College: TNDALU, SOEL, TARAMNI.
This paper aims to discuss about the Sexual harassment and the problems faced by women in our country. There are many crimes happening in the society such as theft, robbery, murder, etc. These are the crimes in which the victim may undergo some damages in property and sometimes might have slight physical damages. In that case they might get a compensation for their damages. But in this sexual harassment, the victim was brutally affected in a physical manner which also affects them mentally for which they can’t even compensate a value for their damage. This is a crime which affects the society (especially women) in a greater manner. The majority of the crimes related to the harassment take place in the workplace. There comes the act which is known as, “The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013”. This is an act to provide protection against the sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the redressal and prevention of complaints of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination which also includes the gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion. For the past 25-30 years, this incident of sexual harassment has been going on and still it continues. Women who were remained silent for decades are now stepping forward for their future and speaking out their problems regarding the sexual harassment.
The term ‘sexual harassment’ was very uncommon and unknown in the early 1990’s. Later, it changed their lives. It ‘shattered’ their lives will be the perfect word instead of ‘changed’. Their whole world changed. We have to give voices for our women to overcome from this.
WHAT IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has given a definition to the sexual harassment – ‘sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment.
Sexual harassment need not always have to be specified in the nature of sexual behavior. For example, negative comments on a girl or about women by a group may be a form of sexual harassment. Generally sexual harassment law do not cover the teasing or offhand comments, but these behavior can also be upsetting and also have an emotional effect in a negative manner.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SEXUAL ASSAULT:
Sexual harassment in its broad term may include many types of unwelcoming verbal and physical sexual attention. But, Sexual assault refers to a sexual contact or behavior which occurs often physically without the consent of the victim. Sexual harassment usually violates the civil law – you (women) have a right to learn or work without being harassed. But in majority of cases, it is not considered as a criminal act, while sexual assault generally refers to the acts that are criminal. Some forms of sexual assault include:
· Attempted rape
· Forcing the victim to perform sexual acts
· Fondling or unwanted touching
· Penetration of the body of the victim, also known as rape.
EFFECTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT:
The victim (women) who were undergone the sexual harassment may face some emotional, mental or physical health concerns. Some of them may include:
· Loss of control
· Disturbance of sleep
· Eating disturbances
· Increased stress level
· Suicidal ideation
There were many cases happened around the world especially in India. But here we will see about some of the important landmark cases in India.
Vishaka Vs State of Rajasthan1:
It was an incident of 1992 where a lower caste woman named Bhanwari Devi, who was a social worker for the women’s development in Rajasthan. She was trying to stop a child marriage in her village which she was doing at her work time as she was a social activist. At that time, she was allegedly gang raped by five men of the upper community. After that she went to the police station to file a complaint against the five members. But the police did not make a thorough investigation about the case.
This case raised so many questions in the context of sexual harassment.
· The main issue was that the girl was gang raped at her workplace itself.
· Whether the employer has any responsibility towards the employee or employees in case of sexual harassment at a workplace?
Vishaka first approached the trail court to get justice. But the trail court acquitted the accused stating the reason that there was lack of medical evidence and other reasons. Then, public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court of India on the issue of sexual harassment of women at workplace.
The held that the sexual harassment of women at workplace would violate the fundamental rights of gender equality and right to life and liberty under Article 14, 15, 19 and 21 of our Indian Constitution. The court concluded by saying that such act would also be considered as violation of women’s human rights.
Legal changes after the case:
This case brought a major change in the society. This case laid down some guidelines and requirements which need to be fulfilled by the employers as well as the other responsible authorities or persons or institutions2:
· For preventing the acts of sexual harassment in the workplace, it should be the duty of the employer or any other responsible person or authority to prescribe for settlements and procedures.
· A complaint committee should be formed in every work place. Such committee should be headed by a woman employee only.
· Majority or half of the members of the above said committee should be comprised of women only.
· The complaints which are related to the sexual harassment of women in work place would be dealt by this committee only.
· Necessary action will be initiated by the employers or other authorities in accordance with the concerned law by the committee.
This case not only given certain guidelines and requirements but also led the Indian Government to enact The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act, 2013 which came into force from December 2013.
State of Maharashtra Vs Madhukar Narayan Mardikar3:
In this case where a police inspector of Bhiwandi town police station was alone in the station in the night went to the hutment of a woman named Banubi. There he tried to harass her. Later the women resisted but the police officer managed to escape and falsely stated that he went to the hutment for a prohibition raid. He stated that in the hutment she was dealing with the illicit liquor. The department started the investigation in which it came out that the woman (Banubi) was an easy virtue women and she also had some extramarital affairs.
The Bombay High Court held that the police officer cannot be removed from his service as the woman was of immoral character. Later it was decided by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court overruled the judgement and ordered the removal of his service.
Mukesh & Anr. Vs State for NCT of Delhi & Ors.
In this case, a 23 year old trainee physiotherapist woman was brutally raped by five adult men and a juvenile on 16th December 2012 on a moving bus.She was attacked by an iron rod. Later, she was died in the hospital in Singapore despite all the possible treatments. One of the accused was hanged himself in the jail. It was held that the other four adults were sentenced to death and the juvenile was sentenced to three years in a reformation center. It brought certain changes in the juvenile law as well as in rape laws.
2019 Hyderabad gang rape case4:
In this case, a 26 year old veterinary doctor in shamshabad near Hyderabad was gang raped and murdered by four men on November 2019. The Telengana police arrested four men based on the evidence and they were taken into judicial custody for 14 days. All the four men were killed in a police encounter during the custody while the accused were taken to the place for reconstructing the crime scene on 6 December 2019.
Though there were laws to protect our women from the sexual harassment still it continues in the society in a wider manner. So our laws should be very strict and the punishment should be in a rigorous manner that the rapists should not even think that they will try to harass a girl in our country. We should also help our society to achieve its status in a greater manner. Thus the laws should be more effective.
1. AIR 1997 SC 3011
2. Dr, J. N. Pandey, Constitutional Law of India, Central Law Agency, page no: 115
3. AIR 1991 SC 207
4. Times of India