This article is written by Akshaya Chintala from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad. The article aims to focus on sexual harassment laws and how they affect both men and women in the 21st century and the remedies to curb sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is a well-known societal phenomenon that has been identified, redefined and socially constructed in a variety of forms since the 1970s. However, due to recent incidents and lawsuits, the issue of sexual misconduct is squarely in the spotlight. There are variations in the way people perceive, build and interpret sexual assault. Men and women view sexual assault differently. According to Kitzinger and Thomas, women claim that sexual assault is about “doing power” and that sex and gender are conceptually different for men. This, in effect, offers an explanation of why men usually do not consider jokes to be part of sexual harassment, and women have a wider understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment.
Understanding these constructions of sexual harassment is a step in understanding how sexual harassment as a social issue can be approached by academics, activists, and policy-makers alike. Examining statistics on sexual harassment charges with business and gender breakdowns offers a strong starting point for identifying disparities between women and men in sexual assault charges. Unpublished Equal Employment Opportunity Commission statistics from the 2010- 2015 fiscal year indicate that there were just under 45000 complaints of sexual harassment lodged during that time.
Sexual harassment and gender
Gender discrimination can effectively influence individual perceptions, workplace environments and obstruct women’s and other targets’ access to resources and advancement, perpetuating predominantly patriarchal power structures. Gender-harassing physical, verbal, and symbolic behaviours insult and degrade a target’s gender in an effort to assert power, control behaviour, or force those who don’t conform out of a particular job or out of the profession entirely. Most individuals experience sexual harassment in the workplace because the prevailing discursive structure is workplace harassment. Without a doubt, one would imagine a man harassing a woman.
In spite of the fact that sexual assault is most generally encountered by women and more frequently by men. But this belief is not true because it cannot come onto a conclusion on the mere basis of your prejudice. With these social constructions solely focused on sexual harassment between men and women, this silences and ignores that sexual harassment can occur between members of the same gender or occur on a man by an independent woman misusing her advantages. This heterosexism in the construction of sexual assault can point to hypotheses about how power is viewed within the debate, not necessarily solely hierarchical in the workplace or in gender, but also by other privileges.
Violence against women
Indian society has always admired women as an identity. According to ancient Hindu texts, man and woman Represent two halves of the divine body, so this doesn’t raise any question of superiority or inferiority complex between them. Our ancient Hindu cultural practices witness women as strong and powerful deities like Saraswathi, Durga and Laxmi who are worshipped for prosperity, growth and knowledge. Yet, on the contrary to the recognition given to the woman, the patriarchal system has had its authority and power since the time of Rigveda. Woman and girls in India from the very beginning are born into a cultural & social system that is deeply rooted in inequality and discrimination. Among this, one of the most provoking and life-threatening demonstrations of gender-based inequality is violence against women. Violence against women is a fundamental violation of a woman’s human right and is a barrier which stops them from participating in all spheres of life.
Violence against women is both a cause and also a consequence of gender inequality where it leads to an abuse of power and causes an imbalance between a man and a woman. Violence is basically used to enforce gender rules and norms, assuming that women are inferior to men and men have the right to control women. For the women in India, it has been a long way to make it a global agenda of domestic violence to grow and spread its wings towards the development and empowerment of women across the world. Challenging the very concept of violence against women imposes a question on the very foundation of the male-dominated society which is why it falls under one of the hardest issues of all the time. Especially in India the problem of domestic violence was always concealed for ages under the name of societal values and norms that justify a man’s power over women by physically and emotionally abusing and harming women as normal behaviour.
Many feminist activities and efforts of these women-oriented movements had a result in making amendments like 498A and 304B in the IPC. The society itself is more biased in favour of the male child in all aspects of education, nutrition, employment opportunities and the main cause for this existing difference in the society is because of the stereotypical beliefs Indian society holds and women always internalise the traditional idea of their role and allow others to levy harm on them. There are enormous challenges that are bothering the issues of women’s rights in India, especially the empowerment of women has become one of the most critical concerns of the 21st century, taking this into consideration government initiated over 34 schemes for women but these government initiatives alone would not be enough to achieve the proposed goal. Society in full capacity should itself take up responsibility in order to create an environment without gender discrimination and try to create a country where women have full opportunities of decision making and active participation in social, political and economic aspects of life.
