Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

It 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.

Sexual harassment by an employer is a form of illegal employment discrimination. For example many businesses or organizations, preventing sexual harassment and defending employees from sexual harassment charges have become key goals of legal decision-making.

Where can sexual harassment occur?

Sexual harassment may occur in a variety of circumstances and in places as varied as factories, schools, colleges, the theater, and the music business.Often, the perpetrator has or is about to have power or authority over the victim (owing to differences in social, political, educational or employment relationships as well as in age). Harassment relationships are specified in many ways:

•The perpetrator can be anyone, such as a client, a co-worker, a parent or legal guardian, relative, a teacher or professor, a student, a friend, or a stranger.
•Harassment can occur in varying locations, in schools,colleges, workplaces, in public, and in other places.
•Harassment can occur whether or not there are witnesses to it.
•The perpetrator may be completely unaware that his or her behavior is offensive or constitutes sexual harassment. •The perpetrator may be completely unaware that his or her actions could be unlawful.

With the advent of the internet, social interactions, including sexual harassment, increasingly occur online, for example in video games or in chat rooms, social networking sites such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc .

Status in India

Sexual harassment in India is termed “Eve teasing” and is described as: unwelcome sexual gesture or behaviour whether directly or indirectly as sexually coloured remarks; physical contact and advances; showing pornography; a demand or request for sexual favours; any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct being sexual in nature or passing sexually offensive and unacceptable remarks. 

According to the Indian constitution, sexual harassment infringes the fundamental right of a woman to gender equality under Article 14 and her right to life and live with dignity under Article 21.

In 1997, the Supreme Court of India in a Public Interest Litigation, defined sexual harassment at workplace, preventive measures and redress mechanism. The judgment is popularly known as Vishaka judgement.In April 2013, India enacted its own law on sexual harassment in the workplace—The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Almost 16 years after the Supreme Court’s landmark guidelines on prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace (known as the “Vishaka Guidelines”), the Act has endorsed many of the guidelines, and is a step towards codifying gender equality.. The Act is intended to include all women employees in its ambit, including those employed in the unorganized sector, as well as domestic workers. The Indian law does not permit the victim or complainant to take assistance of a legal professional in the inquiry, however, in Arti Devi Vs Jawaharlal Nehru University,the High Court of Delhi permitted the complainant to avail the services of a counsel as her defence assistant.

The Act has identified sexual harassment as a violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and to live with dignity under article 21 of the Constitution; as well as the 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 also states that the protection against sexual harassment and the right to work with dignity are universally recognized human rights by international conventions and instruments such as Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has been ratified on the 25th June, 1993 by the Government of India.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 introduced changes to the Indian Penal Code, making sexual harassment an expressed offense under Section 354 A, which is punishable up to three years of imprisonment and or with fine. The Amendment also introduced new sections making acts like disrobing a woman without consent, stalking and sexual acts by person in authority an offense.

What are some effects of sexual harassment?

Experiencing sexual harassment may cause some survivors to face emotional, physical, or mental health concerns. Some of them might include:


Emotional effects:

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Humiliation
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Betrayal
  • Violation
  • Powerlessness and loss of control

Mental health effects:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of motivation
  • Sucidial ideation

Physical effects:

  • Increased stress levels
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Eating disturbances

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