Thursday, December 05, 2013

Sexual harassment

Advice - Rights and Laws, Dec '13
By Kaushik Gupta

Reader queries

What is sexual harassment?
Kishore, Kolkata

The law relating to sexual harassment is new in India. It was brought into effect on February 3, 2013. The offender necessarily has to be a man and the sufferer of such a crime, a woman (unfortunately, till date, the law of the land, by the term ‘woman’, understands only biological women). If the man makes an unwelcome and explicit physical contact or an advance with explicit sexual overtures, or demands or requests sexual favours, or shows pornography to a woman against her will, or makes sexually coloured remarks, then he will be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment. The first offence is bailable but if he commits the same crime again after the first conviction then the same is non-bailable.

Is there any law in India regarding sexual harassment in the workplace?
Kishore, Kolkata

A new law, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was enacted by the Parliament in April this year. Unfortunately, till the date of this publication, there was no notification by the government and hence the law was not in force. So if anyone commits an act of sexual harassment on a woman in a workplace, no steps can be taken under this Act. However, the harasser can be prosecuted under other laws in the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

What are voyeurism and stalking?

Again the offender can only be a man and the sufferer a woman. A man will be liable for the offence of voyeurism if he watches or captures the image of a woman engaged in a private act at a place where she ordinarily cannot be observed, that is, in a private place. In simple words, if a man watches or photographs or makes a video of a woman, which shows her genitals, posterior or breasts either exposed or covered in underwear, or while she is using the toilet, or while she is engaged in a sexual act in private, then that is an offence of voyeurism.

A man commits the offence of stalking if he follows a woman and contacts or attempts to contact her for personal interaction, repeatedly, even after the woman clearly shows disinterest, or if he monitors the use of internet, email or any other form of electronic communication of the woman. This means that if a woman has said no, then it is to be understood as a clear refusal to the man’s advances and any further advances will be seen with suspicion in the eye of the law.

Kaushik Gupta is a lawyer by profession, a photographer by passion, and happy to answer your queries on legal matters around gender and sexuality. Write in your queries to, and they will be answered with due respect to confidentiality.

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