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This article on curbing crimes of sexual harassment involves an insight into the emerging trends, that cater towards a greater rationality. The purpose is immutably based on equality, coupled with emotional and intellectual security. The kind of laws that demand our recognition and assistance are not just made to be enforced on a spiritual level, there is an urgent need to reintegrate them in our daily practices with being observant and tacitly involved.
The 2013 report of the Asian Centre for Human Rights titled ‘India’s Hell Holes’ extensively covers crimes of assault against children in particular, in the shelter homes. The acts of sodomization and assault are a regular feature of these escape condos, where activities are reiterated at the vagaries and fancies of the prosperous and powerful.
Massive increase in rape and assault cases to 26 per cent in the year 2016 just a few years after the Delhi gang-rape has quite evidently pronounced the pitiful state of affairs the country is actually dealing with. With a conviction rate of 19 per cent and the average rate of rape case being 6.3 per 100,000 population, it is obligatory to make resolutions and attempts towards being intolerant to such activities.
I. Introduction: Curbing Crimes of Sexual Harassment: Towards a Greater Rationality
For any and every crime, there must be a law, such that justice is delivered to the victim and it serves as a deterrent to the perpetrators. This forms the essence of our Criminal Justice System, that deals with infringements of every character. However, we should also be able to acknowledge the fact that we are one of the most 0ver-legislated and under-enforced countries in the world.
The menace of sexual harassment has been a part of our society and constructed so strong a position for itself that almost 99 per cent of the cases on sexual violence go unreported. The lack of awareness among females about the rights they are entitled to, or the institutions that provide a remedy in case of such detestable events as well as fear of social boycott has a substantial share of responsibility in the culmination of such activities.
II. Sexual Harassment v. Sexual Assault
Sexual harassment has a wider ambit and often includes undesirable intentional or physical offerings. It can be activities in the form of gestures or comments and expands over to requests for sexual favours in the workplace or in any kind of learning environment. It does not have to be necessitated on one single person as there are certain statements or behaviours by a group, that have a biased stereotypical inclination.
Sexual assault is a criminal form of behaviour that includes contact and involves extreme physical activity on the form of penetration, rape, forceful sexual acts, fondling or sexual touching. While sexual harassment leads to a violation of civil laws in most cases, sexual assault is a criminal offence.
III. How can we as a community help?
Our roles in the development of our habitats and surrounding often demand a regular approach to understanding beneath the heralded structure. The basic need of social security by the most vulnerable sections living among us has to be delivered by acts of consciousness and education. Education plays a crucial role in spreading information and endows upon us, the responsibility to strive for public welfare.
1. Understanding the forms and nature of harassments
There are various forms of sexual harassments that take place through:
- Sexual comments: stories, lewd remarks about clothes and appearance and sexualized names
- Verbal harassment: Jokes or taunting
- Physical behaviour: deliberately brushing against women, displaying pictures and drawings of a sexual nature.
- Making conditions of employment or advancement dependent on sexual favours, either explicitly or implicitly.
- Requests for sexual favours.
- Unwanted touching or physical contact.
- Feeling pressured to engage with someone sexually.
- Non-consensual sharing of sexual images and videos
- Sexualized online bullying
- Unwanted sexualized comments
- Threats or intimidation
2. Initiating Preventative Education in Establishments and Organisations
Preventative education in the formative and adolescent age groups can go a long way in building perspectives, that are different from the accepted class of norms. Students at colleges can frame posters that determine the extent of the fact that it is okay to speak and seek for help, advice or guidance.
Teacher policing and partiality are some of the major drawbacks in our current academic organisation. Dismissing complaints of sexual nature as ‘banter’, ‘boys being boys’, ‘just having a laugh’ or ‘part of growing up’ should be explicitly prohibited, so as to prevent the risk of normalising such practices.
Sexual harassment and torture can also be encountered by men, who, driven by societal factors, do not come up. Gender-based education is a hindrance to the developing psychology of individuals, who are sequenced into believing how men are different and inherently stronger than women. The sexist language, behaviour, period-shaming has to stop in order to create a safe environment for both the sexes.