Currently, there exists no country where women and men share equal rights in all spheres of life. Women and girls in all spheres of life are given inferior status and restricted access to benefits and this discrimination exists all stages of their life from birth to death being it as Abortion, female infanticide, right to education, Gender pay gap or dowry system and domestic violence. The true struggle never stops. Gender-based violence against women is based on hierarchical and unequal structural power relations rooted in culture-related gender norms. It also reveals domination in the symbolic and cultural order and often manifests itself in direct violence.
In India, the discriminatory attitude towards men and women have existed throughout generations and affect the lives of both genders. Although the constitution of India has provided women with an ample amount of equal rights under the Fundamental Rights, why does the Gender disparity among society remain the same Ultimately violating their human rights? Gender-based violence against women is a form of discrimination and a violation of their fundamental freedoms and rights. Girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to various forms of violence, which leaves deep and long-term impacts on their lives, stifling their potential to grow, lead, prosper and thrive.
Domestic Violence has a long-lost history in India. During the late 1980s, many women-oriented organisations started a wide variety of movements to prevent violence against women which had a nation-wide impact. Some of these acts include Sati prevention act 1987, Protection of women from domestic violence Act, 2005 etc. Domestic violence is the outcome of the deeply rooted patriarchal mindset of Indian society and the pre-established unequal relationships between women and men. The causes and factors for domestic violence in India are due to the lack of social support and economic opportunities available for women which makes women vulnerable.
Although, now there is a growing awareness of the domestic violence act as an act punishable by law. The Protection of women from domestic violence act 2005 is the final outcome of several years of protests and militancy to achieve what it has become today. This act tries to cover women from all domestic relationships which include mothers, sisters, widows, daughters etc. The act provides in detail definitions of domestic violence which include emotional and economic threats to life. The act also introduced a few tools like creating protection officers to mediate between women and courts.
Since 2005, till date, the implementation of the PWDVA has largely remained undone. Regardless of the fact that this act was applauded by many women activists, the act has various issues and loopholes and the targets promised are yet to be accomplished. There exists a lack of clarity on duties and responsibilities and due to this poor coordination at the local level continues between union and state governments with which the reporting formats issued by the centre do not fit within the state model of implementation. There exists an absence of effective outreach programmes and availability of service provisions remedies, and legal relief is extremely low this is because of lack of sufficient attention provided to monitor the effective implementation of the act.
One of the key features of the act was to provide immediate compensation to the victims which still continues to be a challenge. Police officers themselves are not well guided about the service providers who can provide immediate compensations for the damages caused to the victims. Thus, the immediate compensation as promised in the act certainly cripples a woman’s access to her legal remedy. In conclusion, for any legislation to have an effective result, it has to undergo a long procedure of democratic processes. It needs a backup plan in order to work out effectively but in this domestic violence act, it did not happen in this similar manner because of Lack of evaluation and monitoring analysis of success and failure of previous ‘Pro-Woman’ social legislations.
Misuse of sexual harassment laws on men
The national dialogue also addresses sexual abuse as an issue faced overwhelmingly by women. The consequences of sexual harassment for women are enormous. But sexual harassment is not just a women’s problem. The above mentioned research does not imply that violence and sexual harassment is only inflicted by men on women to prove they are weaker than them and that men have power over the woman. We can not dispute that crimes against women have been committed to date, but this does not mean or transgender people are not harassed or manipulated. Even men are sexually exploited and some women use strict laws to take vengeance on men or use these criminal laws to manipulate them financially.
Violence is not gender-specific, whereas it is gender-neutral, it can be inflicted and cause mental harm to both man and a woman. Yet, For decades, numerous mythologies, literature, and words have demonstrated that women are inferior, and men are superior. Thus, men are expected to be dominant, violent, and women as marginalized and mute sufferers of all types of abuse. Such ideas are often focused on gender roles and norms where women cannot be abusive, offensive or oppressive because of their roles and norms, but today the laws are such that a woman can easily misuse it for her purpose and benefits. Indian culture laughs at a man when he claims he’s been raped.
India ridicules any allegation of male rape. Indian feminism and culture assume that only men are the perpetrators of a heinous crime, such as rape, and that even women cannot rape a man. This is so disgusting, because of this mentality, there are no protections for men who are rape survivors. There may be a long list of other issues afflicting people today, including the male suicide crisis, the shortage of services for male victims of domestic violence, and the lack of education for young men and girls. But today the laws are such that a woman can easily misuse it for her purpose and benefits. It is not fair to pre-establish that domestic violence happens to wife only.
