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SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND CRIME

AGAINST WOMEN IN INDIA


ABSTRACT
Women across the world have tasted all flavors of life; from the glory and respect which she
was ascribed in the Vedic period, to the denial and subordination in the post Vedic period and
finally to the struggle for equality, recognition and survival in the contemporary world. But
one thing that has been common throughout these phases is the disadvantaged status of the
women. Women have been made to face all kinds of violence, physical abuse, denial of right
to live, subordination and neglect. The acts of abuses like eve-teasing, molestation, sexual
abuse and rape cover both physical and verbal abuses. However, they all are different parts of
what is commonly known as sexual harassment or sexual misconduct. This paper covers a
brief study of the various aspects of such offences which have led to the growing harassment
of women.
The concept like eve-teasing gained nationwide attention in the 1960s but today eve-teasing
has evolved as a huge issue in many metropolitan cities of India. .A large numbers of Indian
women have faced or are facing this menace. Another form of violence against women is that
of molestation, or what is commonly known as sexual abuse or sexual assault. It is the
forcing of sexual behav ior by a man over the women. Further, rape is one of the most
extreme forms of sexual violence committed against women. It is an act of physical violence
and assault which is expressed through sexual means.
The research methodology adopted for this paper is doctrinal and secondary sources of
information like books, articles, newspapers, websites, case laws, etc. are relied upon. Various
statute books like the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act have
also been referred.
The Indian Law dealing with offences of sexual harassment has been given under the Indian
Penal Code, 1860. The relevant provisions which have been included in this research paper
are those relating to rape (Section 375 and 376) and outraging the modesty of a woman

(Section 509, 294 and 354).


Also, an analysis of the recent Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 has also been included
in the study.
This study includes the various causes which lead to an increase in the number of sexual
abuses and rape against women. They include: lack of awareness, illiteracy, upbringing of the
abusers, their inability to appreciate the feminine glory of women, etc. An emphasis has also
been laid on the possible emotional, psychological and mental impacts which may be suffered
by the women.
Finally, the paper also includes certain recommendations with respect to the role of the state,
government, media, NGOs, etc in sensitizing the issues relating to violation of the rights of
women and also to promote education and awareness with respect to the same.
Keywords:Eve-Teasing, Harassment, Physical Abuse, Violence, Women

Arise, Awake and Stop not, till your goals are achieved
- Swami Vivekananda

I.

INTRODUCTION

The position and status of women has been a very dynamic concept since ages. Beginning
from the Vedic period till todays time, the status of women has gone through enumerable
changes. Women across the world have tasted all flavors of life; from the glory and respect
which she was ascribed in the Vedic period, to the denial and subordination in the post Vedic
period and finally to the struggle for equality, recognition and survival in the contemporary
world. But one thing that has been common throughout these phases is the disadvantaged
status of the women. Women have been made to face all kinds of violence, physical abuse,
denial of right to live, subordination and neglect. The most heinous and shameful of such acts
is the act of violence against women.
Violence against women is a wide term that encompasses multifarious acts of violence, abuse
and torture against women. It does not simply refer to the physical violence which a woman
has to bear, but also verbal abuse, emotional torture, economic deprivation and social
disregard. No women are born to be treated in an inhuman manner and to be deprived of her
right to life. Any sort of violence committed against a woman is a direct attack on her human
rights and is the most shameful violation of human rights.
Women of all ages, from all kinds of background and from all walks of life go through some
sort of violence in different phases of their lives. It may be in the form of domestic violence,
sexual abuse, physical and verbal abuse, rape, trafficking in women and young girls, forced

prostitution, dowry-related violence, dowry deaths, female foeticide or infanticide and other
inhuman practices. They are victimized and neglected in all fields of life and have to face
discrimination in every sphere of human activity. Thus, women across the world face these
practices in almost all spheres of life; this may include education, employment, at home, at
workplace, in marriage, or even in childhood. Women are perceived to be disadvantaged due
to their role in the society as well as the physical and biological differences from men. They
are given the titles like caretakers and home-makers and it becomes a perceived notion that
women cannot perform all tasks which can be done by men and their capabilities are often
underestimated. This is the major reason why men consider themselves in a position to
establish their dominance over women.
This paper makes an attempt in understanding the ambit of sexual harassment, its forms and
faces, the societal causes, the legislations in place to address them and the impact of such acts
on women and the society. Lastly, the author makes certain short and long- term suggestions
for various stakeholders ranging from empowerment of women to care and protection of the
victims of these grave offences such that this serious problem can be effectively tackled from
within the society itself.

II.

