Supporting Survivors of Violence

Domestic Violence

It’s called ‘eve teasing’ but can become a nuisance or harassment. As a woman, you have probably experienced it at least once in your life. You are not alone.

 

Are you currently facing sexual harassment …
Are you confused, frustrated, feeling helpless and angry …
Are you wondering – is it really serious or am I over-reacting?

 

You are not alone. There are hundreds like you wanting to find a way out.
In looking for information, you are taking the first step to empower yourself and to deal with it.

 

Do not let sexual harassment restrict your life. You have every right to live and work with dignity.
You have every right to move about freely. It is your basic human right.

 

 

Your Questions

 

Frequently Asked Questions

The term ‘eve teasing’ is frivolous in describing an offence and has been changed to sexual harassment. Quite briefly, sexual harassment or eve teasing is unwelcome attention or any form of action given by one person to another who does not like it.

What is Sexual Harassment?

“Sexual harassment is being forced to have sexual interaction that you don't want to have. It's in an environment where a woman is always being sexually aggressed against and has to tolerate that, or she has no job….” [Catharine A. MacKinnon, Professor of Law, Times of India, 30-1-2009]

According to a judgment passed by the Supreme Court of India in 1997, sexual harassment is any form of sexual behaviour which is unwelcome and unwanted such as physical contact, a demand for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing obscene pictures and pornography and any other verbal or physical conduct. It could be subtle, covert, explicit, repeated and prolonged or a one time event.

Later, in the SC judgment on the Apparel Export Promotion Council v Chopra case, it was reiterated that ‘any action or gesture which, whether directly or by implication, aims or has the tendency to outrage the modesty of a female employee, must fall under the general concept of the definition of sexual harassment’. This basically implies that it is not just physical contact which constitutes sexual harassment. Moreover, sexual harassment is defined not by the intention of the harasser. YOU decide if it is sexual harassment. And it is so, if you find it offensive or become uncomfortable!

Who can be the victim?

Studies show that sexual harassment can happen to anybody, anywhere, of any age and at any time. While it happens mostly to women, even a man can become a victim. In a same-sex relationship, the perpetrator is a man against a man or a woman against a woman.

Who is the perpetrator?

Again, it could be anybody. The perpetrator could be known to you or could be a stranger. Sexual harassment is not about sex, it is about power play. A man harasses because he thinks he can.

Where can it happen?

It could happen in a public place, in the privacy of the home, at the workplace and in college/campus. We will be dealing with each one separately.

Who is to blame for the act of sexual harassment?

People might imply that you i.e. your clothes, time, or attitude had something to do with it. It’s not you but the perpetrator who should be accused!

Is it serious enough to call it sexual harassment?

Each of us has comfort zones that we create for ourselves. Comfort zones are a circle we put around ourselves, the boundary of which determines and categorises behaviours as acceptable and non-acceptable.

This might be different for different people at different times. Thus, a woman might be OK when a friend from the opposite sex hugs her, but may not be OK when a male colleague does the same. Comfort zones are not just violated by a touch. They may be violated by non-physical gestures as well, such as staring, rude comments, asking personal questions and so on. Sexual harassment is a gross violation of this personal boundary or comfort zone.

How is sexual harassment different from flirting?

One cannot get away with calling sexual harassment harmless fun or flirting. Sexual harassment is NOT equal to flirting.

Flirting is a two way interaction between people, where both the parties feel positively about each other. It is completely wanted and welcomed. You feel empowered when you flirt. It makes you feel good.

Sexual harassment is a completely one-sided interaction of a sexual nature, where one feels threatened by the other. It is behaviour which is neither wanted nor welcomed. It makes you feel uncomfortable and induces feelings of embarrassment and shame.

Can an office affair be called a sexual harassment case?

An office relationship is not a sexual harassment case, as long as it follows the prescribed code of conduct and where the relationship is mutual. BUT, it becomes a case of sexual harassment if the woman consents to the relationship in return for a promotion/ better prospects/transfer and so on. It is a sexual harassment case because of the threat of adverse effects on her career.

Do my clothes have anything to do with it?

No. Sexual harassment has nothing to do with your clothes. Wearing Western/ tight/ short clothes is not the reason for harassment. Those are merely the excuses men (and women) give to shift the blame onto the victim. Men also harass women who are ‘decently’ dressed. They harass ALL women, irrespective of their clothing or age.

What is sexualised environment? Does it amount to sexual harassment?

A sexualised environment is usually a workplace where jokes of sexual content, download of porn, exchanging sexually explicit writings and visuals is quite common. It is not particularly directed towards anybody. Such an environment is not sexual harassment per se. But there is a thin line and it becomes sexual harassment as soon as even one colleague finds it offensive.

Is sexual assault different from sexual harassment?

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are related to each other, but they are also different.

