Human Rights Protection against Sexual Harassment

calendar25 May, 2023
timeReading Time: 6 Minutes
Sexual Harassment

You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women -Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual behavior that is verbal, physical, or visual in nature and makes a person feel threatened, hostile, or offended a misdemeanor that carries jail time and penalties,

The various forms of sexual harassment include unwanted advances, comments, or gestures; inappropriate touching or physical contact; the exhibition of sexually explicit imagery; the making of sexual jokes or comments; and the request for sexual favors in exchange for job promotions or other perks.

What Is a Human Right?

The fundamental liberties and rights to which every person is entitled, without distinction, are known as human rights. their nationality, race, gender, religion, or any other status.  Since they are inherent, indestructible, and universal, they are applicable to everyone, everywhere, and always.

Cultural, social, and economic rights are not the only ones. Like the rights to labor, education, and health, human rights also encompass civil and political rights, including the freedom to live and the freedom of speech. They also contain collective rights, such as the right to a sustainable environment and the right to self-determination.

The Indian Constitution, as well as other laws and regulations, safeguard human rights. A number of essential rights, including the rights to equality, to life, and to freedom from personal freedom; the right against exploitation; the rights to free expression and to practice one’s religion and expression; and the right to education, are guaranteed to Indian citizens under the constitution.

Along with these basic rights, India has passed other laws and policies to safeguard human rights.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, And Redressal) Act, 2013

This law is applicable to all workplaces, including employees in the public and commercial sectors, and attempts to prevent and address sexual harassment of women in the workplace. This law mandates that every company with more than 10 workers set up an internal complaints committee (ICC) to look into and handle sexual harassment claims. A non-governmental organization (NGO) working in the area of sexual harassment or women’s rights must have an external member who is at least half female and serves as the ICC’s chair.  The term “sexual harassment” has a broad legal scope. Includes any unwanted sexual gesture or behavior, physical contact, advances, or remarks that make a woman’s workplace intimidating, hostile, or offensive. The act also applies to women who work as clients, customers, or visitors to the business, as well as women who are employed on a temporary, ad hoc, or daily salary basis.

The law also allows for the creation of a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) to hear complaints from employees in businesses with fewer than ten workers or in situations when the accused is the employer in addition to the ICC. The LCC must be led by a woman and have at least three members, one of whom must be an outside member of an NGO engaged in the area.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act is a significant step in defending women’s human rights from workplace sexual harassment. The law intends to promote gender equality in the workplace and to create a secure and encouraging environment where women can report instances of sexual harassment without being afraid of consequences.

Indian Constitution on Sexual Harassment

The Indian Constitution has provisions that uphold the rights and dignity of all people, including women, and advance gender equality, although it does not specifically mention sexual harassment.

The Indian Constitution also forbids discrimination on the basis of race, caste, gender, or place of birth while guaranteeing the right to equality before the law. According to Article 14 of the Constitution, in Indian Territory, no one shall be denied the right to equal justice under the law or protection from it. Additionally, among other things, Article 15 forbids discrimination based on sex. The state is expressly given the authority to create particular measures for women and children under Article 15(3).

The Constitution upholds each of these rights: the rights to individual freedom and life, and the right to a dignified existence, as mentioned in Constitutional Article 21. No one’s life or personal freedom should be taken away from them without first following the law.

In 1997, the Indian judiciary declared sexual harassment a violation of the Constitution’s fundamental rights to gender equality and to life and liberty. The Act Against Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Was passed in 2013, the Supreme Court of India established principles for preventing and resolving sexual harassment at the workplace in its historic decision in the case of Vishakha and Others v. State of Rajasthan.

Indian Penal Code on Sexual Harassment

Several IPC (Indian Penal Code[1]) clauses address sexual harassment, including the use of criminal force or violence against women with the intention of insulting their modesty, which includes activities like stalking and eve-teasing.

According to Section 354 of the IPC, it is unlawful to assault or The article states that a person who assaults or uses unlawful force on a woman with the intention of violating her modesty is subject to a fine, a prison sentence of up to two years, or both.

Section 354A:

Unwelcome physical contact and emerges, a demand or solicitation for sexual favors, unwelcome and explicit sexual advances, viewing pornographic material on another person without consent, and making unwanted sexual remarks are all considered sexual harassment

Penalty: A fine and up to three years in jail.