3. Sex Education: Inevitable part of the curriculum
The three stages of knowledge that help in sexual development include the adolescent stage, the reproductive age and the acquaintance with facts on the transmission of disease. The stigma attached to such matters has for centuries deprived people of their essential right to knowledge in the appropriate age. This act of spreading information about taboo subjects has to be initiated by students, who are not bound by cultural obligations.
The prevention of diseases like AIDS and several STDs is as essential as our basic synopsis of daily events in educational and working institutions. The impact of personal and social health on the evolution of an individual is not just directed back to him/her but to us, as a community. Every time there is an incident of violence and assault, it is the failure of the civil machinery that is primarily dominated by religious and cultural ignorance.
What is consent?
Consent means having the liberty, freedom and capacity to choose. It can be withdrawn at any time upon the choice of the individual if it is in accordance with prejudiced behaviour or has unacceptable signs of progress. This can only be brought about when each person has realized the kind of behaviour, they are rightly entitled to and can expect from their peers.
4. Behaviour Policy
Teen Relationship Advice in schools and colleges would go a long way in curbing crime due to trifling obstinacy and petty social insecurities as well as inequalities. We should also keep in mind that a major part of the country and the tribals have little or no access to basic requirements of life, these are the areas that need special care. This can be done by setting up helplines that are accessible and regular visits to promote their confidence.
The meaning of healthy and respectful relationships and what courteous behaviour looks like should be a regular part of welfare-oriented activities. Body-confidence and self-esteem are vital to the growth of an individual and can be hampered by stereotyping or portraying biased opinions on regular matters. Harassment is always wrong and it should be addressed by depicting and abominating cultures that foster such baseness.
An exploration of behaviours that are related to sexual offences while providing supportive leadership results into trained and confident individuals, who ultimately serve as socially-accountable citizens. A defined standard for teachers’ professional development forms a principal act of bringing change.
5. Legal Aid Society
A legal aid society should be included among the various initiatives that an organisation takes to curb harassments. These societies should play an active part in employing laws as the basis of their stage plays on sexual harassment forms. The various kinds of it can be a part of the techniques employed in making the drama and acts more meaningful and relevant.
Staff meetings, to discuss pertinent problems that need to be highlighted should be in consonance with the demand of these societies that would register more complaints as opposed to the practice when the authority of registering such complaints would lie on teachers. Events can be coordinated with the NGO’s or Social Groups that can provide us with a consistent and reliable analysis, including data of original case studies.
These societies can consist of individuals who are equipped with the knowledge of the law relating to such matters. The people who are ready to minimize the risk of these activities occurring should play an active role in supporting claims of affected individuals under statutory guidance and the legal framework. Basic laws and provisions of the IPC should actually be added to textbooks of every academic syllabus so as to highlight the importance of claiming rights and not staying silent.
6. Awareness Campaigns both online and offline
First Information Report (FIR)
This is the first step towards rising against the injustice done to you. By virtue of the complaint filed, you stand not just for yourself but for many who are quelled. This is a complaint that will be recorded in the language that you can understand in a local police station. Translation facilities are available so that you can understand the recorded statement if required. Details are important and any amount of embarrassment or insecurity is not the ultimate solution.
Abandon customs of victimizing yourself
There is always a solution, hope and possibility. Embracing crimes done to you so that a section of your social group is appeased has no long-term legality. In this direction, students can emphasize the aspects of the crime and the command it can take in a person’s life.
The potential impact of social media is no mystery now, we are all cognizant of the desperate forms it can take in ruining lives altogether. The practices of societal ideation, inherent anxiety disorders, panic attacks are all a part of the ongoing struggle with silence.
Witness support, confidentiality and anonymity to encourage the reporting of stories will further spread empathy towards the victims. The nature of alleged incidents, developmental stages, ages and the sustained pattern of abuse are some of the crucial questions that need to see the light of the day. Risk and need assessment should be publicized and reassurance, extended to the sufferer.