UNDERSTANDING THE AMBIT OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Violence is basically an act of aggression that crosses the boundary of another persons
autonomy and identity.1 In technical terms, violence is basically the use of force which is not
permitted by law and which is inflicted against the other person with the motive of achieving
something in violation of the other persons will or without their consent. In short, the
concept of violence is notoriously difficult to define because as a phenomenon it is
multifaceted, socially construed and highly ambivalent.2 It is a multifaceted and
multidimensional concept as there is no single act which can be termed as violent or abusive.
1 Mamta Rao, Law relating to Women and Children, 2012, Third Edition, Eastern Book Company,
Lucknow, India
2 Willem de Haan, Violence as an essentially contested concept, 2008, Retrieved from:
http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-0-387-74508-4_3

It may be in the form of verbal abuse or physical abuse; individual or collective; it may be a
continuous process or a onetime incident; or even beyond. It is an act which is incapable of
being described and completely analyzed by an observer, as well as the victims themselves. It
is a complex and dynamic concept which needs to be carefully understood and dealt with.

The acts of abuse like eve-teasing, molestation, sexual abuse, domestic violence and rape
have become very common forms of offences which are reported almost every day. They
cover both physical as well as verbal abuses. However, they all are different parts of what is
commonly known as sexual harassment or sexual misconduct. A victim of sexual harassment
can be a male or female or even the same sex as the harasser. However, in India this menace
has pre-dominantly taken the shape of gender-based violence by men against the women in
this country.

Gender-based violence has emerged as a major issue on the international human rights
agenda. Although, there is rarely any reliable data on the incidence of gender-based violence
in India, there is an increasing body of reports and opinions which indicate that it is
widespread and common and exists in all kinds of societies and among all classes of
population. It occurs in a broad context of gender-based discrimination with respect to access
to education, resources, and decision-making power in the household, as well as in the public
sphere.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women


(CEDAW), also known as the Treaty for Women's Equality, is a landmark international
agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women
around the world. CEDAW is a practical blueprint for each country to achieve progress for
women and girls.iii India ratified this convention in the year 1993. Even after the adoption of
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by the
United Nations General Assembly in 1979, important progress has been made in almost all
major countries for establishing gender-based violence as a human rights concern. But the
current scenario defines that the mere adoption of conventions and policies has not served the
purpose that it ought to. There is still widespread and deep rooted problem that requires
attention because the instances of female victimization have been growing tremendously.

It is the gender based violence which depicts the superior status of men in the society and the
victimization of women. It is also pertinent to consider that any form of violence, whether
verbal or physical, may be forced against a woman either by a complete stranger, or by
people who are known to them. There have been many instances where the suspected
offenders are either family members themselves, or relatives, or even family friends.
Considering such circumstances, it will not be wrong to presume that a woman is not safe in
todays time even at her own home.

III.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT: FORMS AND FACES

I.1 Eve-Teasing
A very common phenomenon in India is that of eve-teasing, which means the sexual
harassment of a woman in public. It could be done by an individual or collectively, and it
may be directed towards one woman or a group of them. It could also be a verbal
pronouncement of a socially disapproved comment or a sexually explicit statement. It may
even extend to touching or brushing against a woman, following her, or making her feel
uncomfortable by making undesired comments. It is a very commonly observed behavior, but
not a socially acceptable phenomenon.
As per the Oxford Dictionary, eve teasing means the making of unwanted sexual remarks or
advances by a man to a woman in a public place. 3 The concept of eve-teasing gained the
nationwide attention in the 1960s. But today, Eve teasing has evolved as a huge issue in
many metropolitan cities of India. .A large numbers of Indian women have faced or are facing
this menace. Whether it is a public transport or public places or shopping malls, streets or
workplace, women feel vulnerable to the threat of eve teasing everywhere. There are many
instances where even the girls of young age are being harassed in public places. Eve-teasing
is a menace to society as a whole and has to be eradicated. But there is no specific legislation
in the country except for the state of Tamil Nadu which has its own legislation to deal with
this offence. It is pertinent to note here that this is not simply a matter of an incident which
3 Oxford Dictionaries, Retrieved from: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/eve-- teasing

happens one day and is forgotten the next day. It may severely effect a women, both
emotionally and psychology. It may be that serious that it could lead a woman to commit
suicide due to the harassment and torture that she might have undergone. Eve-teasing is
nothing but a serious offence against the honor, dignity, and self-respect of a woman.
On 30.11.2012 the Supreme Court in Deputy Inspector General of Police & Anr v.S.
Samuthiram4, directed the central Government to legislate effective legislation to contain eveteasing and held that with the changing times, more and more girl students, women etc. go to
educational institutions, work places etc. and their protection is of extreme importance to a
civilized and cultured Society. The experiences of women and girl children in over-crowded
buses, metros, trains etc. are horrendous and a painful ordeal.5 The Supreme Court has also
addressed this issue in the above case wherein a policeman misbehaved and eve-teased a
married lady near a bus stand in the presence of her husband. He was caught in the act of eveteasing of a married woman leading to criminal and disciplinary proceeding, ending in his
dismissal from service. The Court laid down certain guidelines such as deputing plain clothed
police officers in public places, installation of CCTV cameras, reporting information to police
stations or women helpline, directing the State Governments and Union Territories of India to
take adequate and effective measures by issuing suitable instructions to the concerned
authorities so as to take effective and proper measures to curb such incidents of eve-teasing.
Considering such incidents, the legislators proposed to introduce certain amendments in the
criminal law relating to eve-teasing and stalking; however the same were not incorporated
into the Law. Criticized for excluding stalking and eve-teasing from the proposed Criminal
Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, the Ministry of Home Affairs is reconsidering its decision to
bring them under the ambit of the new law.6

