Is sexual harassment gender neutral?

Sexual Harassment

The Constitution of India has guaranteed equal rights and protection to all its citizens irrespective of their religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth[i].But certain laws in India are not gender neutral to take the complaints of men and transgender persons because they are made specially to protect the interest of women. We cannot deny the fact that crimes are happening against women till date but that doesn’t mean men or transgender are not abused or exploited. Even men are abused sexually and some women are using the strict laws to take revenge on men or use these penal laws to exploit them financially.

What is the need for making sexual harassment gender neutral ?

At present, under Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act,2012 both the male and female children are protected from the predators from being sexually abused or exploited. But for male adults there is no law to protect them against the sexual offences. In India, we tend to have a mindset that only women are raped. But this is not true in reality because men are also sexually abused equally as that of women. We have enough legislations to protect women from sexual harassment such as Indian Penal Code,1860,Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal),2013, Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act,2012 and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act,1956.Likewise can we quote any single legislation for the protection of men ? No, we don’t have any special legislation to hear and redress their grievances and this itself stands violative to Article 14 of the Constitution.

Why it has to be made gender neutral ?

Thousands of cases are filed at the Police station by the women or by her relatives accusing men in respect of sexual offences.How many of us know about the credibility of such cases being filed by the women ? Do all the complaints made are true ? The answer is no, because in recent times lot of men came forward and told media that they were accused on false allegations and the identity of such men are kept confidential by the media. Since laws provide strict punishment and penalty to the sexual offenders, they are misused by some women to get revenge on men or to exploit them financially or to defame particular person.

In our society, if any man step into the jail, then he will be marked as characterless and his entire reputation will be damaged.And particularly if he is charged for any sexual offence, then it will always be a black mark on his career and it will also affect his personal life terribly. There is always a set of supporters for women who raise their voice against the sexual harassment of women but do they know what really happened ? Due to advanced technologies it is now very easy for us to share the news and pictures of a man who has been accused under sexual offences and we cannot simply conclude the character of a man whose picture has been circulated with such accusation. It is so rude to deny a man from explaining his side.And once if a man is charged with sexual offences, not only the man is affected but also his family who has no connection with said allegation is also affected equally.

What are the steps taken by the Government to protect man:

KTS Tulsi, Parliamentarian and Senior lawyer has introduced a private members bill before Rajya Sabha in July 2019,proposing to make sexual offences gender neutral. The bill proposes to change the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ to ‘any person’ in criminal laws (Indian Penal Code,1860,The Indian Evidence Act,1872 and the Criminal Procedure Code,1973) so that any person who is harassed sexually can seek remedies under these laws. In addition to this, the bill also insisted the inclusion of section 375-A to punish the offence of ‘Sexual Assault’ and this section includes ‘touching’ without penetration of genitals of victim, without their consent except if such touching is carried out for proper hygienic or medical purposes.

By replacing the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ with the word ‘any person’, it not only include men but also covers the transgenders under the purview of law against sexual offences since they are not an exception to sexual harassment. And the Supreme Court has already declared transgender people to be the third gender and confirmed their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India[ii] so there is no hindrance in making the laws against sexual harassment gender neutral.

A PIL was filed before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of section 375 of IPC (rape) and on November 12,2018 Supreme Court declined to entertain the petition since it falls outside the realm of Supreme Court. And the Ministry of Home Affairs has clearly stated that Indian rape laws cannot be made gender neutral since the victims are mostly women and the offenders are mostly men.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development[iii],Government Of India has also proposed certain amendments in Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act,1956 with regard to gender neutral provisions. It proposed to change the words ‘his’ or ‘her’ with a gender neutral so as to cover all genders under this Act.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill,2019 :

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) bill has been passed by the Parliament in August 2019 which proposed equal rights to transgenders in the matters of education, health care, employment, access to public places or private offices,right to reside or occupy any property etc. The bill has defined the term ‘transgender’ and also assured that all possible welfare measures will be taken by the appropriate government to improve the transgender society. A transgender person can obtain the certificate of identity which indicates the person as ‘transgender’ by making proper application to the District Magistrate. It has also established the National Council for Transgender Persons (NCT) to monitor the actions and measures taken by the government and also to hear and redress the grievances of transgender persons. The bill also recognized certain offences committed against transgender persons such as denial of access to public places or to reside; forcing them to beg and abusing them sexually or verbally and such offences would attract penalties which may differ from six months to two years of imprisonment and fine.

Conclusion:

As a citizen of India, everyone has equal rights when some crime is committed against us. And sexual harassment is not a crime of small or harmless nature and it is considered as heinous crime which affects physical and mental well being of a human. Nearly 63 countries have adopted the gender neutral laws and many countries are in the progress of making gender neutral laws in order to provide equal justice. The provisions are available in various Acts providing punishment and penalties for filing frivolous complaints or making false allegations. But that doesn’t help the men to overcome the crisis of false allegations. And women have POSH Act to seek Redressal for their grievances which happened at their work place.There is no guarantee that men won’t face such sexual harassment at workplace. However if they tend to face any sexual harassment by women, they have no mechanism to provide remedy and protection which portray the miserable condition of men in India. And regarding transgender people, in some places, they are still forced into prostitution and some other illegal activities and there is no statute to stop and question the offenders. The lack of law or statute to protect the genders other than women doesn’t show equality of justice as guaranteed by our constitution. They are also human who have all the rights to be treated equally and it is our responsibility to protect our people irrespective of their genders.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[i] Art.14,Constitution of India,1950.

[ii] National Legal Services Authority v. Union Of India,W.P(C)No.400 of 2012.

[iii]WCD,Amendments proposed in Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act,1956, https://wcd.nic.in/act/amendment-proposed-immoral-traffic-prevention-act-1956-0.

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I am Sangeethaa N S from Sastra University,Tamil Nadu pursuing B.Com.,LL.B(Hons).I am a person who always have perfection in whatever I do.Company Law,Labour Law and Criminal Law are my spheres and other than that I love to read Family Law.Apart from academics,singing and reading are my hobbies and love to watch movies of any language.Besides the field of law,I am a story writer and also a poet.Sometimes I give motivational speech which I believe,to be a great stress burster.I always want to attain a position which is soaked with power and knowledge and will definitely reach my ambition with great passion.