Sexual Harassment In India

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In the recent case of  Mobasher Jawed Akbar vs . Priya Ramani on 17 February 2021, it was rather astonishing that Priya Ramani was acquitted in the trial court for a criminal defamation case filed by Mobashar Akbar, her former boss and now an editor-turned politician for accusing him of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement back in 2018. It is quite questionable that how a person being accused of harassment is allowed to take shed under his fame of how well established he is in the field of politics, journalism, and law, etc. and the woman’s testimonials and harsh sexual experience is labeled as scandalous and irreparable harm to the reputation of the accused. The accused may belong to any profession but that does not justify his unwelcome sexual behavior towards any woman or man. The victim must not be left feeling violated and more importantly shouldn’t be prone to the belief that there is no support for her/him.

The court in this case held accountable the fact that if adequate mechanisms backed by suitable legal guidelines and implications were in place, the victims would have the right platform to report such harassment incidents at the proper disposal of time. Three Significant observations in this judgment that were made by Judge Ravindra Kumar Pandey are-

  1. The offense of sexual abuse and harassment that occurs behind closed doors cannot be ignored all the time just for the sake of protecting the reputation of an individual in the whole process
  2.  Punishing a woman for raising her voice against the horrifics. 
  3. offense she was subjected to is the defeat of law and the importance of the right to life and dignity of a woman has more magnitude than the right of the reputation of an individual.  
  4. A woman shall always have the right to place her grievances on any platform without being barred by period. 

This judgment turned out to be a landmark judgment for the survivors of sexual harassment.     

What is more disturbing and challenging to tackle is the statistics of the rape cases that are being laid before us on an average day. According to the study of Statista Research Department in March 2021, over 338 thousand cases of crime against women were reported in India in 2018, from which over 33 thousand cases were only offenses related to rape. It’s quite nerve-wracking to realize that 93% of rapes were committed by an acquaintance of the rape victim. According to a study by Reuters, by the end of 2019, around 1,45,000 rape cases were pending trial in Indian Courts. And about 15% out of 32,000 victims that were reported in 2019 were merely juveniles. As per the reports published by Statista Research Department, on Feb 25, 2021, the highest numbers of harassment cases against women were reported in the capital city of India, Delhi with over 430 cases in 2019 followed by Mumbai and Bengaluru during the measured period. The criticality of the situation can be sensed from the fact that India also ranked the highest in the list of dangerous countries for women. 

When it comes to harassment- cyberbullying, retaliation harassment, power harassment, workplace harassment, and psychological harassment are just a few drops in the bucket. Inappropriate promises, rewards in exchange for sexual favors or unwelcome sexual behavior that is offensive, humiliating, or intimidating, or use of explicit or implicit sexual overtones, etc. are the different shades of sexual harassment. 

Despite however inadequate our Country has been in coping with crimes against women, the dignity of a woman has continually been protected by our laws and orders. At the primary instance, harassment violates the fundamental right of a woman, particularly her right to gender equality and life with dignity under Article 14 and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution Acts respectively. Section 294 of the Indian Penal code deals with obscene acts by someone or singing, recitation, or vocalization of any obscene songs or simply words during a public place to bother others.  Section 376 of IPC deals with rape. Section 510 of IPC deals with misconduct publicly by an inebriated person. Section 354 of IPC talks regarding social control for inflicting criminal force on a girl or assaulting her to outrage her modesty.

Despite decades of attention, legal action, and advocacy, this analysis of data, research, and experience shows that sexual harassment remains a serious and pervasive problem across virtually all industrial sectors and workplaces, we found that no sector of society remains untouched by sexual plundering, nor unaffected by its impact. Sexual harassment damages the lives, health, financial independence, and opportunities of countless victims, and costs businesses not only in legal fees, but in lost productivity, morale, effectiveness, and talent.

The above article clearly shows that sexual harassment is driven across all sectors by power and gender imbalances, as well as the often unconscious assumptions that are deeply rooted in stereotypes about gender roles. These stereotypes often shape our beliefs around who belongs where and who should do what in our society. We found that some factors that drive sexual harassment are present in various forms across all industries.

Prevention of sexual harassment requires training programs for everyone in the society, which concretely addresses such topics as the national laws that prohibit sexual harassment, creating workplace policies, and steps that individuals can take. It can be curtailed with the period when humans won’t only grow with age but eventually evolve with the thought process, embracing a better tomorrow full of bliss & equality.

We, as humans, surely can do better than this. Be it by placing aptly severe punishments on the perpetrators, by ensuring proper implementation of the existing laws, maybe by preventing the monsters from crawling up on the innocence and helplessness of women, or something as little as by being a civilized person and providing support to a person suffering from this unthinkable torment and torture. There’s always a hope to find better solutions but I sincerely hope silencing the voices of the victims is not one of them.             

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