Sexual misconduct is a crime, under which any kind of sexual act uncomforting to any male or female is encompassed. It can be in the form of sexual harassment, sexual assault or a sexual act against the consent of another person. It ranges from singing obscene songs to the heinous crime rape. It is generally against women in the society at large, however men victims are less due to the patriarchal approach in the country. The main reason why there is a large number of misconduct observed against women is because of this “Man is supreme” approach.
The women who are trying to be in pace with men are not certainly welcomed in the patriarchy leading to their exploitation to resist them and push them backwards. As per the data of the National Crime Records Bureau, the crime rate against women in the year 2017 was 359,849 cases which were reported, among these 32,500 cases were of rape. As per one report, 71 % of rape cases are not even reported which makes 32,500 only 29 per cent of them!
Sexual violence is not a new thorn in the world it dates back to time immemorial, from the Bible to the ancient scriptures, it can be traced back then too. Sexual assaults were very common during the wars. Why to go so far considering Mahabharata what Draupadi faced was also assault.
However, in the modern era, the law is the supreme power for the establishment of justice and to ensure that a few law provisions came in the act near the late 20th century. Such as Sex discrimination act 1984 and the guidelines issued after the major case law in 1997 Vishakha and others v/s State of Rajasthan.
Provisions in law
· Article 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution
It speaks about the right of equality and the right to live life for everyone. By sexual misconduct, the motive is to demotivate women to participate as equal to men in the social arrangements, which thereby violates the right of equality and living life as their wish.
· Section 294 of Indian Penal Code
This section deals with any act like singing a song or speaking obscene words in a public place causing mental distress to the victim. Use of any word which is obscene causes sexual misconduct if it has the mental element. The punishment, in this case, is imprisonment of 3 months or monetary fine or maybe both depending upon the circumstances.
· Section 354 of Indian Penal Code
This section deals with the facts where the modesty of a woman is kept at the line by hurting her or causing harm by using criminal force to intentionally outrage her modesty. The punishment under this section for outraging a woman’s modesty is imprisonment of 2 years or fine or both.
· Section 354A of Indian Penal Code
This section of IPC is considered when a man does any of the following actions against a woman (a) unwelcomed physical contact,
(b) demand of sexual favours,
(c) against the will of a woman showing her pornography,
(d) making any kind of sexual remarks, then the man would be liable under this section. The punishment is imprisonment for one year or fine or both.
· Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code
The heinous crime of rape is covered in this section. The punishment under this is imprisonment of 10 years updated in 2018 previously it was 7 years only.
· Section 499 of Indian Penal Code
This section protects the women from being harassed in the name of getting published any of her pictures with the motive to defame her. The punishment for doing so will be imprisonment of 2 years or fine or both.
· Section 503 of Indian Penal Code
This section deals with the situation where a woman refuses to sexually advance but the accused forces her by threatening her to cause harm physically and if done so then he can be punished for 2 years of imprisonment or fine or both.
· Section 509 of Indian Penal Code
This section is similar to Section 294 of IPC; however it states that if there is an outrage to a woman’s modesty due to any gestures or words uttered or any sound which disturbs the privacy of the woman then the person can be punished for 1-year imprisonment or fine or both.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Under this act, every firm must set up a committee for reporting any crime in the ambit of sexual misconduct at the workplace, and if it is not done then the fine to be charged is 50,000 rupees. It is mandatory to keep the information of the victim confidential, if this rule is broken then the fine of 5000 is charged from the offender. The inquiry is defined under this Act to be done by the committee within 90 days.
Just a fact: the maids working in the households are also covered under this act if they face any kind of sexual misconduct. Any kind of misconduct in the transportation provided by your workplace will also be covered under this Act.
· Section 67 of the Information and Technology Act
The Act prescribes all those acts which are purports to publish any sought obscene material in the electronic form. This is basically to protect women from being harassed with the use of the internet.