IV. Sexual Orientation: Freedom to Be
The inherent sense of belonging to any gender whether it is biologically contrasting is allowed and acceptable. Incongruency with the sex assigned at birth is not something to be ashamed of and contextual laws need to be promulgated. Social exclusion, criticisms and stigma are just another parameters that we create for impeding a very original concept of being.
The concepts of Gender Identity in determining the comprehensive improvement of individuals is also a part of the academic obligations by tutors and professionals in the scholastic hierarchy. It is essential that we talk about the rights of each person irrespective of their gender, colour, choices, religion, sexuality and perceptions too. Rights of the LGBT communities should be extraordinarily advertised in order to build them and provide the historical justice, they are genuinely authorised to.
Judgements limit the possible chances of advancements in especially those sexually-oriented people who stand as a minority as against the ‘normal’. The examination of gender dysphoria felt by individuals is not to be stigmatized and hence ostracized but, modernised. Calling names that are derogatory stand in particular violation of our basic want of respect and should be strictly controlled.
V. Sexual Harassment Laws in India
Laws under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
- IPC Section 294
It includes obscene acts in any public place, singing obscene songs to the annoyance of others. Punishment will be imprisonment for a term of up to 3 months or fine, or both.
- IPC Section 354(A)
Demanding sexual favours, showing pornography, physical contact despite indication of disinterest, is a crime and the accused can be subjected to either jail ranging from 1 – 3 years or fine or both.
- IPC Section 354 (B)
It deals with forcing a woman to undress and punishment of jail ranges from 3 – 7 years in prison and a fine.
- IPC Section 354 (C)
Watching, capturing or sharing images of women engaging in a private act without her consent is voyeurism and punishable under this section. The man can face jail ranging from 1- 3 years. But if that man is convicted for the second time, then he will face jail between 3 – 7 years along with fine.
- IPC Section 354 (D)
Following someone with or without their knowledge is known as stalking and considered as an act of sexual harassment. The punishment will be jail term ranging from 3 – 5 years coupled with a fine.
- IPC Section 375
It includes acts like penetration of the penis into the vagina, urethra, anus or mouth, or any object into any body part, to apply mouth or touching private parts. Penetration means ‘penetration to any extent’. The punishment will be imprisonment which will not be less than 7 years and it can also be extended to a lifetime. In aggravated situations, punishment may be rigorous, not less than a jail of 10 years, and maybe imprisonment for life.
- IPC Section 376A
If a person committing the offence of sexual assault inflicts an injury which causes the death of the person or persistent vegetative state, then he shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, and it shall be extended to life imprisonment.
In gang rapes, persons involved will be punished with rigorous imprisonment of 20 years and not less than that. They shall also have to pay compensation to the victim. The age of consent is 18 years which means any rape below 18 years will be statutory rape.
- IPC Section 499
Morphing Pictures of the lady and sharing them with an intention to harass and defame them is punishable by implying jail up to 2 years or fine or both.
- IPC Section 503
If a woman refuses to someone’s sexual favours and is met by threats for physical or reputational harm, shall be punished with imprisonment for 2 years or fine, or both.
- IPC Section 509
Insulting the modesty of a woman by making sexually coloured remarks about her in a public space which intrudes her privacy is punishable by jail of 3 years and fine.
- Section 67 of the IT Act
Posting any obscene or defamatory material on a public online platform with an intention to harm the reputation or harass that woman is punishable with jail time of 2 years with a fine.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013
Around 1,971 cases of sexual harassment at the workplace were registered in 4 years till December 12, 2017. Cases reported increased by 45% from 371 in 2014 to 539 in 2017, till 12 December 2017. Uttar Pradesh reported the most number of cases.
As many as 70% of women abstained from reporting due to social stigma, according to Indian Bar Association in 2017. The government also set up an online management system – Sexual Harassment Electronic Box known as SHe-box for registration of sexual assaults.
If the harassment has occurred at a women’s workplace, during the course of her employment, at her educational institute or a hospital where she is admitted, then she can get relief under this Act.
