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Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when

  • submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly or condition of an individual employment or
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual or
  • such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

Sexual harassment includes many things actual or attempted rape or sexual assault

unwanted pressure for sexual favours, unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching, unwanted sexual looks or gestures, unwanted letters, telephone calls or material of sexual nature, unwanted pressure for dates, unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks or questions. Referring to an adult as a girl, hunk, doll, baby, honey, whistling at someone, catcalls and sexual comments. Turning work discussions to sexual topics, sexual innuendos or stories, asking about sexual fantasies, preference or history. Even personal questions or our social / sexual life. Sexual comments about a person's clothing, anatomy or looks, kissing sounds, smacking lips etc. Spreading rumours or telling lies about a person's sex life.

Provision Relating to Sexual Harassment.

Article 14 of the Constitution provides equality before law while Article 15 provides that, " The state shall not discriminate against any citizen of grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them". Thus it is implicit from the above two provisions that there should not be any gender discrimination. Another important consequence of such an incident that it is also violative of fundamental right of the victim under Article 19(1)(g) which provides "to practice any profession or to carry out any occupation, trade or business". Thus when unnecessary and unwelcome attitude of superiors or male counterparts create a hostile work environment and make it quite difficult for the women workers to work under the circumstances, the victims can seek remedy for enforcement of their fundamental rights under Article 32 of the Constitution.

Further Article 21 says that "no one shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law". Thus depriving any body from the work in any profession leads to establish the fact of preventing somebody from his/her right to life and liberty which includes the right to live in dignity. Besides Articles 42 also provides that "the state shall make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief". Further under Article 51A(e) it is said that "it shall be duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities, to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women". Thus it is amply clear while the former directs the state to provide for just and humane conditions of work, the latter makes it obligatory on the part of the every citizen on India to promote harmony and keep up the dignity of women.

Besides the constitutional provisions, on the legislative front, in most instances, sections 354 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code are being relied upon. It is true that both these sections do protect women in general from certain categories of sexual misconducts that seem to be offensive or disgustive but the protective measurers provided under these sections do not exactly attract the cases of sexual harassment at work place and thus do not safeguard the interest of the working women.


Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code provides "whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he shall thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two year or fine or with both".

Section 509 provides that "whoever intending to insult the modesty of any woman utters any word, makes any sound or gesture or exhibits any object, intending that such gesture or object shall be seen by such women or intrudes upon the privacy of such women shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both".


In order to sensitize the police officers at the ground level towards offences against women, CID, Crime Branch compiled a Compendium on Crime against Women. The Compendium contains the following:

1. Recent amendment of IPC/Cr.P.C.

2. CB Circular No.12/2012 regarding implementation of “Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012”

3. Police Circular Order 338/2013 pertaining to prompt investigation and prosecution of crime against women.

4. Police Circular Order 343/2013 regarding Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) pertaining to prompt investigation and prosecution of crime against women

Necessary instructions regarding Prompt investigation and submission of charge sheet within sixty days and extension of time in exceptional and specific cases have been mentioned in the SOP.