and the DGCA to provide action taken reports by August 23.

DCW Chairperson Swati Maliwal called for an FIR to be registered in the matter. "Complaints of sexual harassment on flights are on the rise. This is unacceptable. In this particular case, an FIR should be registered, the matter should be thoroughly investigated and the guilty must be punished,” Maliwal said.

“DGCA must have a zero tolerance policy against sexual harassment on flights and take stringent action to prevent such incidents in the future,” she said. This is not the first time an incident like this happened on a flight. Objectification of female cabin crew in India and abroad is quite a common issue, although most of the incidents go unreported. Here's an understanding on the sexual harrassment on flights:

What Exactly Happened?

A passenger seated in the first row of SpiceJet flight SG157 operating from Delhi to Mumbai on August 2 was found clicking pictures of the cabin crew, while she was seated on the jump seat at the time of take-off, said a SpiceJet spokesperson. The passenger was confronted by the crew members and was asked to delete the pictures from his phone and apologise for his action.

The passenger apologized and deleted the pics, after which no action was taken. Later, in a video that went viral, another passenger in the flight revealed the whole incident, triggering the debate on social media, following which the DCW sent notices to various agenices. 

Sexual Harassment On Flights

The incidents of sexual harassment are quite common on flights, both in India and internationally, although of a few of them are reported. An Indian-origin Boston doctor was arrested in 2022 for masturbating in front of a 14-year-old girl last year. He was travelling on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Boston on May 27, 2022, when the incident took place.

"About half-way through the flight, the minor allegedly observed that Mohanty had covered himself with a blanket up to his neck and that Mohanty’s leg was bouncing up and down,” the statement said. “Shortly thereafter, the minor observed that the blanket was on the floor, no longer covering Mohanty, and that Mohanty was masturbating. The minor moved herself to an empty seat in a different row for the remainder of the flight.”

But this is an extreme case, which got highlighted as the perpurtor was arrested. One kind of sexual harassment that goes unnoticed and reported most of the times is the objectification of female crew members. I have interviewed many cabin crew members and everyone has faced this scenario in some way or the another. Althought, most of the cases go unnoticed, or are brushed off with a simple warning. 

Personal Experience

I was travelling on a Goa-Delhi Akasa Air flight, sometime back in June 2023. 30 minutes before we were supposed to land at the Delhi International Airport, a scuffle broke out between the cabin crew and one of the passengers over some issue, at the front aft. A passenger who was seated on the aisle seat in my row, took out his phone and clicked the photo of one of the cabin crew involved in the altercation (just a verbal exchange).

Noticing the same, one of the passengers notified the cabin crew member, who approached the passenger and asked him to show his phone. He denied saying he was just recording the video of the matter for uploading on his social media profile. However the cabin crew and a couple of more passengers acted in a strict manner and the phone lock was opened, only to realize that he indeed took a zoomed in pic of the cabin crew member.

He was asked to delete the picture immediately, which is obliged. However, on landing of the flight, the cabin crew incharge informed the ground staff, who approached the passenger before the passengers exited the plane. The person turned out to be from media and had a press card with him. He apologized for the matter and was let go, without further action. 

What Does The Law Say?

Clicking a photo of a cabin crew without consent, or any other person, for that matter, is an indecent act, but there's no strict rules against the same. If a passenger is seen indulging in such an activity, they are asked to delete the photo from the phone and often apologize in the matter. It's upto the cabin crew member is they are satisfied with a verbal or written apology. However, in case the passenger fails to comply in the matter, the pilot is informed, who in turn reports the matter to the ground.

The ground staff, along with security agencies then take the accused in custody and request again to delete the photo. In case the passenger further denies to the same, a legal action can be taken against the passenger.