Section 354B: Forcing a woman to undress.

Punishment: Three to seven years in prison and a fine.

Section 354C: Voyeurism is the act of watching or taking pictures of a lady without her permission.

Punishment: First offence is punishable by one to three years in jail and a fine. More than one offense – there is a sentence of three to seven years in prison.

Section 354D:  Following a woman and attempting, notwithstanding her expressed preference not to be approached, to get in touch with her Stalking is the act of watching a woman use the internet or any other electronic communication medium.

Punishment:  Up to three years in prison and a fine for a first offence. Multiple convictions: up to five years in jail, plus a fine.

Additionally, Section 509 addresses the crime of utilizing phrases, motions, or behaviors intended to violate a woman’s modesty. According to this clause, anyone who speaks, gestures, displays an object, or makes a sound with the aim of offending a woman’s modesty is subject to a fine, a term of up to three years in prison, or both.

These provisions are vital for safeguarding women’s rights against sexual harassment and making sure that individuals who act in such a way will face legal consequences.

Vishakha And Others Vs State of Rajasthan

Vishakha and Others v. State of Rajasthan is a landmark case in Indian law that resulted in the formulation of recommendations for discouraging and addressing workplace sexual harassment. After a social worker was gang-raped by a group of men at a government-owned facility in Rajasthan, India, in 1992, a group of social workers and women’s rights activists filed a complaint.

The Supreme Court of India reviewed the matter, and in 1997, it issued a landmark decision. The court determined that sexual harassment at work violated the Indian Constitution’s fundamental rights to gender equality and to life and liberty.

Prior to the passage of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redress) Act in 2013, the Supreme Court provided instructions in its guidelines for preventing and resolving sexual harassment in the workplace. The guidelines are commonly known as the Vishakha Guidelines, and they include the following:

Definition of Sexual Harassment: The guidelines defined sexual harassment as any unwanted sexually motivated behavior, including unwanted physical contact and advances, demands for or requests for sexual favors, sexually charged remarks, the display of pornography, and other unwanted sexually motivated physical, verbal, or nonverbal behavior.

Employer’s responsibility:  The employer has a responsibility to stop sexual harassment at work and to provide a process for handling sexual harassment allegations. The employer must take the required steps to prevent sexual harassment, including setting up a complaints committee to look into reports and offer aid and support to victims.

Complaints committee: According to the standards, every business with more than 10 employees must set up a complaints committee to look into and address sex harassment claims. The committee should have at least half of its woman members and should include members from outside the organization who are familiar with issues related to sexual harassment.

Complaint procedure:  The recommendations indicated that the complaint method must be straightforward and easy enough for employees to understand. Written submission of the complaint is required and must include the complainant’s and respondent’s names, the incident’s specifics, and the identities of any witnesses.

Confidentiality: To protect the privacy of the complainant, the respondent, and any witnesses, the standards stipulate that complaints and procedures must be kept private. The complainant must be shielded from reprisals or victimization.

Redressal: According to the norms, the complaints committee should suggest to the employer that the respondent receive the proper disciplinary punishment, which may include termination of employment[1] in extreme circumstances. Additionally, help and support, including counseling and medical care, should be given to the complainant.

The Vishakha Guidelines have been instrumental in creating greater awareness of the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace and in establishing a legal framework for addressing the problem. They have also had a lasting impact on the legal and social landscape and have been instrumental in creating greater awareness of the issue of sexual harassment and the need for effective mechanisms for redressing complaints.


Sexual harassment is a grave threat to someone’s bodily and mental health and a violation of their fundamental human rights. The Act for the Prevention, Prohibition, and Treatment of Sexual Harassment of Women at Work and the Indian Penal Code are two of the many protections against sexual harassment that the Indian government has put in place. These laws create a framework for the legal treatment of sexual harassment in the workplace and other locations.

However, despite these initiatives, sexual harassment is still a major issue in India. It is essential to keep bringing attention to the problem, advocating for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and making sure that the legislation is strictly upheld.  To create a culture devoid of sexual harassment that protects the human rights of every person by fostering a secure and encouraging atmosphere where people may report occurrences of sexual harassment without being afraid of retaliation.

Read our Article:Challenges Faced By Women In The Workplace

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