This act covers all women irrespective of their age and employment status. There are no distinction between the private, public, domestic or independent sectors. An Internal Complaints Committee in every office with 10 or more employees to examine cases has been mandated.
A penalty of 50,000 is levied upon companies if the same is not followed and their licences cancelled, after a repetition. This complaint can be filed by anyone who is aware of the incident or the individual herself. The details should involve correctness and an enquiry should be completed within 90 days and then a report has to be made in 60 days. A strict adherence to guidelines is obligatory.
Whether you are a part-time, regular, ad hoc, intern or daily wage earner this law covers all. If due to some difficulties, you are not able to file the complaint, then the local committee can extend the time limit, even a legal heir can lodge the complaint in cases of mental and physical injury.
The committee shall have the same powers as the Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 when trying a suit.
Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013
It is also known as the Nirbhaya Act which is an Indian legislation passed by the Lok Sabha on 19th March 2013 and by Rajya Sabha on 21st March 2013. It provides amendment of the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on laws related to sexual offences.
It was originally an ordinance which was promulgated by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee on 3rd April 2013, in light of the protests in the 2012 Delhi rape case.
This Act has explicitly recognized certain acts as offences which are dealt under the IPC sections like sexual harassment, acid attack, stalking and voyeurism.
VI. Landmark Cases on Sexual Harassment
In India, the term ‘sexual harassment’ was first defined in a formal legal sense in the year 1997 by, the Supreme Court in Vishaka’s case. The Supreme Court has given two landmark judgments – Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan and Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A K Chopra in which it laid down certain guidelines and measures to ensure the prevention of sexual harassment of women at workplace.
In India, recently ‘The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Protection and Redressal) Act 2013’ has been enforced for the protection of women against such violence. It is considered to be a form of sex discrimination which degrades the woman and is often regarded as having lesser ability to perform well at work in comparison to the male employees.
Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, the court gave a new dimension to Article 21. It was held that the right to ‘live’ is not merely confined to physical existence but it includes within its ambit the right to live with human dignity.
In the case of Francis Coralie v. Union Territory of Delhi, the court held that “The right to live includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, viz., the bare necessities of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter over the head and facilities for reading writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms, freely moving about and mixing and mingling with fellow human beings and must include the right to basic necessities the basic necessities of life and also the right to carry on functions and activities as constitute the bare minimum expression of human self.”
Saurabh Kumar Mallick v. Comptroller & Auditor General of India, the respondent was facing departmental inquiry for allegedly indulging in sexual harassment of his senior woman officer. He contended that he could not be accused of sexual harassment at workplace as the alleged misconduct took place not at the workplace but at an official mess where the woman officer was residing. It was also argued that the complainant was even senior to the respondent and therefore no ‘favour’ could be extracted by the respondent from the complainant and thus the alleged act would not constitute ‘sexual harassment’.
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1987
If an individual harasses another with books, photographs, paintings, films, pamphlets, packages, etc. Containing ‘indecent representation of women’; they are liable for a minimum sentence of two years.
Any delinquency in supporting claims is a step towards traumatizing the already affected individual. Sensitivity towards complainants should focus upon guidelines to authorities about the conduct of such sessions. A woman or highly experienced individual in social matters, especially someone of the same linguistic origin and gender, including transgenders, shall not only support compassion but also control crimes to a great extent.
An equal representation to all the sections of the society, including transgender, bisexual, asexual and sometimes ‘gender-fluid’, is the unanimous step towards enhancing cosmopolitan development. The Right to live with dignity is not just a constitutional mandate, it is the supreme advantage of being intrinsically human. What stands as a deterrent to these liberal ideas is the criminalisation of justice, through politicians and people of monetary worth, which can only be curbed by a stricter and impartial enforcement of laws.
- Dr. Rajulben L. Desai, Member, National Commission for Women
- Saumya Shah, Student, University of Delhi
 Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1997 SC 3011
 AIR 1999 SC 625
 1978 AIR 597
 1981 AIR 746
 (2008) 151 DLT 261