Trigger warning: Following article contains content of sexual harassment which might be emotionally triggering for some audience.
Was it disturbing to see how Maanvi Gagroo’s character is facing harassment from her boss in the above video? Seeing how it isn’t just physically disturbing but also emotionally upsetting to her? This short film portrays an incident of harassment, sexual harassment, at workplace. India saw an increase in awareness of sexual harassment from October 2018 when the ‘Me Too’ movement started picking its pace when a Bollywood actress accused her co-start harassing her while they were working on a project 10 years back. Since then we saw actors from Bollywood to stand-up comedians to commoners coming up and telling their story on social media, of being sexually harassed, by using #MeToo. Sexual harassment is when a person gets unwanted and unpleasant sexual attention from one or more people. Sexual harassment is not only limited to physical harassment, but its impact is such that the victim gets emotionally harassed as well. Sexual harassment can take place in workspace, learning environment or in the domestic setting.
The umbrella of sexual violence:
We often hear terms like sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment etc. but let’s find out the distinctive difference between these terms.
- Sexual violence- It encompasses the terms that refer to crimes like sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape and sexual abuse. Sexual violence, mostly, is accomplished by using power of authority, then it may be carried by giving threats, forcing a person, deceiving a person or by using helplessness of the victim’s physical or mental state.
- Sexual abuse- It is seen that the victim of sexual abuse are mostly children than adults. Touching a victim or asking the victim to touch the perpetrator in a sexual way, making the victim watch a sexual activity or sexual body parts, asking the victim to be in pornographic movie or picture is what sexual abuse is all about.
- Sexual assault- Sexual assault is when the perpetuator engages in sexual activity without the consent of the victim. It could be sexual touching or fondling, penetration, or attempted rape. Sexual assault describes a range of criminal acts which are sexual in nature.
- Sexual harassment- Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention that the victim gets from the perpetrator. Forcing someone to go out on dates where the sexual behavior could take place is one of the examples of sexual harassment.
- Sexual exploitation- Sexual exploitation is when a person is exploited sexually for financial gains, sexual gratification or any other personal benefit. Sexual exploitation, again, is an act wherein the perpetrator exploits the victim sexually without the victims’ consent.
- Sexual trafficking- Recruiting or harboring people in unlawful way, against their will, to commercially use them for the of sexual act in exchange of monetary values.
- Sexual intimidation- Sexual intimidation is a threatening behavior which is sexual in nature. It could be emotionally distressing for the victim as it adds a pressure of threats.
- Sexual grooming- Just like sexual abuse, sexual grooming is conducted mostly against children. In sexual grooming, the offender first befriends the victim, tries to build relationship before abusing the victim. In short, the abuser tries to gain trust of the victim, persuades the victim to get involved in the sexual act but at the same time it is unwanted for the victim.
Laws related to sexual harassment-
Sexual harassment is a very traumatic experience that one might experience. The victim might get emotionally disturbed, feel shameful or have feelings of guilt. But there are a few laws that can get the victim the justice they deserve and it is important to know about them-
- In IPC section 294, singing indecent songs and creating obscene scenes are considered as sexual harassment. The offender could be sent to prison for 3 months for doing so, or could be fined.
- In IPC section 354(A), demanding sexual favors from women, when she is not interested is punishable for sexual harassment and the offender can be jailed for 3 years with fine.
- In IPC section 354 voyeurism, i.e. watching or taking or sharing photographs of a woman engaging in private act without permission, is punishable. The accused can be jailed for 3 years along with fine.
- POSH (Prevention Of Sexual Harassment)- The POSH act was incorporated to provide protection to any woman who is facing sexual harassment by any employee, boss or third party at the workplace. It also includes the quid pro quo type of sexual harassment, i.e., any person using their organizational power to force a woman to engage in sexual activity in return for favours, increments, promotions at workplace.
- POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses)– Amended in 2019, the POCSO act makes provision of protecting children from offenses like sexual abuse, pornography, sexual assault. The act is gender neutral and can be implemented in any case where the child is below 18 years of age.
Most of the times, the cases of sexual harassment aren’t reported out of guilt and shame, the emotional baggage that it carries is tremendous. It is completely understandable that is gets difficult to talk about it because it is very disturbing. But at the same time reporting of sexual violence cases is important for oneself to not let the perpetrator walk freely, and it might also give courage to other victims to seek justice. Even though it is difficult to report it, it isn’t impossible!