The most important case law which played a role in the formation of guidelines and rule for the protection of women at workplace and resulting in the formation of Sexual harassment at workplace Act 2013 was Vishaka and others v/s State of Rajasthan.
This petition was filed by Bhanwari Devi (a social worker who was brutally gang-raped because she wanted to stop child marriage) to protect women’s rights working in the institution and becoming the victim of sexual misconduct, under Article 14 and 21 to be treated equally and live with modesty.
In Sakshi v/s Union of India and Ors., attention was drawn towards abuse and rape in the child cases which are increasing at an alarming rate. To counter this there is an urgent need of legislation to be passed by the parliament. The need for legislation was already awakened in the Vishaka case in the year 1997 and after that, the cases focused on the need for the legislation t be framed thus Sexual harassment at workplace Act was enacted after the grind of 15 years.
In the case of Medha Kotwal Lele & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. reported that usage of violence against women is violating there right of living the life with dignity. This case also drew attention towards the fact that how much the quality of equality among men and women suffer in India.
In Shital Prasad Sharma v/s State of Rajasthan,it was held that enquiry done by the committee formed in institutions should be based on natural justice. That is the complaints registered should be following the law of natural justice.
It was stated in Apparel Exports Promotion Council vs. A.K. Chopra that- “In a case involving a charge of sexual harassment or attempt to sexually molest, the courts are required to examine the broader probabilities of a case and not get swayed by insignificant discrepancies or narrow technicalities or the dictionary meaning of the expression “molestation”. They must examine the entire material to determine the genuineness of the complaint. The statement of the victim must be appreciated in the background of the entire case. Where the evidence of the victim inspires confidence, as is the position in the instant case, the courts are obliged to rely on it. Such cases are required to be dealt with great sensitivity. Sympathy in such cases in favour of the superior officer is wholly misplaced and mercy has no relevance.”
The Supreme Court in the case of Dinesh Alias Buddha vs. State of Rajasthan in para 7 of the Judgment, held thus: –
“We do not propose to mention the name of the victim. Section 227-A IPC makes disclosure of the identity of the victim of certain offences punishable. Printing or publishing the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under Sections 376, 376-A, 376-B, 376-B or 376-D is alleged or found to have been committed can be punished. True it is, the restriction does not relate to printing or publication of judgment by the High Court or the Supreme Court. But keeping in view the social object of preventing social victimisation or ostracism of the victim of a sexual offence for which Section 228-A has been enacted, it would be appropriate that in the judgments, be it of this Court, the High Court or lower court, the name of the victim should not be indicated. We have chosen to describe her as a “victim” in the judgment.”
Previously there were no laws for protecting the rights of women if they are violated but over time the requirement to make them developed and therefore the stipulated laws focusing on rights of women particularly with, they are violated with the means of sexual force. In India, the major role in the formation of such laws can be traced back from 1997 the Vishaka case to 2012 Delhi gang rape. The laws focus on treating women equally in the workplace and the society; these laws motivate women to raise their voice if their rights have been suppressed. There has been an increasing rate of crime and to counter that these laws have been playing an effective role to punish the offender. However, in the initial stages, the process was slow but later the time limits have also been associated with particular offences. Women are the major source of society, they should be set free and be learned to be respected.
- “When Sexual assaults made history” History, Oct 9. 2018, https://www.history.com/news/sexual-assault-rome-slavery-columbus-jim-crow
- “Sexual Misconduct” Wikipedia, June 28, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_misconduct
- Sourya Banerjee, “Laws related to sexual assault and rape in India” The Logical Indian, NOV 6,
- 2018, https://thelogicalindian.com/story-feed/awareness/sexualt-assault-laws/?infinitescroll=1
- Dhruv Desai, “Redefining the Rape laws in India: a constructive and comparative approach” http://www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/rape_laws.htm
- Sexual Harassment, https://mylegalwork.com/guides/sexual-harassment