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Which Articles are on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Indian Constitution?

calendar19 Jun, 2023
timeReading Time: 8 Minutes
Which Articles are on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Indian Constitution?

Sexual harassment is on the rise in India. In recent years, several high-profile cases have drawn attention to the issue, prompting a push for change and reform. This article will explore the Indian Constitution’s stance on sexual harassment, specifically, the laws and regulations put in place to protect individuals from these types of crimes.

Articles on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Indian Constitution

Sexual harassment, as defined in the Indian Constitution, includes unwanted verbal, non-verbal, and physical conduct of a sexual nature. Such behaviour creates a hostile, degrading, or intolerable environment for the victim and is prohibited under various laws and regulations. Several articles of the Indian Constitution mandate protection against sexual harassment, including Articles 14, 15, and 21.

  • Article 14

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees equality before the law. It states that all individuals are equal before the law and that no one shall be denied equal protection of the law. This article is critical to the protection of individuals from sexual harassment because it prohibits discrimination in its many forms, including gender-based discrimination. Gender-based discrimination can take many forms, but one of the most pervasive is sexual harassment. This article provides legal recourse for victims of sexual harassment if they can prove they have been discriminated against based on their gender.

  • Article 15

Article 15 of the Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. This article makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex, which includes sexual harassment. Sexual harassment of women is considered gender-based violence, and the perpetrators can be held accountable under this article. In addition, the Constitution provides affirmative action for women. This includes the setting aside of seats in educational institutions, and the relaxation of minimum qualifying marks, among other things. These measures seek to offset the disadvantages women face due to patriarchal norms and cultural practices.

  • Article 21

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. This article protects individuals from arbitrary state action that violates their fundamental rights. Sexual harassment can often be tied to state action, such as harassment by police or other officials. Article 21 provides a legal remedy in such cases, and individuals can seek compensation for harm caused by violations of their rights.

Acts Supporting Articles on Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Indian Constitution

  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act

In 2013, the Indian government passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act. This act defines sexual harassment and mandates a mechanism for redressal. The act applies to all places of work and sets up local committees to receive complaints of sexual harassment. The local committee should have one external expert, two internal members, and an officer from the district government as its members. This act mandates a prohibition of sexual harassment in the workplace and provides a framework for investigating and punishing harassment. Additionally, the act provides for a victim’s right to file and pursue complaints, the right to privacy, and protection from retaliation.

  • The Indian Penal Code Amendment in 2013

The Indian Penal Code was also amended in 2013, expanding the definition of rape and including various forms of sexual harassment. This amended law is gender-neutral, meaning that men can also be victimized by sexual harassment, and the law offers protections for those individuals as well. The expanded definition includes unwanted physical contact, voyeurism, stalking, and other forms of harassment.

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was also introduced in 2012. This act defines sexual offenses against children, the prohibition of child pornography, and the administration of sexual assault cases against children. This act includes specific protection for children from harassment by anyone in a position of authority or trust, which includes teachers, guardians, and police officers.

Need of Articles on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Indian Constitution

Sexual harassment is a pervasive issue in India that has taken a significant toll on women’s safety and well-being. As a result, there is a growing need for legal measures and articles to address the issue of sexual harassment in the Constitution and ensure women’s safety. The Constitution of India is the supreme law of the land and provides the framework for the country’s governance. It sets out the fundamental rights and principles that every citizen is entitled to, including the right to equality, freedom of speech and expression, and protection against discrimination. However, despite these provisions, sexual harassment remains a major issue that needs to be addressed through concrete legal measures and articles in the Constitution.

First and foremost, the Constitution needs to include clear definitions of sexual harassment and its various forms. Currently, the law defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual advances or conduct, but this definition needs to be expanded to include other forms of harassment, such as verbal abuse, stalking, cyberstalking, distribution of pornographic material, and other types of inappropriate behaviour that constitute sexual harassment. Clear definitions are necessary to ensure that all forms of sexual harassment are recognized as illegal and punishable, and victims of any type of harassment receive adequate protection under the law. Including these definitions in the Constitution would ensure that they are uniformly applied and enforced across the country.

Second, the Constitution needs to have articles that establish legal measures for preventing and addressing acts of sexual harassment. This should include provisions for education and awareness programs to raise awareness about the issue and promote gender equality. It should also include provisions for legal penalties to be imposed on perpetrators of sexual harassment and for support services to be made available to victims. These services should include counselling, legal aid, medical support, and other forms of assistance to help victims cope with the trauma of sexual harassment and seek justice.

Third, we need to examine the fundamental principles of the Constitution and see how they intersect with this issue. For example, the right to equality enshrined in Article 14 can be extended to women in the workplace and give them the same opportunities as men. Similarly, Articles 19 and 21 that guarantee freedom of speech, expression, and personal liberty can also be extended to include sexual autonomy. By examining these principles, we can highlight the importance of protecting women’s rights and freedoms as key priorities in the Constitution.

