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Laws on Sexual Harassment

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Existing Indian Laws on Sexual Harassment

 

Laws under Indian Penal Code (IPC)

 

  • Section 209: Obscene acts and songs, to the annoyance of others like:
    a) does any obscene act in any public place or
    b) sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words in or near any public place.
    Punishment: Imprisonment for a term up to 3 months or fine, or both. (Cognisable, bailable and triable offense)
  • Section 354: Assault or use of criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty.
    Punishment: 2 years imprisonment or fine, or both
  • Section 376: Rape
    Punishment: Imprisonment for life or 10 years and fine
  • Section 509: Uttering any word or making any gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman
    Punishment: Imprisonment for 1 year, or fine, or both. (Cognisable and bailable offense)

 

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1987)

 

Although it is not known to have been used in cases of sexual harassment, the provisions of this act have the potential to be used in two ways:

  • If an individual harasses another with books, photographs, paintings, films, pamphlets, packages, etc. containing ‘indecent representation of women’; they are liable for a minimum sentence of two years
  • A ‘hostile working environment’ type of argument can be made under this act. Section 7 (Offences by Companies) – holds companies where there has been ‘indecent representation of women’ (such as the display of pornography) on the premises guilty of offenses under this act.
  • Punishment: Minimum sentence of two years

 

Related Links

Draft Bill_Protection from sexual harassment of women, 2005
The NCW draft bill for protection against sexual harassment. This has been arrived at with inputs from women’s movement groups. The bill is yet to be tabled in the Lok Sabha. This is a PDF file (464 KB).

Laws on Sexual Harassment, Network of Women in Media
A listing of legislations in India that can be used in cases of sexual harassment.

The Supreme Court Guidelines for Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy at the Workplace
Supreme Court’s Vishaka Judgement regarding sexual harassment of working women and guidelines for instituting an anti-sexual harassment policy at the workplace.

Sexual Harassment, Pratiksha Baxi
An analysis of existing laws on sexual harassment in India and the responses and positions of the women’s movement.

I Was Eve Teased: Taking Legal Action
Aarti Mundkur, Alternative Law Forum, on how one can take legal action when “eve teased”