4 2012(11) SCALE 420


5 A Romen Kumar Singh, Supreme Court on Eve-Teasing of Women and its Guidelines, Retrieved
from: http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=features.Spotlig
ht_On_Women.Supreme_court_on_eve-teasing_of_woman_And_Its_guidelines
6 Stalking, eve-teasing to be part of new law against sex offenders, The Indian Express, 17 Jan, 2013,
Retrieved from: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/stalking-eveteasing-to-be-part-of-new-lawagainst-sex-offenders/1060384/

There have been various other incidents which have been reported recently. On 23 rd May,
2013, a youth was beaten to death by three persons when he objected to their eve-teasing his
sister.7 Recently, in Maharashtra, there was a great demand for a "uniform" law in India to
curb eve-teasing in educational institutions, places of worship and other public places. Thus,
it is pertinent to consider that eve-teasing has emerged as an omnipotent social threat which
may be faced by any women, of any age, and in any part of the world.
Eve-teasing, which is usually treated as a very common crime is a manifestation of a form of
violence against women. It is a very serious issue which leads to immense mental torture and
humiliation to the women and girls when they harassed on roads and public transport. A
major problem is that most of these incidents go unreported due to various reasons such as
fear of social humiliation and embarrassment, lack of parental guidance and support in filing
complaints, etc. It is a direct infringement of a womans right to life with dignity and violates
a womens basic right to live. The same is reflected in the newspaper reports almost every
day where innumerable incidents of such incidents are reported.
I.2 Molestation
Another form of violence against women is that of molestation, or what is commonly known
as sexual abuse or sexual assault. It is the forcing of sexual behavior by a man over the
women. Molestation is the sexual exploitation of a child or a woman by an adult or a male
person for sexual gratification. The Sexual abuses can be of various types namely, Fondling,
Mutual masturbation, Sodomy, Coitus, Child pornography and child prostitution, etc. It may
be an attack on ones dignity and modesty by an acquaintance or a close family member or
friend, or even by a complete stranger. It becomes even more difficult to disclose and
complaint against the abuser where he is a family member or a person known to the family
otherwise. Though, the people who are a victim or have witnessed such crime have an
obligation to report these crimes, but reporting these crimes is a tough task; generally people
have a mindset that such cases should not be reported because of the societal pressure as they
bring bad name to the victim. The person who has been victimized is seen with disregard in
7 18-year-old boy killed for objecting to eve-teasing with sister in Etawah, India Today, Retrieved
from: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/18-year-ol-boy-killed-for-objecting-to-eve-teasing-withsister/1/272671.html

the society. Even the molesters themselves threaten the victims and compel them not to
disclose the incident. Thus, molestation is the act of subjecting someone to unwanted or
indecent sexual advances or activity which further compels him to suffer the pain silently.
Recently, incidents have been reported where the uncles or even grandfathers of the victims
have been accused of the offence of molestation. On 1 st August, 2013 a similar incident was
reported wherein a girl was set ablaze by a man after she resisted his attempt to molest her. A
number of females have reported incidents of sexual assault by their seniors at workplace in
places like offices and even educational institutions. From teachers, to employers and even to
family members and friends, the women are unsecure from almost everyone around them.
They are ill-treated, mishandled, physically harmed and even tortured. In a recent case, a
woman intern had alleged a recently retired Supreme Court judge had sexually harassed her.8
He repeatedly denied all charges. He was indicted on 6 December 2013 by the committee,
which agreed with the intern's allegation that he had subjected her to "unwelcome sexual
behavior" in December 2012.9 He resigned from the West Bengal Human Rights Commission
on 6 January 2014 after the Union Cabinet decided to make a Presidential Reference on 2
January 2014 to the Supreme Court for his removal. This is a clear disrespect for females
modesty and the feminity.
One of the most extreme forms of cases of molestation is when it occurs within marriage.
This is popularly known as spousal sexual abuse. It is where a husband physically abuses the
wife within the four walls of the house and covers his heinousness under the blanket called
marriage. In such circumstances, not only the women feel reluctant in reporting such
incidents, but sometimes they do not even realize that an offence is being committed against
them. They silently undergo the daily life trauma and perceive it as a part of their everyday
life. They are verbally abused, physically assaulted and made to work like animals and forced
to take care of the household and children. They are also an easy prey for the male members
of the household in cases where they are uneducated and unaware of their basic human rights.
Also, where the male dominant persons in a household are habitual to alcoholism, this
8 "Intern deposes before panel probing sexual harassment charge", Times of India. 18 November
2013
9 "SC Panel names judge accused of sexual harassment". Times of India. 29 November 2013.

problem further exaggerates for women.


