UNTOLD STORIES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT SHE-BOX PORTAL A WAY OUT

The Minister of Women and child development, Maneka Sanjey Gandhi launched an online complaint management system titled Sexual Harassment Electronic-Box (SHE-BOX) for registering complaints related to sexual harassment at workplace .Once the complaint is lodged to SHE-BOX, it will be directly sent to the internal complaints committee ( ICC) OF THE Ministry /department/PSU/ autonomous body etc concerned, having jurisdiction to inquire into the matter. The complaint management system has been developed to ensure the effective implementation   of Sexual harassment of women at work place. The portal is an initiative to provide a platform to women working or visiting any office of Central government,( central ministries  development, public sector undertaking, autonomous bodies and institutions etc) to file complaints related to sexual harassment at workplace under the Sexual harassment Act.

Sexual harassment has to come to be widely recognized as a form of Human Rights Violation. Women’s are sexually harassed in the offices, schools, streets, public transport and other different workplaces. Sexual Harassment includes a demand or request for sexual favored, making sexually coloured remarks, eve-teasing, any other unwelcome physical or verbal or non –verbal conduct of sexual nature, displaying pornographic pictures, gender based insults or sexist remarks etc. Job and academics performance gets impaired; as a result some of them never find partners. This is not say that recovery is impossible, but victims life will never be the same. India is the world’s most dangerous country for women, according to a survey of 550 experts on women’s issues conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The  Reuters report says that in India, “levels of violence against women still run higher pace, more than five years after the rape and murder of a student in  a bus in Delhi sparked national outrage a reference to the Nirbhaya gang rape and government pledges to tackle the issue.  India  ranked as the most dangerous on three issues the risks women face from sexual violence and harassment, from traditional and cultural practices, and from human trafficking, including , sex slavery , domestic servitude and including forced labour .Sexual   harassment is on the peak in India as per the Global survey of Thomson Reuters. As per the latest survey of Action Aid UK  Nearly four out of five women  in India have experienced some form of harassment or violence in public. It also revealed that every three out of four women in the western states of the India, including Rajasthan, have experienced some form of harassment. The survey found that 84 per cent of the women who experienced harassment were in the age group of 25 to 35 years, 82 per cent of them were full-time workers and 68 per cent were students. As per the report of Times of India seven out of ten women’s are sexually harassed.  Sexual assault brings with it post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, a shattering of self confidence .It can cause years of flashbacks & night mares decades of constricted life, lived I a way to avoid panic attacks further anxiety.

Sexual Harassment in J&K:

In J&K, though not many cases of sexual harassment have been reported, 1326 rape cases had been registered in the State since 2006. Crime against women and girls has been on the rise in J&K with 9634 cases involving   molestation, kidnapping, rape and abduction females registered since 2010.J&K state is showing continuous rise in cases of violence against women. Recently the Government admitted that there has been an increase in cases of violence against women during 2017, 3,957 persons were arrested in 2017 year upto November. Government has   established grievance cell under the charge of Commissioner and secretary social welfare in the civil secretariat to look into the complaints relating to sexual harassment of the female employees.

Some Constitutional guards for Sexual harassment:

Constitution provides strict laws against Sexual harassment but the problem is unawareness of rights among citizens, Constitution gives full support to females against Sexual harassment. Under the Section 294 of IPC, singing lewd songs directed at women in public spaces is considered sexual harassment, the offender could be jailed upto 3 months or be fine or both. Section 354 of IPC  , assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty. Who so ever assaults or uses criminal force to any women, 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, it may extend to five years. Under Section 354(D) of IPC, following someone without their knowledge is stalking and is an act of sexual harassment; the man can face jail term ranging 3-5 years with fine. Watching, capturing or sharing images of a women engaging in a private act without her consent is voyeurism and is punishable under the IPC Section 354(C). The man faces Jail term ranging from 1-3 years in addition to fine. If the man is convicted the second time, then he faces Jail term ranging from 3-7 years along with fine.

Despite active debates among lawmakers in Parliament, awareness campaigns and a host of measures to curb violence against women, the picture in 2014 is no less grim. If you are a woman, whether you grew up in a rural or urban setting, lived at home or ventured into a new city away from family, work in an office or manage your house full-time—the fear of sexual harassment is real and constant. Capital of India Delhi  is the worst offender in such cases. India’s capital city is the epicenter of almost thrice the amount of sexual crimes against women than the national average.  It has also recorded the highest increase in percentage of rape cases across the country. For us here in India, this problem is not new. Even history is witness at the time of rape case of Nirbhaya, almost 670 women in the country were being sexually harassed daily. Of course, those were just the reported numbers the actual cases of violence against women were much higher. But what has been alarming is the steady growth in such cases.

If India is found dangerous place for Women, it Is not for the lack of courage on the part of working professionals. There are strong sociological and cultural reasons why women are deterred from registering complaint to their organizations or legal complaints committee mandated by law. An overwhelming majority of women who experience sexual harassment do not register a Police complaint due to social stigma, family pressure, Police attitude, prolonged court trial etc. Supreme courts historic and celebrated 1997 judgment and 2013 law against Sexual harassment at work place haven’t done enough to address deep systematic problems. Over the last five years, beginning with the protection of children from sexual offences Act (POSCO) harsher laws have been the main tool to deal with sexual harassment. Their impact as a deterrent remains a matter of debate. The focus is more on law and order not on providing relief and rehabilitation to the survivor despite guidelines issued by several court judgments. We do not have adequate survivor support measure; Survivors need legal and medical aid, trauma counseling and some needs to be in free environment. There is hardly any effort for rehabilitation. As far as criminal justice system is concerned there are blockages everywhere. There are flaws in investigation due to which there are acquittals. Delays in courts, some time years before the trial commence is the celebrated reason. Better investigations and a viable survivor support program will help in improving conviction rates. It is sad to share unfortunately in our Country we do not raise awareness about the problems of sexual abuse or sexual harassment in our schools. This is an important measure to tackle down this menace, Schools are the places where children both boys and girls become aware of sexual boundaries that need to be maintained. Even when children reports sexual abuse to teacher, the teacher is not aware of the step she needs to take. We also lack of awareness within family and neighborhood. Adolescent boys and girls get involved in relationships at a young age without understanding the consequences. We need to provide proper sex education for children’s in schools but unfortunately not a single step is being initiated by authorities. Problem of Sexual harassment can be eradicated by launching SHE-BOX portal in every state. Education and awareness can play a big role in preventing sexual harassment. Lawyers and Law students can play Very crucial role in order to overcome the menace of sexual harassment, Lawyers and Law students can give well awareness to every female about their rights, Persons  engaged with law Profession have to organize legal programs related to anti-sexual harassment at  working places, schools, colleges, universities, public offices, private offices  and Police needs desperate reformation and  must cooperate while organizing such programs.. Having women in government can lead to more and better laws that safeguard women’s well-being. India’s female population is 48 % but woman just hold 12% seats f national legislature. Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Slovenia and Spain are some of the safest – all countries where women hold over 31% SEATS in national legislature Anti- sexual harassment cell should be constituted in schools, colleges, universities, working places, and other private institutions. It’s about time everyone learns to treat women with respect and dignity.  Indian government with more women in legislature could better protect Indian women by passing comprehensive laws that defend women from abuse and help victims recover.

Author is a Law student and a freelance writer and can be reached at sajadfarooqrather@gmail.com