Groping and touching inappropriately obviously constitute sexual harassment, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The photograph of a Jammu & Kashmir minister touching the collar of a woman doctor went viral on social networking sites on Wednesday, provoking criticism and once again raising the question of what amounts to sexual harassment under the law. With this in the backdrop, Mint looks at laws related to sexual harassment at both public places and work.
The Sexual Harassment at The Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013:
Under the Act, sexual harassment includes:
a) Physical contact and advances (so, you can’t touch someone inappropriately and think I am innocent because, you know, I didn’t rape)
b) A demand or request for sexual favours
c) Making sexually coloured remarks (so, no sexist jokes or misogynist humour)
d) Showing pornography
e) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
Under the Act, the below five also count as sexual harassment:
a) Implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment.
b) Implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment
c) Implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status
d) Interference with her work or creating an intimidating or offensive work environment for her (for eg., the St. Stephen’s College sexual harassment case)
e) Humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety.
Laws under Indian Penal Code (IPC)
Section 354 (A): A man committing any physical contact, advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or demanding or requesting sexual favours; or showing pornography against the will of a woman; or making sexually coloured remarks, shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment. (Punishment: Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years)
Section 209: Obscene acts in any public place, singing obscene songs to the annoyance of others (Punishment: Imprisonment for a term of up to 3 months or fine, or both).
Section 509: Uttering any word or making any gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman. (You cannot call her “mast”.) Punishment: Imprisonment for 1 year, or fine, or both.)
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.