The high rate of crime against women has been alarming. Various reasons have been attributed to this. One reason why there have been such high incidences of crime against women is the lack of awareness of the number of laws enacted and the various sections under the Indian Penal Code that cover abused women. Given below is a gist of some of the laws that have been enacted to prevent sexual harassment and rape.Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can be defined as an action or behaviour that is perversely sexual, be it in direct manner or through insinuation. It covers the following:
1. A perverse physical contact with an intention to exploit the victim sexually, including making advances towards the victim (woman).
2. Demanding or persistently requesting sexual favours.
3. Passing comments about gender, sex or discussing such in the presence of or with a member of the opposite sex (woman), or making sexually coloured remarks in the presence of a member of the opposite sex (woman).
4. Displaying pornographic material or literature.
5. Any form of uninvited verbal, physical action or gesture that is sexual in nature.
The above mentioned actions also cover working women who can be victims of sexual harassment. These women may be drawing a monthly salary or working voluntarily, or getting an honorarium for the professional services they have rendered. This covers both private and public sector enterprises. Actions which are intended to humiliate the victim or to cause physical and mental harm amounting to sexual harassment are brought under the scope of the sexual harassment act. The definition also covers instances where the woman may believe or is made to believe through any means, that any complaint against this form of harassment or discrimination, can or will affect her employment, chances of promotion or recruitment or put her in a disadvantageous position in the concern or lead to a hostile situation at the workplace.
Considering all these factors the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2006 was enacted. Since then many abused women have applied for and got justice. But such justice and redressal remains elusive abused women working in suburban and rural areas because of many obstacles and biases they face. Sexual harassment not only prevails at the workplace, but can happen in public places, in public or private transport, neighbourhoods, educational institutions, hospitals, training centres, public and private offices, recreational centres, etc.
Since a lot of harassment of women results from the indecent image of women that men have in their minds, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1986) was brought into effect to prevent this. It was believed that preventing the indecent representation of women will lead to a reduction in crimes against women. The act covers indecent representation of women through “advertisements, distributions, labels, packages” etc. The term “indecent representation of women” means – “the depiction in any manner of the figure of a woman, her form or body or any part thereof in such a way as to have the effect of being indecent, or derogatory to, or denigrating, women, or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals; (d) “label” means any written, marked, stamped, printed or graphic matter, affixed to, or appearing upon, any package;”. This act is extensive empowering the government to take action. But due to lack of political will this remains more on paper than in practice.
Besides this act, certain sections of the Indian Penal Code like Section 294 and the Section 509 cover various forms of harassment. For example Section 294 covers public places where obscene acts and gestures, songs, ballads and words which are obscene can land the culprit into prison or a fine can be imposed or both. Section 509 stipulates that words actions, sounds, exhibiting objects or gestures that are done with an intention to outrage the modesty of woman or intrudes into her privacy can make the culprit liable for punishment which can be a prison term or a fine or both. Despite the existence of such provisions in the law, its enforcement by the various wings of the executive remains inadequate. This results in many abused women having to endure undue sufferings.