In such cases, the woman is a helpless victim who suffers the trauma and shock by the male
members of the society. There are no specific laws in the country to deal with the offences of
molestation explicitly. However, the issue may be addressed under Section 354 of the Indian
Penal Code, 1860 which provides for punishment for using assault or criminal force against a
woman with her intention to outrage her modesty. Earlier, the Section provided for the
punishment of this offence as imprisonment for a period which may extend up to two years,
or with fine, or both. However, after the recent Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the
punishment has been increased and changed from two years to a punishment which may vary
from one year to five years, along with a fine. This has been a welcomed and appreciated
initiative taken by the government of the country. Such major steps show the intolerance of
the state towards the inhuman acts and violation of womens rights.
I.3 Rape
Of late, crime against women in general and rape in particular is on the increase Rape is
not merely a physical assault. It is often destructive of the whole personality of his victim. A
murder destroys the physical body of the victim; a rapist degrades the very soul of the
helpless female. The Courts, therefore, shoulder a great responsibility while trying an accused
on charges of rape. 10
Rape is one of the most extreme forms of sexual violence committed against women. It is an
act of physical violence and assault which is expressed through sexual means. The Indian
Penal Code, 1860 defines the offence of Rape under Section 375. Initially, this section merely
provided that a man is said to have committed rape who has sexual intercourse with a women
against her will or without her consent or under the various given circumstances in the
section. However, with the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the definition of Rape has
been made wider. Owing to the various kinds of incidents being reported lately, the
Legislators have included a variety of sexual abuses within the definition of Rape and have
also increased the punishment for the same offence. After the amendment, it has incorporated
the acts like penetration, insertion of objects, application of mouth or even the manipulation
10 State of Gujarat v. Gurmit Singh, (1996) 2 SCC 384: 1996 SCC (Cri) 316

of a females body for the purpose of penetration into the definition of rape. Also, the
punishment for the offence of rape has been made more stringent. Grave punishments are
prescribed for offences like acid attacks, gang rapes, and for the offence of rape where the
victim is left in a persistent vegetative state.
The incidents of Rape have been increasing at an alarming rate in the recent times. A drastic
shift has been seen in the crime reporting after the Delhi Gang Rape incident. On 16 th
December, 2012, a female aged 23 years of age was gang raped and brutally injured in the
Southern part of New Delhi, after which she succumbed to death. This resulted in a major
havoc in the country wherein the entire nation protested and revolted to bring about a change
in the existing laws. As a result, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was enforced.
The occurrence of incidents of rape has gone up in India over the past few years. Women of
all ages and all backgrounds are facing this menace. Even the girls of the age of two years are
being subjected to such heinous crimes. According to the World Health Organization, every
54 minutes, a woman is raped in India. This is the statistics even after a number of cases go
unreported. Statistics in India show an increase in sexual crimes against women. Figures from
the National Crime Bureau indicate a three-per cent increase in such crimes, amidst reports of
rape cases daily.11 In a few reported incidents, there have been cases where the girls of one
year of age or even of a few months old, are raped by their relatives, or servants, or even
strangers.
There may be various forms of rape by which a woman may be victimized. It could be in the
form of Custodial Rape, Gang Rape, Marital Rape, or Individual Rape. The Verma
Committee Report, on the basis of which this amendment was brought in, points out that a
2010 study suggests that 18.8 per cent of women are raped by their partners on one or more
occasion. The most extreme form of assault that can be inflicted against a woman is that by
her own husband. This is an unacceptable reality of todays world that the place where a
woman should feel safest has itself turned into the place of her exploitation. A man, whom
she expects to be protective and caring, himself turns into a beast to snatch away her dignity
and her human rights. Another rising trend in the manner of committing such an offence is
gang rapes. Almost every newspaper contains a story of a gang rape victim every day. In such
11 Zain Awan, Statistics show increase in Sexual Crimes against Women in India, Channel News Asia,
Retrieved from: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/st atistics-show-increase/713272.html

circumstances the victim becomes a helpless person due the reason that the victim falls weak
compared to the number of offenders, and also because of the fear and threat, coupled with a
feeling of helplessness.
Thus, women may be subjected to varied degrees of sexual harassments. An important factor
to be considered is that in majority of the Rape cases, the offender or the rapist is a person
who is known to the victim. It may be a family member or a family friend or any other
acquaintance. However, it can generally be a stranger as well.
Thus, the offence of rape is not only a crime against a human persons body, but also her soul.
It is because of these incidents against women that the women are seen as a weaker section of
the society and the males enjoy a dominant position. Hence, there is a strong need to address
the issues relating to sexual harassment of women through offences like rape, eve-teasing and
sexual assault and molestation. The rate with which these incidents are growing around the
country is a major issue for concern. This is not only important from the view of protecting
the women, but also for reducing the crime rate in the country and to ensure a safe
environment for all.
I.4 Sexual Harassment of women at workplace

