IPC Section 354A: Sexual Harassment Laws and Punishments in India

Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) addresses sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment. Section 354 A is a part of the Indian Penal Code. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is India’s primary criminal code, which includes several sections related to criminal law in India. It was formulated in 1860 during the British colonial period. The IPC was drafted by the first Law Commission of India, chaired by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, and enacted in 1860. However, it was implemented on January 1, 1862, in every part of India except the states of Jammu and Kashmir. But after removing Article 370 in 2019, all IPC Sections including Section 354A became eligible for Jammu Kashmir. The IPC is divided into 23 chapters, comprising 511 sections, each dealing with specific aspects of criminal law. Among 511 sections, IPC Section 354A states the sexual harassment and stipulates punishments for offenders.

What is IPC Section 354A?

IPC Section 354A addresses sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment. This section was introduced through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. After massive awareness from the public and coupled with legal activism on the issue of Sexual Harassment, especially in the workplace. This section will seek to offer legal protection to those people, especially women, who are most often harassed by their male counterparts in the workplace or nearby places. It is specially introduced for the protection of women.

If a person or male committed the following acts, then he can be punished under Section 354A-

  • Making unwanted and explicit sexual approaches through physical contact.

  • Demanding or requesting sexual favours

  • Exhibiting pornography against a woman’s consent

  • Making sexually suggestive comments.



Key Provisions of Section 354A

Let’s understand the key provisions of Section 354A in detail:-

Sexual Harassment

  1. Physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures: This would include all forms of physical contact or other attempts at physical contact predominantly of a sexual nature which have not been invited by the recipient.

  2. Demand or request for sexual favours: In any situation where a person compels another person to grant him/her sexual demands in any form.

  3. Showing pornography against the will of a woman: This includes a scenario whereby a man exposes a woman to pornographic content at her intervention.

  4. Making sexual remarks or comments: This ranges from an object, comment, statement or remark that contains an erected or suggestive meaning of sex.


  • For the offences under clauses (i), (ii) and (iii) the penalty is rigorous imprisonment which can extend to 3 years or fine or both.

  • Regarding offences under clause (iv), the penalty as provided is imprisonment for an unspecified period of not more than one year or a fine or both.


Understand Section 354A IPC With Imaginary Scenario

An incident at an office party where an employee, Ravi, engaged in inappropriate behaviour towards his colleague Priya, led to legal consequences under IPC Section 354A for sexual harassment.

Detailed Incident:

Event: Office Party

Location: XYZ Corporation, Mumbai


  • Ravi: A person usually with a managerial position with a special focus on the sales sector of an organisation.

  • Priya: A junior marketing executive shall mean a person employed in a company with the responsibility of marketing products and services.

  • Ananya: Priya’s friend and colleague

  • HR Manager: Ms. Sharma.


During the annual office party at XYZ Corporation. All the employees are in the conference hall and the occasion is marked with delicious meals, drinks and good music. Ravi, bubbly in nature, has been drinking a little this evening. He walks towards Priya, the girl he is interested in.

  • Physical Contact and Advances (Clause i): Ravi places his hand on Priya’s shoulder. This act makes her uncomfortable and brings a blunt response from her. He then tries to sexually touch her and even starts directing obscene language to her, regarding her dressing style.

  • Demand for Sexual Favors (Clause ii): Ravi has laid his hand on Priya that she should go with him after the party and have some private time with him as she would earn more in her career.

  • Showing Pornography (Clause iii): Ravi wants to highlight that his new phone model has enhanced features and opens a video with sexual scenes that expose Priya and force her to watch, even when Priya made it clear she did not want to.

  • Making Sexually Coloured Remarks (Clause iv): When Priya tries to leave the conversation with Ravi, he says vulgar things about the shape of her body and her dressing sense which shames her in front of her co-workers.

Immediate Aftermath:

Priya, feeling humiliated and harassed, leaves the party in tears. Ananya will stand by her and tell her to report the incident to the regional Human Resources Department.

The next day, Priya and Ananya go to the HR head of the hospital, Ms Sharma, and report the case formally. They provide detailed accounts of Ravi’s behaviour and name witnesses who observed the incident.

Legal Action:

The HR department conducts an internal investigation, interviewing Ravi, Priya, Ananya, and other employees who witnessed the incident. Based on the findings, HR concludes that Ravi’s actions constitute sexual harassment under IPC Section 354A. XYZ Corporation takes immediate action by suspending Ravi and forwarding the case to the local police.

The police register an FIR against Ravi under IPC Section 354A for sexual harassment, including:

  • Unwelcome physical contact and advances.

  • Demands for sexual favours.

  • Showing pornography against Priya’s wishes.

  • Making sexually coloured remarks.


Court Proceedings:

Now, the case goes to trial, and the court reviews evidence, including witness testimonies and CCTV footage from the office party. Ravi is found guilty of sexual harassment under IPC Section 354A. As punishment, Ravi is sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for six months and fined Rs. 50,000. The court emphasises the need to uphold workplace dignity and deter similar behaviour.

FAQs on IPC Section 354A:

Q1: What is IPC Section 354A?
IPC Section 354A addresses sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment. It includes acts such as unwelcome physical contact, requests for sexual favors, showing pornography without consent, and making sexually colored remarks.


Q2: When was Section 354A introduced in the Indian Penal Code?
Section 354A was introduced through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, in response to increased public awareness and legal activism on the issue of sexual harassment, especially in workplaces.


Q3: Who can be punished under IPC Section 354A?
Any person, primarily male, who engages in acts of sexual harassment as specified under this section, such as making unwanted sexual advances, demanding sexual favors, showing pornography against a woman’s consent, or making sexually suggestive comments, can be punished under IPC Section 354A.


Q4: What are the key provisions of Section 354A?
The key provisions include:

  • Unwelcome physical contact and sexual advances.
  • Requests or demands for sexual favors.
  • Showing pornography without consent.
  • Making sexually colored remarks.


Q5: What are the punishments under IPC Section 354A?
The punishments include:

  • Rigorous imprisonment for up to 3 years, a fine, or both for unwelcome physical contact, demands for sexual favors, and showing pornography.
  • Imprisonment for up to 1 year, a fine, or both for making sexually colored remarks.


Q6: How can a victim report a case under IPC Section 354A?
A victim can report a case by filing a complaint with the police, who will register an FIR. Alternatively, the victim can report the incident to their organization’s HR department if it occurred in a workplace setting.


Q7: What should a person do if there is a discrepancy in their IPC Section 354A case?
If there is a discrepancy, the victim should immediately contact the authorities, such as the police or HR department, providing valid supporting documents to rectify the details.


Q8: Can a person be punished for making sexually colored remarks under IPC Section 354A?
Yes, making sexually colored remarks is punishable under IPC Section 354A with imprisonment for up to 1 year, a fine, or both.


Q9: Is IPC Section 354A applicable in Jammu and Kashmir?
Yes, following the removal of Article 370 in 2019, all IPC sections, including Section 354A, became applicable in Jammu and Kashmir.


Q10: Can an individual face legal consequences for showing pornography to someone without their consent?
Yes, showing pornography to someone without their consent is punishable under IPC Section 354A with rigorous imprisonment for up to 3 years, a fine, or both.

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