There are no special rules to protect men from women, so these should be in relation to domestic abuse, sexual harassment or even criminal law. While having a domestic violence law to shield a man from a violent woman is not the same as having a law that will stop women from making false Domestic Violence cases. The assumption often meant the courts are places where innocent citizens are persecuted, and the best way to get redress is to bully critics and thereby compel them to come to the negotiation table and close the proceedings. Ironically, Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India provides for equality before the law and equal protection of the law. Similarly, Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, states that all individuals are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination. Yet, In Vijayalakshmi Vs. Panjab University it was held that as a result of joint operation of Article 15(1) and (3), the State may discriminate in favour of women against men, but it may not discriminate in favour of men against women. Why? If a wife has a law to protect herself against the cruelty of her husband, why doesn’t the husband have it?
Violence toward people is not deemed to be extreme because of its various forms. Women use more mental, verbal and emotional violence and harassment in most cases of violence against men and are less involved in physical violence. The effect of violence against people is less evident and less likely to come to the notice of others. If you’re a guy, and you try to use the laws above against your wife, you’ll find it almost impossible.
Everyone has the deep-rooted misandry inside that prevents them from pointing a finger at women. This misadventure has never required lawmakers to make any laws or even address the issue of people. There is a desperate need for a lot of men’s studies and literature in India. It has often been commonly thought that women are always victims and that men are the perpetrators. The notion that men may be victims of domestic abuse and violence is so shocking that many people are not even trying to report violence. Acceptance of violence by women against men is commonly seen as a challenge to society, their dominance and masculinity. While there is no systematic analysis or record of domestic violence against men in India, it is widely estimated that in 100 cases of domestic violence, approximately 40 cases involve violence against men.
Need for making sexual harassment gender neutral
The Constitution of India has provided equal rights and protection for all its citizens, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, caste, sex or place of birth. However, some laws in India are not gender-neutral to men’s and transgender people’s concerns as they are expressly intended to protect the interests of women. We cannot deny the fact that crimes are happening against women till date but that doesn’t mean men or transgender are not abused or exploited. Even men are abused sexually and some women are using strict laws to take revenge on men or use these penal laws to exploit them financially.
At present, under Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 both the male and female children are protected from the predators from being sexually abused or exploited. But for male adults, there is no law to protect them against sexual offences. In India, we tend to have a mindset that only women are raped. But this is not true in reality because men are also sexually abused equally as that of women. We have enough legislation to protect women from sexual harassment such as Indian Penal Code, 1860, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal), 2013, Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act,1956. Likewise, can we quote any single legislation for the protection of men? No, we don’t have any special legislation to hear and redress their grievances and this itself stands violative to Article 14 of the Constitution.
Thousands of cases are filed at the police station by women or their families who accuse men of sexual offences. How many of us care about the legitimacy of these cases being brought by women? Are all the allegations that have been made true? The answer is no because in recent times a lot of men have come forward and told the media that they were accused of false allegations and the identity of such men are kept confidential by the media. Since laws provide strict punishment and penalty to the sexual offenders, they are misused by some women to get revenge on men or to exploit them financially or to defame particular people. In our culture, if any man goes to prison, he will be branded as uncharacteristic and his entire image will be ruined. And, in particular, if he is charged with any sexual crime, he will still have a black mark on his future and will have a devastating effect on his personal life.
There is still a collection of supporters for women who lift their voices against the sexual abuse of women, but do they know what really happened? Thanks to advanced technology, it is now very convenient for us to exchange news and pictures of a man who has been charged with sexual offences, so we can not necessarily infer the character of a man whose picture has been shared with this allegation. It’s so disrespectful to refuse a man to justify his side. When a man is charged with sexual offences, not only the man is affected, but also his family, who has no link with the allegation, is similarly affected.
It is important that society has the right balance. It is important that society has faith in the system. There is a need to set examples, it can’t be that women are always right and men always wrong. The judiciary and the policymakers cannot be prejudiced. They have to ensure that mechanisms are in place for imparting justice, innocent people are not harassed and those who file false affidavits are penalised. The only way to stop false cases is to work towards rigorous prosecution of all false cases and false pieces of evidence, including the wrong investigation by police. The best way to avoid false prosecutions is to work for a fair pursuit of all false prosecutions and false evidence, including a wrong investigation by the police.