Thus, the need for articles on the prevention of sexual harassment in the Indian Constitution is crucial to address the pervasive issue of sexual harassment in the country. Including clear definitions of sexual harassment and its various forms, legal measures for preventing and addressing acts of sexual harassment, and provisions for support services to victims are crucial for promoting gender equality and preventing sexual harassment. By examining the fundamental principles of the Constitution, we can further emphasize the importance of protecting women’s rights and freedoms in the country, which will ensure that every woman is guaranteed a safe and secure workplace, educational institution, and public space. Given the growing awareness about the issue of sexual harassment in India, it is time to take concrete measures and strengthen the Constitution to protect women from this endemic problem and ensure their safety and well-being.

The Advantages and Limitations of Articles on the Prevention of sexual harassment in the Indian Constitution

Advantages   Limitations
  Articles on the prevention of sexual harassment in the Indian Constitution provide a legal framework to protect individuals from sexual harassment in the workplace and other public spaces.     Despite the existence of articles on the prevention of sexual harassment in the Indian Constitution, implementation and enforcement of these laws remain a challenge.  
  The articles enable victims to seek legal recourse and hold perpetrators accountable.     There is a lack of awareness and education among individuals, especially in rural areas, on sexual harassment and their rights under the law.  
  The inclusion of articles on sexual harassment in the Indian Constitution marks a progressive step towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.     Social stigma and victim-blaming can deter individuals from reporting incidents of sexual harassment.  
  The articles serve as a deterrent to potential harassers and create awareness of the issue of sexual harassment.     There are concerns regarding the efficacy of Internal Complaints Committees (ICC) mandated by the articles, with some arguing that they are often ineffective and biased towards employers.  

Case Laws Relating to the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Indian Constitution

Sexual harassment is an issue that has plagued women in India for centuries. The Indian Constitution, which was created in 1950, did not address sexual harassment directly. However, the constitutional provisions relating to equality, dignity, and the fundamental rights of women have been interpreted by the judiciary to include protection from sexual harassment.

  • Vishaka Case in 1997

The first case of sexual harassment in India that gained national attention was the Vishaka case in 1997. In this case, a social worker from Rajasthan, Bhanwari Devi, was gang-raped while trying to stop child marriages. The perpetrators were not punished, and Bhanwari Devi faced further harassment and threats. The Supreme Court, in its landmark judgment, created the Vishaka guidelines, which mandated sexual harassment prevention measures in the workplace.

The guidelines were later replaced by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013. This law defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual gesture, remark, or behaviour. It also mandates that employers establish an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to receive and investigate complaints and provide redressal.

  • Medha Kotwal Lele v. Union of India

Several cases have been filed under the act, and the judiciary has played a crucial role in interpreting the law and enforcing it. In the case of Medha Kotwal Lele v. Union of India, the Bombay High Court held that the act also applies to the unorganized sector, such as domestic workers. The court also held that any unwelcome physical contact, even if it does not involve touching a sexual part of the body, can constitute sexual harassment.

  • Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K. Chopra

In the case of Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K. Chopra, the Supreme Court held that the act applies to all workplaces, including government offices, and that the ICC must have at least one external member to ensure impartiality.

  • Mona Kapoor v. Union of India

In recent years, there have been cases where the ICC has been accused of not providing adequate redressal to women who have filed complaints. The judiciary has stepped in to ensure that justice is served. In the case of Mona Kapoor v. Union of India, the Delhi High Court held that the ICC must act in a fair and unbiased manner and that the victim must be allowed to participate in the proceedings.

  • Ms. A v. State of Kerala

However, despite the existence of laws and guidelines, sexual harassment continues to be a pervasive problem in India, and many women are hesitant to file complaints due to fear of retaliation and victim-blaming. In the case of Ms. A v. State of Kerala, the Kerala High Court held that the victim’s failure to file a complaint immediately does not absolve the employer of their responsibility to act against the perpetrator.

Thus, the Indian Constitution does not have a specific article addressing sexual harassment. However, the judiciary has interpreted the provisions of equality, dignity, and fundamental rights to include protection from sexual harassment. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013, provides a framework for addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, and the judiciary has played a crucial role in enforcing the law and ensuring justice for victims. However, there is still a long way to go in making workplaces safe and ensuring that women are free from harassment and discrimination.

Conclusion

In conclusion, sexual harassment is a grave danger to personal liberty and freedom. The Indian Constitution protects against sexual harassment, including through various articles. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of 2013[1], the amended Indian Penal Code, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012 provide a legal framework for the prevention and punishment of sexual harassment. These laws are essential in the protection of individuals against sexual harassment, and they send a strong message that such behaviour will not be tolerated, punishable by law. Everyone needs to be aware of these laws and their protections, to ensure that individuals are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Read Our Article: Human Rights Protection Against Sexual Harassment

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