Sexual harassment is a type of harassment involving the use of explicit or implicit sexual overtones, including the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. Sexual harassment includes a range of actions from verbal transgressions to sexual abuse or assault. Harassment can occur in many different social settings such as the workplace, the home, school, churches, etc. Harassers or victims may be of any gender.
In most modern legal contexts, sexual harassment is illegal. Laws surrounding sexual harassment generally do not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or minor isolated incidents—that is due to the fact that they do not impose a “general civility code.”
Sexual violence can happen to any soul, no matter what your age is, your sexual attitude, or your gender identity. We usually perceive and see harassment or rape cases related to females only and this is the reason that legislations are made only for the women victims. But, this doesn’t mean that men are away from the evil of sexual harassment or rape.
The modern legal understanding of sexual harassment was first developed in the 1970s, although related concepts have existed in many cultures.
Although legal activist Catharine MacKinnon is sometimes credited with creating the laws surrounding sexual harassment in the United States with her 1979 book entitled Sexual Harassment of Working Women, she did not coin the term.
An early use of the term was in a 1973 report about discrimination called “Saturn’s Rings” by Mary Rowe, Ph.D. At the time, Rowe was the Chancellor for Women and Work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Due to her efforts at MIT, the university was one of the first large organizations in the U.S. to develop specific policies and procedures aimed at stopping sexual harassment.
Rowe says that harassment of women in the workplace was being discussed in women’s groups in Massachusetts in the early 1970s. At Cornell University, instructor Lin Farley discovered that women in a discussion group repeatedly described being fired or quitting a job because they were harassed and intimidated by men. She coined the term “sexual harassment” to describe the problem, and described it at length in 1975 testimony before the New York City Human Rights Commission. And then finally, sexual harassment first became codified in U.S. law as the result of a series of sexual harassment cases in the 1970s and 1980s.
What is sexual harassment under Indian laws?
According to (Section 354A IPC), Sexual harassment is the:
- Unwelcome touching or other physical contact
- Asking or demanding sex or any other sexual activity
- Making remarks which are of a sexual nature
- Showing pornographic material which may include videos, magazines, books etc.
There is a separate law on sexual harassment at workplaces – The Sexual Harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act and Rules 2013 . There are provisions in the main criminal law (the Indian Penal Code or IPC) which are different from the special law on sexual harassment:
- The IPC is not limited to sexual harassment at the workplace, but punishes such harassment done anywhere.
- The IPC makes it possible to file a criminal complaint if you have been sexually harassed, while the special law gives you the option of seeking civil remedies and damages, involving your office administration.
The punishment for the first three kinds of sexual harassment is three years as compared to the fourth type (making sexually coloured remarks) which is one year.
Elucidating sexual harassment is a multiplex job owing to the fact that there are differences in opinions, ideas, knowledge and the social environments of individuals and groups. An individual’s interpretation of sexual harassment is framed by various kinds of societal factors like religion, education and past experiences with sexual harassment. It is also very awkward to investigate the malleability of how an individual expresses sexual harassment acts. Specific genres of sexual harassment, such as sexual harassment at workplace, rape at workplace, personal questions of sexual nature, vulgarities and other offensive language, any unwelcome sexual advance can be major elements in public definition of sexual harassment. The prime thing to be noted down is that in sexual harassment victim and perpetrator can be of any gender and the place of harassment can be any school, office, home, university, coaching centers or any other. Also, with the advent of the Internet, sexual harassment has increased by occurring online.
According to the PEW research statistics 2014, 25% of women and 13% of men between the ages of 18 to 24 have experienced sexual harassment while online. One cannot ignore the statistic of harassment with men. For sexual harassment against women, there are many legislations and statutes prevailing in India. But, we can’t ignore the sexual harassment against men also. In India, under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, there is a “right to equality”. If legislation does not take into account the men related issues too and will only stresses upon the women related issues, then this right is in violation. As it provides equality before law and equal treatment before law. So, there must be ‘equal access to justice’ in case of both men and women.
This report would manage specifically with sexual harassment as well as female- on- male rape.
“I was jailed under s. 498A, 323 and 504 of I.P.C. as my wife, Vineeta, had recorded a false case for demanding Rs. 14 lakhs as dowry after 2 years of marriage against me and my family. My father had never earned such amount, I never even thought about demanding such a huge amount. I have also sisters. Due to this case, my whole family has destroyed. We are suffering from financial scarcity. House has also sold. Now I don’t want to remain alive and want to commit suicide. My in-laws will be liable for my death.”267 This was the letter, which was written by Pushkar Singh, resident of Jankipuram Sector C, Lukhnow (Uttar Pradesh), just before committing suicide. After writing this letter Pushkar committed suicide on 06 Feb., 2007 by hanging. This incident shows how a man was deprived of his fundamental right of life and liberty, as provided to all human beings, including man, by our Constitution of India.
Right to live is that right, in which the custodian of the constitution, the Supreme Court
itself said in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India that, “right to life is not limited to just physical existence, rather it is right to life with full dignity”.