Sexual Harassment at the Workplace (SHW) has remained one of the central concerns of the
women's movement in India since the early-'80s. During the 1980s, militant action by the
Forum Against Oppression of Women (Mumbai) against the sexual harassment of nurses in
public and private hospitals by patients and their male relatives, ward-boys and other hospital
staff; of air-hostesses by their colleagues and passengers; of teachers by their colleagues,
principals and management representatives; of PhD students by their guides and so on and so
forth received a lukewarm response from the trade unions and adverse publicity in the
media.12 But this trivialisation did not deter the women's rights activists. More and more
working women started taking systematic action against SHW. Several women's groups came

12 Forum Against Oppression of Women, 'Moving...But Not Quite There -- Evaluation Report of One Decade
1980-1990', 1991

forward in support of a new concern about a variety of sexually violent acts against women,
including SHW. 13
In 1997, in a landmark case before the Supreme Court of India stemming from the brutal
gang rape of a publicly employed social worker at work14 , the Court stated that a womans
Constitutional rights to life (with dignity), to equality and to practice any profession or carry
out any occupation, demanded safeguards against sexual harassment in the workplace. In the
absence of legislative safeguards the Court, stated that an affective alternative mechanism
was needed to prevent violations of these fundamental rights in the workplace. To that end,
the Court established guidelines (Vishaka Guidelines) with regards to the prevention and
redress of sexual harassment in the workplace. These set out a series of obligations on
employers to prevent or deter acts of sexual harassment and to remedy occasions where such
acts take place. The Court stated that the Vishaka Guidelines were to be treated as a
declaration of law and to apply until relevant protective legislation was enacted by the
Parliament.
Again in Medha Kotwal Lele vs. Union of India15, in a petition before the Court highlighting a
number of individual cases of sexual harassment and arguing that the Vishaka Guidelines
were not being effectively implemented, the Court holding that a number of states had not
done everything required to comply with the Guidelines, the Court provided the following
directions:

States governments must make the necessary amendments to their CCS Rules and

Standing Orders within two months of the date of judgment.


States governments must ensure there is an adequate number of Complaint
Committees within each state to hear complaints and that such Committees are

headed up by a woman.
State functionaries must put in place sufficient mechanisms to ensure effective

implementation of the Vishaka Guidelines.


The Bar Council of India shall ensure that all bar associations in the country and
persons registered with the State Bar Councils follow the Vishaka Guidelines.

13 Chorine, Christine, Mihir Desai, Colin Gonsalves, Women and Law, Vol I and II,1999
14 Vishaka and Others v. State of Rajasthan and Others (1997) 6 SCC 241
15 (2013) 1 SCC 311

Similarly, the Medical Council of India, Council of Architecture, Institute of


Chartered Accountants, Institute of Company Secretaries and other statutory
Institutes shall ensure that the organisations, bodies, associations, institutions and
persons registered/affiliated with them follow the Vishaka Guidelines.
Finally, the Court stated that, in the event of non-compliance to the Vishaka Guidelines, the
Courts orders and/or directions above, aggrieved persons should approach the High Court of
the state concerned.
Again, in Seema Lepcha v. State of Sikkim 16, the Court issued directions to the State
Government to give comprehensive publicity to the notifications and orders issued by it in
compliance with the guidelines framed by Supreme Court in Vishaka and Medha Kotwal
Lele, regarding sexual harassment at workplace by publishing them in newspapers having
maximum circulation in the State after every two months and by providing them wide
publicity on local Doordarshan every month. Further, the Court directed the Social Welfare
Department and State Legal Services Authority to give wide publicity to notifications and
orders issued by State Government not only for government departments of the State and its
agencies/instrumentalities but also for private companies,
The increasing work participation rate of women has made it imperative for enacting a
comprehensive legislation focusing on prevention of sexual harassment as well as providing a
redressal mechanism.

II.

LAW RELATING TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT

The Indian Law dealing with offences of sexual harassment has been given under the Indian
Penal Code, 1860. The Code defines the concepts of Rape, Stalking, Assault, etc. but it does
not define the word eve-teasing or molestation. It has defined the offences and the elements
which constitute the offence, and has also prescribed a punishment for the same.
The provisions dealing with the crime of eve-teasing are contained in Sections 509, 294 and
354. Section 509 prescribes the punishment for outraging the modesty of women by uttering
16 (2013) 11 SCC 641

