This article is written by Janvi Kashyap, a First year B.A. LLB (Hons.) Student of Ideal Institute of Management and Technology (Affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University), Delhi.
Sexual harassment is unwelcomed sexual behavior or advances that’s offensive, humiliating or intimidating. It can be in the form of written, verbal or physical, and can happen in person or through online mode or in other way we can say that it is defined as unwanted sexual favors such as physical contact and advances, unwelcome physical, non-verbal, verbal conduct being sexual in nature, whether indirectly or directly, or any demand or request for sexual favors.
Sexual harassment consists of long list of things. Moreover, it is necessary to mentioned some of them in this article, in order to caution those who may indulge in such activity. Its attempted rape or sexual assault, unwanted deliberate touching, unwanted pressure for sexual favors leaning over, sexual looks or gestures, or materials of a sexual nature, unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions. Sexual harassment is criminal offence in India, and punishable under Section 354A of Indian Penal Code, 1860. It is also known as “Eve Teasing”.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a huge problem in recent history and in modern times as well. It can happen to anyone and it can happen everywhere without any warnings or signals. It can affect all types of races, gender and age. As per recent statistics figures it shows that more and more sexual harassment has become an issue due to the large number of cases presented. Sexual harassment laws must be build up or reinforce in order to fix what has become a serious problem today in the workplace.
In many cases victims are too afraid to come forward, because some of the victims are being threatened that they are not able to come up with the occurrence. Moreover, in a school students are forced in doing a favor against their will, to their teachers in order to manipulate their grades. Female workers are asked to do favors in return to advance with their career. Men’s sitting in higher authorities they often asked for sexual gestures, with their women employees in order to make their career.
Student’s objectives should go to school to pass their courses. Employee should go to their respective offices to perform their job responsibilities. But sometimes the things which look easy at prima facie, they are probably rigid while performing. However, in some cases this not the situation, the Statistics and figures of the victims being sexually harassed is increasing day by day, whether in office, in churches, in schools or in any other workplace. It is abhorrent to hear that there are people out there used their power to sexually harass individual to take advantages of weakness of another person.
- It all started with back since the year 1985 when a woman named as Bhanwari Devi, who was a social activist/worker in one of the Rajasthan’s village.
- Bhanwari Devi worked under a social development program to stop child marriage at rural level and this program was administered by the Rajasthan’s Government, due to the increasing statistics of child marriage in 1992. Bhanwari Devi also known as-Saathin under the Women’s Development Project (WDP) which is run by the Government of Rajasthan.
- Bhanwari Devi used to directly work with the families to prevent the marriages and also report cases to the police to when urgency took place, as it was the part of her job. With all this, in one particular case it happened that Devi reported a family which had belonged to stop the marriage of the Ramkaran Gujjars (thakurs) daughter, who was merely less than one year old i.e. she was an infant only. Bhanwari Devi tried hard and put her vain full of efforts to terminate the marriage of her infant daughter.
- Therefore, to get revenge for the same act done by Devi, the family had rebelled against her but to put forward to social punishment and also boycott her from the community. And also, in September 1992 she was been gang raped by Ramkaran Gujjar and his five friends in front of her husband while she was at her workplace. After this heinous crime, the male doctor at normal primary health center declined to survey her and the doctor at Jaipur only made confirmation of her age without any recommendation of her being raped in her medical report.
- At police station too she was continually insulted by the women countable for the whole midnight. Thereafter sometime, in past midnight she was been asked by the policeman to disrobe herself in front of everyone, as the cloth (she was wearing lehnga) works as the evidence of that incident and insisted her go back to her village in this appalling condition.
- Despite deprecatory and the derogatory behavior shown in the police station and also in the hospital, she was insistent on to fight for Justice so she lodged a complaint against the accused. Due to the absence of sufficient evidence the court had acquitted the accused in the Trail Court. And released them as the evidence is not sufficient enough to charge them as convicted. Various NGO’s, social organizations and women activists also raised their voices for Devi’s fight for Justice.
- Therefore, a Public Interest Litigation was filled by the women’s right activists in the Supreme Court of India for the need to protect women from sexual harassment at the workplace.
Chief Justice J.S Verma conveyed the judgement of this landmark case, as a representative of Justice Sujata Manihar and Justice B.N Kripal on account of writ petition which was filed by the victim of this case named as Vishakha. The court observed that the fundamental rights under Article 14, 19(1)(g) and 21of Constitution of India that, every profession, trade or occupation should provide safe working environment to the employees. It creates hindrance in the basic requirement that there should be the availability of safe working environment at workplace and right to live a dignified life.
The apex court held that, women must have fundamental right towards the freedom of sexual harassment at workplace. The Supreme Court also put forward various important provisions and guidelines for the employees to follow them and avoid sexual harassment of women at workplace. Moreover, it also put forward various important provisions and guidelines for the employees to follow them and avoid sexual harassment of women at workplace. The court also noted and suggested to have proper majors for the implementation of cases where there is sexual harassment at workplace. The foremost concern of the apex authority was to ensure gender equality and some basic human rights among people. Also, to ensure that there should be no discrimination towards women at their workplace in anyway.
After this landmark case of Vishaka and others V. State of Rajasthan and others, the term Sexual harassment is well defined by the Supreme Court, as any physical touch or conduct, showing of pornography, any unpleasant taunt or misbehavior, or any sexual desire towards women, sexual favor will come under the ambit of sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment of women at workplace happens at a very persistent manner especially in our nation, India. If strict laws and regulation is the only way to improve this situation then I think Government should make strict laws and provisions, regarding the aversion of sexual harassment at workplace. Moreover, it should also make realize that women also contribute large figures at working sector of our country. Various new approaches shall be implemented by the institutions, organisations to prevent there women employees from such a heinous evil. The foremost intention behind the standardization of this right is to make sure that every individual is living their life with dignity, without any kind of discernment among workers of an organisation regardless of their gender. I would like to expound a prominent Quote by Anita Hill that
“We need to turn the question around to look at harasser, not the target. We need to be sure that we can go out and look anyone who is a victim of harassment in the eye and say, ‘You do not have to remain silent anymore.’ ”
 (1997) 6 SCC 241.