In Ram Saran Varshney and others v. Stae of Uttar Pradesh and another an F.I.R. was lodged against the husband, his parents and his three sisters under s. 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and s. 498A and 506 of I.P.C. The bench, comprising of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice N. V. Ramana, of the Supreme Court of India, on Feb. 02, 2016, after hearing all the facts, evidences and arguments of both the parties, stated that, “Since all the three sisters of the husband of the respondent lady are married, and living independently in different places, they had no concern with the relationship of the respondent lady and her husband and in-laws. Furthermore, our attention was also invited to the fact, that no clear allegations have been leveled by respondent lady against any of the three sisters of the husband of the respondent lady. Even during the course of hearing, respondent lady, who entered appearance in person, did not contest the aforesaid factual position. Her only submission, during the course of hearing was, that her three sisters-in-law had visited her matrimonial house, on the occasion of ‘Grah Parvesh’, and the ‘Naming Ceremony’ of her daughter. We are of the view, that the visit of the three sisters-in-law of respondent lady, on the above two occasions were for celebration, and cannot be treated as occasions, where they harassed her. In any case, in the absence of any material on the record of this case, relating to harassment on the above two occasions, we are satisfied, that the proceeding initiated against the three sisters of the husband of the respondent lady, consequent upon the registration of the first information report by respondent lady on 10.04.2002, was not justified. The same deserves to be quashed. The same is accordingly hereby quashed in favour of the three sisters of the husband of the respondent lady under s. 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and s. 498A and 506 of I.P.C.”
Further in State of Karnataka v. Dattaraj & others the bench, comprising of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice S. A. Bobde, of the Supreme Court of India, stated that, “The alleged dowry demand of a sewing machine is inconsequential with respect to the provisions under which the accused husband and his parents were charged, when one of the prosecution witnesses stated in her cross examination that the petitioner lady knew tailoring and the sewing machine was given to her for tailoring clothes. This was really a gift to the petitioner lady, and therefore, cannot be considered as a part of the demand made by the accused husband for himself or for his family members. There was no further attribution against the respondent husband and his parents. It is therefore not possible for us to accept, that the prosecution was successful in establishing either harassment or violence towards the petitioner lady, as against the aforestated accused, nor of any dowry demand. In such view of the matter, it is difficult for us to conclude the culpability of respondent husband and his parents, in the entire occurrence. We are satisfied, that the High Court was fully justified in recording that even the statements of the prosecution witnesses, did not attribute any kind of overt act to respondent husband and his parents. The High Court was, therefore, fully justified in acquitting respondent husband and his parents, for the offences punishable under Sections 498A and 304B read with Section 34 of the IPC, as also, for the charges under Sections 3, 4 and 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.” Similar are the cases of rape and its attempt, where either long legal proceedings or long jail term or suicide are often the future of the innocent men. When woman has used up all her tactics, then she uses that method, which a woman of civilized society will never use. She get recorded a case of rape or its attempt against the proposed man. The liberal view of the law towards woman makes her morale strong. Now, whenever she has a dispute with any man, the former gives to latter a threatening of entangling in the case of attempt to rape, and the law does not stand against her, rather gives her more liberty in one or another way. Is this the law so that an innocent person is to be punished only because the person is a man?
In my opinion when we read S.375 of the IPC which starts as, A ‘man’ is said to commit a rape thats the line where fault begins. Rather it should have been a ‘person’ is said to commit a rape. The legislature needs to take a look at this section and to reconsider it so that it could become gender-neutral.
According to Roberta Chinsky Matuson “Many people mistakenly believe that harassment is limited to females,” Sexual harassment at workplaces also consists of rape, which can either be female-on- male rape or male-on- male rape. According to Justice Krishna Iyer, “A murderer kills the body but a rapist kills the soul.”
Some suggestions to make sexual harassment laws gender neutral in India
With ample voices calling for protecting males from this brutal act, it is hard to ignore the want to do so; thereby arranging for an effective legislation to come up. There is a necessity to take the issue of sexual harassment of males to the government, to the society etc. so that people should also understand and hear the exclaim of a man too.There is a demand of ‘equal access to justice’ for both males as well as females. For this, the government and legislation must have to make laws, which safeguards the males from various kinds of harassments, assaults or rapes etc. at different areas.
The men should be engulfed in the ‘Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2012’ as soon as possible. Also, some specific sections should be inserted under Indian Penal Code to protect harassments against males. As, we are having only 1 section related to sodomy under Indian Penal Code. Also, the need of the hour is to change the mindsets of the people of Indian society who believe that a man is not made to cry and only a woman cries. This is a completely wrong notion as all those who have hearts and souls, are also having dignity, emotions, self-confidence and respect too for themselves. Acts like harassment attacks the soul and it is immaterial whether the soul is of a male or of a female ; to invocate the legislation to furnish ‘equal access to justice in India’. Nicole Kidman has rightly said that,
“Imagine a bold plan for a world without discrimination, in which women and men are equal partners in shaping their societies and lives. Let’s picture it!”
http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/2039/Sexual-Harassment-of-Men.html (last visited on 20 October, 2020)
https://vikaspedia.in/social-welfare/social-awareness/legal-awareness/legal-provisions-related-to-sexual-offences-against-women#:~:text=According%20to%20(Section%20354A%20IPC,videos%2C%20magazines%2C%20books%20etc.(Last visited on October 20, 2020)
Wikipedia (Historical background).
(Rahil Amin Mir is pursuing law at Central University of Kashmir)