Since courts can’t pronounce anyone’s guilt or liability without looking at the evidence, then it can be safely said that the Indian Evidence Act is the most important lawmen should be aware of. Everything else, the contradiction filled police complaint, vague allegations, the false jewellery list, the tears in the courtroom; might have some sympathy or drama value but have zero value in terms of evidence. There is a lack of public awareness of structural male concerns, exacerbated by the lack of male advocacy organizations with a large remit to make a case at the political and media level. It is time to identify their problem as a social and public health concern and to develop effective strategies and interventions. Male victims of violence can be helped by effective action, such as the identification of violence against men by women as a public health issue; assistance to male victims of violence; and education, awareness and legal safeguards.
How can we stop sexual harassment?
When we talk about sexual harassment and solutions to curb it, There is probably no single answer. But one will definitely agree on one thing. If you look from the perspective of an Indian man, we never really learn how to interact with women we are attracted to. As kids, all you hear is respect all women. Then you see Bollywood movies where heroes stalk women. That’s apparently very attractive. The actress does not show interest at first, later falls in love head over heels. And then there is porn, and all these events together sit upon a man’s mind making it hard for them to come to a conclusion between what’s right and what’s wrong.
These thoughts would no doubt provoke men to take up actions like the recent Boy’s Locker Room conversations. Young men try the Bollywood stuff, the porn stuff, & it does not work for obvious reasons & women brand them as creeps. Then men blame women for not being interested in nice men etc. But, What if men were taught the science of attraction? What if men learnt the art of seduction? Will they then prefer consent over resorting to sexual harassment? If we want to change the way men behave with women, teaching them consent is important. But perhaps we should also teach them seduction. One should teach them the way to approach a woman and respect a woman for what they deserve and to attain this first they should have a good intention at heart.
The acts and incidents of Violence against women and girls in India is one of the most shameful representations of the country. In spite of such technological advancement and progress in the literacy rate of women, the crime rate against women is increasing day-by-day. Thus, it’s high time that one should try to identify the loopholes and limitations due to which the welfare ops the nation is yet to take place and important initiatives must be taken up by the state and societies in order to realise their responsibilities and make it a gender-neutral nation.
Violence against women should be considered as a serious violation as it talks about infringement of one’s right to life and is a great concern of public health. A few ways to prevent much more serious problems to arise in future initiatives such as Comprehensive and Extensive premarital counselling should be given to couples on how to manage their marital relationship. The punishment given to grievously offending husbands under the violence against women should be publicised so that It can serve as deterrence to others from performing the same. As Indian citizens believe in religion and god so much Religious leaders should also vigorously teach against marital violence in their places of worship and spread awareness. Media should play a proactive role in exposing crimes and reports of violence against women and creating awareness. There should be public enlightenment awareness programs with the help of mass media on the negative effects of domestic violence against women, especially wife battering. Self-defence, training, public awareness and sincere efforts of the state officers, as well as strict implementation of the laws, are necessary.
Combating sexual harassment includes a deliberate, systematic emphasis on the real-world experience of all staff. Only through this focus can workplaces and policymakers identify and target different factors such as systemic power imbalances, gender stereotypes, and gaps in workplace protection that influence when and where sexual harassment occurs. It is important to implement these and other approaches to make significant strides in reducing sexual harassment once and for all in the workplace.
Through decades of publicity, legal action and activism, this evidence, study and experience review reveal that sexual harassment remains a significant and persistent issue in virtually all business sectors and workplaces to both men and women. Sexual misconduct destroys the lives, wellbeing, financial security, and resources of countless victims, costing companies not only legal costs, but also lost profitability, integrity, efficiency, and creativity As a citizen of India, everybody has equal rights when a crime is committed against us. And sexual assault is not a minor or innocuous crime and is considered a serious crime that affects the physical and emotional well-being of a human being.
Nearly 63 countries have implemented gender-neutral legislation and other countries are in the process of developing gender-neutral legislation to ensure equal justice. The provisions are included in different acts providing for fines and punishments for filing frivolous charges or for making false allegations. But that doesn’t help the men solve the false accusation crisis. And women have the POSH Act to obtain justice for their complaints at work. There is no assurance that men do not face such sexual abuse at work. However, if they continue to face any sexual assault on the part of women, they do not have a system to provide redressal to the condition of men in India. The lack of a law or a statute for the protection of women other than women does not demonstrate the equality of justice guaranteed by our constitution. We are just human beings and have all the rights to be treated fairly, and it is our duty to protect our people regardless of their gender.
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