any word, making any gestures or doing any act with the intention of outraging a womans
modesty. Section 294 prescribes the punishment for committing any obscene acts or uttering
or saying obscene songs. Similarly, Section 354 prescribes punishment for use of assault or
Criminal force to a woman with the intention to outrage her modesty. However, the term Eveteasing has not been explicitly used in the Code, nor the concept of modesty has been defined
as it differs from place to place. Something that may not amount to outraging modesty in
USA, may amount to outraging of modesty in India. What may be obscene in India may not
be considered obscene in USA. Apart from this offence, the offence of Sexual Abuse or
molestation may also be addressed under Section 354 of the Code.
The provisions of IPC dealing with the offence of Rape have been laid down under Section
375 and 376. As discussed above, the scope of the definition of Rape given under Section 375
was narrow, which has been amended and modified to meet the needs of the current society.
The December gang rape and subsequent death of a twenty-three-year-old student in New
Delhi ignited a national furor over India's treatment of women and the perceived culture of
complicity with regards to sexual violence in India. It was due to this nationwide protest that
the law was amended. Section 375 now provides the definition of Rape as the penetration of
penis, or any object to any extent into the vagina, urethra, anus or mouth; or manipulation of
body parts of women so as to cause penetration or application of mouth to the private parts of
a woman, etc. The new law also incorporates stringent punishments in Section 376 for rape,
gang rape, as well as acid attacks. It has also made special provisions to prescribe
punishments for the offence of rape where the offence of rape causes death, or leaves the
victim in a vegetative state. It also prescribes grave punishments for repeated offenders of the
crime of rape. Apart from these measures, the government and the courts lay down several
policies and guidelines for ensuring women security in the country. For instance, there has
been an establishment for a special system of womens helpline number in Delhi; special
regulations have been made for women safety in public transport; new and suitable laws have
been enacted; even special phone applications have been made available which could help
tracing a person; etc.

Apart from ratifying CEDAW in the year 1993 for the purpose of building a sound
framework for protection of womens human rights, India finally enacted the Sexual
Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act in 2013 for

prevention of sexual harassment against women at the workplaces. The Central Government
vide notification SO 3606 (E) appointed 9 December 2013 as the date on which the
provisions of the Act came into force and on the same day, the Central Government made the
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules,
2013 ("Rules"). The Act is enacted by the Indian Parliament to provide protection against
sexual harassment of women at workplace and prevention and redressal of complaints of
sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Sexual
harassment is termed as a violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under
Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and right to life and to live with dignity under
Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Sexual harassment is also considered a violation of a
right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which
includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment.
The Act has adopted the definition of 'sexual harassment' from Vishaka Judgment and the
term sexual harassment includes any unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by
implication) such as physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favours,
making sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography or any other unwelcome physical,
verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
In, Apparel Export Promotion Council Vs. A.K. Chopra17, the Hon'ble Supreme Court while
deciding an issue whether the act of a superior officer (wherein such superior officer tried to
molest his junior woman employee) would amount to sexual harassment, the Court relied on
the definition of the term 'sexual harassment' laid down by the Supreme Court in the Vishaka
Judgment (which is similar to the definition of the Sexual Harassment provided in the Act)
held that "the act of the respondent was unbecoming of good conduct and behavior expected
from a superior officer and undoubtedly amounted to sexual harassment...".
Section 3 of the Act provides that no woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any
workplace. This section further provides the circumstances which if present or connected
with any act or behaviour of sexual harassment may amount to sexual harassment such as
implied or expressed promise to preferential treatment or implied or explicit threat of
detrimental treatment in her employment, implied or explicit threat about her present or

17 AIR 1999 SC 625

future employment, interference with work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile


work environment, humiliating treatment likely to affect health or safety of a woman.
In addition, the Act makes it mandatory for every employer to constitute an internal
complaints committee ("ICC") which entertains the complaints made by any aggrieved
women.
However, the loopholes in the Indian Law and the absence of complete description of certain
offences like eve-teasing and penal provisions for all such sort of offences is a major lacuna
to be covered. It is important to make a complete set of laws which could cover all such
offences and make the society safe and secure.

III.

CAUSES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AGAINST


WOMEN

In India, the major cause for the subjection of women to these kinds of inhuman acts and
violation of the right to life with dignity is the patriarchal system of the society where the
male members are considered to be superior to females. The role of men and women in the
society is seen in terms of domination and subordination. Women are perceived to be
submissive and to be kept under the control and supervision of men. The women have been
considered as a weaker section since ages. The glory that was ascribed to women in the
ancient and vedic society was all taken away when writers like Manu asserted and prescribed
low status for women in their writings. According to Manu, a woman should never be
independent. She should live under the control and supervision of the male members of the
family throughout her life. As a daughter, she should be dependent upon her father; as a wife,
she should be dependent upon her husband; and as a widow, she should be dependent upon
her son. Such views and opinions have degraded the status of women in the society.
These age-old chauvinistic opinions are still reflected in societal attitude towards women.
Women in India are often denied the Right to education. For instance, a reputed University in
India denied women the right to access libraries citing the reason that it would distract the
male students and unnecessarily overcrowd the library.18 Though the ban was eventually
lifted due to the immense controversy caused, this still reflects the patriarchal attitudes that
18 Eram Agha, Girls in Aligarh Muslim University library will attract boys: VC, published in Times
of India on November 11, 2014

