False Sexual Harassment Complaints in India

False Sexual Harassment Complaints in India
Author: Archit Uniyal,
BBA LLB (Hons) 3rd-year,
O.P Jindal Global University.
“We want equality for genders”.  This is what the placards displayed in front of India gate, at the capital after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi was falsely accused of sexual harassment by a woman. Justice Gogoi got the clean chit after no substance could be found against him that proved he harassed the woman.[1]

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined in Section 354(A) of the Indian Penal Code[2] as – A man committing any physical contact, advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or demanding or requesting sexual favours; or showing pornography against the will of a woman; or making sexually coloured remarks, shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment, and shall be punished with Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years.

Other Sections of the IPC related to Sexual Harassment –

Section 209:[3] Doing obscene acts in any public place, singing obscene songs to the annoyance of others will lead to Imprisonment for a term of up to 3 months or fine, or both.

Section 509:[4] Uttering any word or making any gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman will result in Imprisonment for 1 year, or fine, or both.

The Sexual Harassment at The Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013:

Under this act[5] sexual harassment included acts such as –
  1. Physical contact and advances
  2. A demand or request for sexual favours
  3. Making sexually coloured remarks
  4. Showing pornography
  5. Implied or explicit promise/threat of preferential/detrimental treatment in her employment.
  6. Creating an offensive work environment for her
  7. Humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety.

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1987)

This act states that if an individual harasses another with books, photographs, paintings, films, pamphlets, packages, etc. containing ‘indecent representation of women’, they will be liable for a minimum sentence of two years.[6]

Are the Laws Gender Biased?

As we can clearly see from the definition of sexual harassment under various laws they are not gender neutral and applies to the protection of women only. The concept is outdated because it implies that only women suffer from sexual harassment. The stereotypes associated with sexual abuse, domestic violence and other such issues need to be questioned as in such cases women are automatically assumed to be victims and men the assaulter. And it’s not only the Sexual Harassment laws but several issues that have bias against men in India like anti-dowry laws in India are frequently being misused to harass and extort husbands which has led to high suicide rate amongst men in India. The divorce and child custody laws are biased against men. Also, because many cases of domestic violence go unreported the frequency of violence against men has increased. The increase in number of false accusations has been because of the low conviction rates and claim that the lack of a penalty for falsely reporting rape has encouraged false cases.

The #MeToo Movement

The Me-Too movement started in India in late 2018 and is a similar movement that was prominent internationally. In India, the Me-Too movement highlighted sexual harassment of women in the workplace, and parts of Indian society including government, media, and the Bollywood film industry.

The first incident that gave rise to the movement India was when actress Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of sexual harassment. This led to many women in the news media, Indian films, and even within the government to speak out and bring allegations of sexual harassment against a number of perpetrators including Alok Nath, members from the comedy group AIB, Anu Malik, NSUI national president Fairoz Khan and many other famous personalities.[7]

False Accusations of Sexual harassment in India

In April 2010, Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik was accused of harassment by a woman from Hyderabad, Ayesha Siddiqui, just before his marriage to tennis player Sania Mirza.  His passport was seized, and he was publicly shamed in media. Later the accusation turned out to be false. SIFF then released a statement in support of Malik, demanding his passport be returned.[8]

In a case in 2019[9] a woman called Anita accused her senior of making sexual advances towards her in 2011 an
d s
ought dismissal of retirement benefits granted to the man. A committee was formed to probe the allegations as the man had disproved to the allegations in the complaint and said that the allegations were just because of a grudge against him at work. The committee gave the benefit of doubt to the man after observing the communications between the both of them. After noting the record of the inquiry proceedings, the bench dismissed the woman’s plea, handing her a fine of Rs. 50000 fine stating the accusation to be false. The court also gave liberty to the woman’s employer to initiate appropriate action against her for filing a frivolous complaint. 

Conclusion

Such a big movement like MeToo has not been successful in India and even worldwide because of so many false harassment cases that have come up over the years. Woman who have been actually sexually harassed, when gather all the courage to speak against the atrocity are not taken seriously and are considered to be liars just because of the fact that some women have accused few men falsely. But on the other side so many lives and careers have been destroyed because of the false charges some men have been accused of which resulted in them being defamed, terminated from their job, deserted by their family and society, and also suicides. Judges in India are trying to ensure that women driven by revenge and self-interest will no longer be able to make spurious allegations. Several Ngo’s have been established that protect men from such false charges. The Ngo’s have started a movement which support the introduction of gender-neutral legislation and repeal of laws that they consider are biased against men. The anti-harassment laws in India needs to be amended and made gender neutral so that not only the lives of several innocent men are not destroyed but also so that woman who have actually been assaulted are taken seriously by the society and law.




[1] “Ranjan Gogoi: India’s Chief Justice Cleared of Sexual Harassment.” BBC News. May 06, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48177737.

[2] https://devgan.in/ipc/section/354A/

[3] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/323386/

[4] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/68146/

[5] Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

[6] The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibiton) Act (1987)

[7] “2018: The Year When #MeToo Shook India – 2018: The Year Of #MeToo In India.” The Economic Times. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/2018-the-year-when-metoo-shook-india/2018-the-year-of-metoo-in-india/slideshow/66346583.cms.

[8] “Pakistani Cricketer Shoaib Malik Questioned over ‘secret Wife’.” The Telegraph. April 05, 2010. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/7556324/Pakistani-cricketer-Shoaib-Malik-questioned-over-secret-wife.html.

[9] Anita Suresh v. Union of India (2019) SCC OnLine Del 9116
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