Van­dana Shah guides you on #Metoo in In­dia

Ad­vo­cate Van­dana Shah guides you on get­ting le­gal re­course for #Metoo in In­dia.

Savvy - - Contents\ -

With the #Metoo move­ment reach­ing a tip­ping point in In­dia, so many women are fi­nally speak­ing up. So what are the le­gal ac­tions women who are part of the #Metoo move­ment can take?

Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment is de­fined clearly in The Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment of Women at Work­place (Pre­ven­tion, Pro­hi­bi­tion and Re­dres­sal) Act, 2013. Sec­tion 2 n. “sex­ual ha­rass­ment” in­cludes any one or more of the fol­low­ing un­wel­come acts or be­hav­iour (whether di­rectly or by im­pli­ca­tion) namely:— i. Phys­i­cal con­tact and ad­vances; or ii. A de­mand or re­quest for sex­ual favours; or iii. Mak­ing sex­u­ally coloured re­marks; or iv. Show­ing pornog­ra­phy; or v. Any other un­wel­come phys­i­cal, ver­bal or

non-ver­bal con­duct of sex­ual na­ture

“When a woman has been sex­u­ally ha­rassed, she can file an FIR (First In­for­ma­tion Re­port) in the po­lice sta­tion. Women have noth­ing to fear since the po­lice are very help­ful in such sen­si­tive mat­ters.”

So women who are em­ployed in an or­ga­ni­za­tion, let’s say the women writ­ers who have been ha­rassed at the work­place, or women work­ing in a cor­po­rate, can seek le­gal re­course by the mea­sures pro­vided in this Act, which guides you on fil­ing a com­plaint of sex­ual ha­rass­ment to the In­ter­nal Com­plaints Com­mit­tee. After con­duct­ing an in­quiry, the com­mit­tee de­cides on the course of ac­tion.

Women can also choose to fol­low a path out­side the realm of the work­place and file a crim­i­nal com­plaint against the sex­ual preda­tor un­der var­i­ous pro­vi­sions of the IPC. Some of the rel­e­vant pro­vi­sions of the In­dian Pe­nal Code in this con­text are:

Sec­tion 354. As­sault or crim­i­nal force to woman with in­tent to out­rage her mod­esty.

Who­ever as­saults or uses crim­i­nal force to any woman, in­tend­ing to out­rage or know­ing it to be likely that he will thereby out­rage her mod­esty, shall be pun­ished with im­pris­on­ment of ei­ther de­scrip­tion for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may ex­tend to five years, and shall also be li­able to fine.

SEC­TION 354 A. Sex­ual ha­rass­ment and pun­ish­ment for sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

1. A man com­mit­ting any of the fol­low­ing acts — i. Phys­i­cal con­tact and ad­vances in­volv­ing un­wel­come and ex­plicit sex­ual over­tures; or ii. A de­mand or re­quest for sex­ual favours; or iii. Show­ing pornog­ra­phy against the will of a

woman; or iv. Mak­ing sex­u­ally coloured re­marks, shall be

guilty of the of­fence of sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

2. Any man who commits the of­fence spec­i­fied in

“My per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence as a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing women in these cases has been that NCW (Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Women) is ex­tremely sup­port­ive. The big­gest chal­lenge comes from the fam­i­lies who usu­ally dis­suade the women from call­ing out the per­pe­tra­tors.”

clause (I) or clause (ii) or clause (iii) of sub-sec­tion (I) shall be pun­ished with rig­or­ous im­pris­on­ment for a term which may ex­tend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

3. Any man who commits the of­fence spec­i­fied in clause (IV) of sub-sec­tion (I) shall be pun­ished with im­pris­on­ment of ei­ther de­scrip­tion for a term which may ex­tend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

SEC­TION 509. Word, ges­ture or act in­tended to in­sult the mod­esty of a woman.

Who­ever, in­tend­ing to in­sult the mod­esty of any woman, ut­ters any word, makes any sound or ges­ture, or ex­hibits any ob­ject, in­tend­ing that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such ges­ture or ob­ject shall be seen, by such woman, or in­trudes upon the pri­vacy of such woman, shall be pun­ished with sim­ple im­pris­on­ment for a term which may ex­tend to one year, or with fine, or with both. So the law is ex­tremely well de­fined and un­am­bigu­ous.

When a woman has been sex­u­ally ha­rassed, she can file an FIR (First In­for­ma­tion Re­port) in the po­lice sta­tion. Women have noth­ing to fear since the po­lice are very help­ful in such sen­si­tive mat­ters and are a far cry from the clichéd way they are pro­jected in Bol­ly­wood movies. It’s after the FIR that the charge sheet is filed and then the pro­ceed­ings in court com­mence.

My per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence as a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing women in these cases has been that NCW (Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Women) is ex­tremely sup­port­ive. The big­gest chal­lenge comes from the fam­i­lies who usu­ally dis­suade the women from call­ing out the per­pe­tra­tors. But as I tell the women: It’s your bat­tle and you have to make peace with the weapon of your choice – cow­er­ing be­fore the man/ pub­lic opin­ion or tak­ing le­gal re­course. Ul­ti­mately, it’s you who must see your­self as the van­quisher rather than the van­quished.

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