even educational heads possess. Further, even if educated, professional ambition is not
encouraged by families. Highly qualified women in India are bogged down by family
pressure to enter into marriages and thereafter, forgo their jobs such that they are no longer
financially independent.
Also, a major reason why men fail to respect the modesty and decency of the females is the
mindset and upbringing of the men. Another major difference why men are considered to be
stronger than women is due to the biological features and the societal attributes where women
are expected to be fragile and weak. Since they lack physical strength and the capability to
fight back in protection, they become easy target for the abusers. Women are much more
likely to be victims of sexual harassment precisely because they more often than men lack
power, are in more vulnerable and insecure positions, lack self confidence, or have been
socialized to suffer in silence.19 The societal- construction of attributes like shyness, softness
in voice and behavior, dependence on parents and brother, etc, have all led to the general
view that women cannot protect themselves.
One of the major reasons and justification for such offences given by the society is the
character and dressing style of the females who are victims of such offences. Some political
leaders and social workers have made remarks and pointed out that it is the lifestyle of
women which encourages men to approach them and to commit the acts of sexual
harassment. Wearing short dresses; enjoying social life in parties and evening outings; having
friendly relations with male members; etc. are a few of such explanations given by the people
to shift the burden from the offenders and abusers to the victims. Rather than supporting the
victim and having sympathy towards them, they are criticized and seen as the reason for the
commission of the crime. However, it is pertinent to note that even women of old ages as well
as young girls are also victimized. From girls who go out for party at late hours of night to
old age women who go to the temple in the morning, all categories of women are at the risk
of being victimized. Those who wear western dresses and those who wear traditional sarees
are all equal suspects for the abusers.
Another reason why the incidents of sexual harassments have been growing is due to the
19 Causes of Sexual Harassment, Stop Violence Against Women, Sexual Harassment, Retrieved from:
http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/svaw/harassment/exp lore/3causes.htm

inability or the denial of the female victims to report these cases. They feel hesitant in
reporting such cases as they feel that the victimization caused to them will further increase in
case they reported the incident. The society would look upon them in disregard and the
proceedings launched by them will cause further harassment when personal and unsolicited
questioning will be done to them.
Apart from these reasons, what encourages men to overpower women and exploit them is
their desire to prove their strength over the opposite gender. Some common reasons for these
offences may also be revenge, hatred, or mere pleasure. This is because the societies are not
yet developed and mature enough to understand the need to respect the females. Another
major factor is alcoholism and drunkenness of the people who commit such offences under
the influence of such addictive substances. It is also because a majority of the abusers are
people belonging to the uneducated or illiterate class who have not been given proper
knowledge and thus fail to appreciate the feminine glory of women. Thus, such crimes have
become very common in the country.
Public figures in India still take it upon themselves to lay down the rules of conduct for
women prescribing how they should dress and even delineate what activities they should
indulge in. Women are still considered as mere objects of gratification and this is how the
media and film industries portray them. This media portrayal of women wherein they are
often objectified and women wearing certain attires are generalized as being promiscuous and
immoral sets in stone such patriarchal mindsets.
In light of this, the author strongly believes the harassment will continue to exist unless
society changes and the patriarchal mindset is gotten rid off.

IV.

IMPACT ON WOMEN AND SOCIETY

When a woman is subjected to sexual abuse and harassment in the form of offences like eveteasing, molestation or in the extreme forms like rape, a woman goes through shock and
trauma which cannot be easily analyzed. A victim is socially ostracized and morally degraded
with a lifelong stigma on her dignity and character. The mental torture is deep and the mental

agony is unbearable.20
In cases of eve-teasing, it becomes practically impossible for women to walk through the
same streets and work in the same place where they know that they will have to face the
extreme forms of abuse in the form of obscene comments and gestures. Also, it causes
emotional and psychological imbalance which further disturbs the personal life of the victim.
However, the consequences are deep and grave in cases of sexual harassment or molestation
and rape. They leave a permanent scar on the mind of the victim which leads to further
problems in adjusting in the society. This is because the society also makes them feel
excluded. Rather than supporting the victim and sharing sympathy, the victimized person has
to face further exclusion inflicted by the society and even relatives.

Some women who face this humiliation and harassment also develop psychological
problems. They may develop suicidal tendencies and even take extreme steps like actually
committing suicide and even the family members take such extreme steps due to the societal
pressures. Young girls who are the victims of sexual abuse experience physical, biological
and behavioral problems that can persist for decades after, a new study shows.21
Women, who have suffered the humiliation and harassment, show certain peculiar
characteristics in their behavior such as: frightened, guilty, powerless, angry, ashamed,
depressed, numb and lacking self-confidence. Thus, these offences highly influence the lives
of the women in many negative ways. They are not only a physical abuse, but also an
emotional and mental torture which walks with them throughout their lives.
With special regard to rape within marriage, it is a concept that causes humiliation and
trauma to the wife to the very core. The fear of having to face it and still have to silently
suffer through it is an unbearable thought that affects women both psychologically, as well as
20 Mamta Rao, Law Relating to Women and Children, Third Edition, 2012, Eastern Book Company, Lucknow,
India

21 Joan Raymond, Effects of Sexual Abuse Last for Decades, CNBC News,
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/43594639/ns/health-health_care/t/effects-sexual-abuse-last-decades-studyfinds/#.Uf_03JKnBXY

emotionally. This self enforced silence and surrender to sexual abuse has far reaching and
detrimental effect on the emotional, psychological and mental stability of women.
Apart from these notable features, the extreme forms of impacts that may be witnessed
among the victims may also include long term symptoms like sleeping disorders, eating
disorders, sexual dysfunction or loss of self confidence and developed negative self image.
Children, who are brought up in families where there is persistent violence, may show some
signs of behavioral and emotional disturbances. These can also result in perpetrating or
experiencing violence in future life.
Lately, there has been an increased recognition among the political and economic brains of
India about the impact of women on the society. Prof. Amartya Sen, a famous economist, has
observed that there is considerable evidence that womens education and literacy tends to
reduce the mortality rates of children. Shri Narendra Modi, the P.M. of the country, recently
remarked in a CNN interview that maintaining the dignity of women should be a collective
responsibility and that Girl education is important for the empowerment and development of
the country.
It is ironic that in a country where female goddesses are worshipped with great reverence,
respect is denied to corporeal women. The words of Rabindranath Tagore in The Home &
the world come to mind-For we women are not only the deities of the household fire, but
the flame of the soul itself.

V.

SUGGESTIONS

Amartya Sen once said A country can only flourish when its women are given equal rights
and respect. In light of this, the growing menace of physical and sexual abuse against
women needs urgent attention. The society and the Government should make the necessary
efforts in bringing in and enforcing specific laws targeting the issues relating to sexual abuse.
The Police authorities and media can also play an important role in sensitizing the women
about their rights and the remedies available to them. The state shall regulate the working of
police officials in dealing with offences relating to women. Thought the state and state
authorities have been making sincere efforts to implement measures to provide a safe
environment to the women in society, but the evil practice still persists and corrupts the social

harmony. It is also very important to empower women through law reform and social change
so that there is a sense of security.
A very important step towards empowerment of women is educating them. There should be
an initiative taken by the NGOs, Schools and colleges to educate women and to spread
awareness among the women class so as to protect themselves from sexual abuse and
harassment. They should be taught to revolt and resist any acts of physical abuse and also to
report the same. Further, Comprehensive education schemes should be provided by the
Government to women from all sections of the society so that they can be economically
independent. Only when the women are educated about their rights and made self- reliant in
protecting them, our society can be called truly civilized and progressive.
Also, there is a major role to be played by the parents in achieving this special goal, which is
to provide a sound and proper upbringing to their children. It is very important to change the
perception and outlook of men towards women in the world. They should be taught to respect
the glory of women and not to consider them as an object for the satisfaction of their
disrespectful greed. Therefore, it is very important to change the mentality and mind set of
the society.
In addition, good governance that enables strict enforcement of the existing laws so as to
ensure proper security to women is necessary to this menace. Also, upon commission of such
heinous offences the victim should be granted further special rights and privileges to create a
societal atmosphere wherein women are encouraged to overcome the social taboo and to
report such offences to their person to the authorities. In addition, the authorities especially
the police should compulsorily inform the victims of their rights.
Another suggestion by the author is that a single window system should be created by the
Government whereby any victim of rape is eligible to receive compensation and coverage of
medical expenses so that they can receive due medical care in the hands of good private
hospitals.
In Nirbhayas case, it is pertinent to observe that the victims medical condition deteriorated
due to inefficiency on the part of the hospitals to treat her. Had the victim been taken to a
good hospital on the first-go, the author believes that the things would have been quite

different. This brings to light the urgent need for PCR vans and better- trained medical staff
that is equipped to handle cases of a sensitive nature. Hospitals in India are still not
mandatorily required by the Government to appoint counselors for addressing the
psychological trauma faced by the victim.

The enactment of The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 is a major achievement of the
Indian Legislature as it has incorporated various necessary provisions and has also made the
punishments more strict and grave. With respect to sexual harassment of women at
workplace, undoubtedly, the guidelines and norms framed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in
Vishaka Judgment are fountainhead of the Act. However, The Sexual Harassment of Women
at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 Act has gone one step ahead
and included various issues which remained unaddressed in the past such as extension of the
definition of workplace to include almost all types of establishments including private sector
organization, dwelling places or houses, inclusion of the term domestic worker and
unorganized sector in order to address the issue of sexual harassment of women.
Despite the legal framework it is noted that the instances of such crimes are still witnessing
a constant increase. Unless women get an equal status this country will always remain a
developing country. Framing laws as a preventive measure is fine. But the solution to this
changing the mentality of the society and that is the responsibility of the government as well
as every individual member of the society.