Sexual assault means using physical force on a male or female for sexual contact and activity, either with use of weapon or otherwise. Rape is the most extreme form of sexual assault, while touching private parts are sexual assault of a ‘lesser’ degree.

Sexual harassment is a broader form of gender based violence, which maybe verbal and non-verbal in nature, such as passing sexual comments, leering at women’s bodies to making prolonged advances for sexual favours, among others.

Both sexual harassment and sexual assault are unwanted and forced. Both are a criminal offence.

The Workplace

 

The Workplace

“I am an air hostess. I shrink in disgust to see hundreds of lustful eyes creeping all over my body when I am at work.”Sonali [Deccan Herald 1-1-2008]

You step out of your house to work. You would like to be recognized for your intelligence and your sincerity. A grope, a lewd stare, jokes with sexual innuendos, ‘accidental’ touching or brushing past, seemingly harmless comments with double meanings, asking for sexual favours – with just one act, you are reduced to being a mere body. Sexual harassment at the workplace can be all this and much more.

 

What it is

When your employer or co worker asks for dates, brushes/touches/corners you, calls you unnecessarily into the cabin, displays pornographic material, sends offensive emails, asks for sexual favours, etc, it is overt sexual harassment. It can also be extremely covert and concealed.

Is it serious enough to call it sexual harassment? It is, if you are offended and feel violated by that action.

As the definition of sexual harassment can be hazy, there is always the question:

How do I know if it is really a case of sexual harassment and not some light hearted fun? Go through the statements below and answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

  • Was the behaviour of a sexual nature?
  • Did the behaviour make you feel uncomfortable or intimidated?
  • Was it bad touch?
  • Were there double entendres in the words?
  • Did the behaviour make you feel threatened or cornered?
  • Were you made to feel self-conscious of your identity as a woman?
  • Did you feel offended by the behaviour?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to more than one question, you should consider it a case of sexual harassment:

Do remember that:

Sexual harassment is not flirting.

  • Sexual harassment is different from having an affair. An affair becomes sexual harassment as soon as it is forced on the woman.
  • It is sexual harassment when a friendship crosses the line or goes overboard. YOU are the one who sets the boundary in an office relationship.
  • An office relationship is mutual. However, sexual harassment is forced. It becomes sexual harassment as soon as the man’s attention is unwanted.

Here are some examples of sexual harassment which will help you to identify it.

  • Demanding sexual favours
  • Lewd stares and leering at your body parts
  • Asking personal questions
  • Making personal comments on your body parts, clothes, appearance
  • Using names such as ‘darling’, ‘honey’ and so one, which make you uncomfortable
  • Cracking sexually explicit jokes or jokes which demean women, singing obscene jokes, sending sexually explicit mails, reading vulgar literature at workplace
  • Crossing your personal space
  • Brushing past your body
  • Touching ‘accidentally’, groping breasts or from behind, pinching, rubbing, putting arm around you, hugging you unnecessarily
  • Calling after work hours unnecessarily
  • Sending you text messages unnecessarily
  • Asking for dates constantly despite refusing
  • Making obscene gestures such as scratching private parts or opening belt/ shirt
  • Making double meaning statements, intending to embarrass you in front of others
  • Unnecessarily touching you in front of others
  • Holding your hand for moments longer than necessary while shaking hands
  • Asking you to dress in a particular way
  • Calling you unnecessarily to the office cabin
  • Cornering you in office
  • Making sexist comments among male colleagues, which you find offensive
  • Forcing you to drink or smoke
  • Forcing you to go out with him
  • Following you outside office space
  • Pressurizing you to sleep with him or have an affair with him
  • Trying to make a pass at you when out on business trips

 

Types

According to the Supreme Court, sexual harassment can be of two types:

Quid pro quo is when sexual indulgences and favours are demanded for better prospects, security of job, promotions, salary or projects.

For instance, when your boss or a senior colleague tells you, “I could get you (fill in the blank). But what’s in it for me?”

In most cases of this type of sexual harassment, the perpetrator is usually someone who has some form of authority over you, as an employee. Also harassment in this form is mostly explicit and overt in nature.

Hostile work environment includes any form of sexual behaviour as well as acts of discrimination such as non-provision of ladies’ toilets and rest rooms, finding fault with the work because she is a woman, discrimination because of a person’s sexual orientation, denying promotions and trivializing the issue of sexual harassment.

"If I had a problem, the principal would insist I first please him before he looked into the matter. When he spoke to me, it was always with innuendo and obscene gestures. At a school picnic once he looked pointedly at me and said, 'I don't like home-cooked food all the time. Sometimes I like to eat out as well'."
-a senior school teacher. [DNA, 02/07/2007]

 

Possible Steps

“A male colleague used to narrate stories that were absolutely appalling. I tried to stop him, during one such story, and he didn’t. I went to my boss and asked him to talk to him. But, that didn’t work too.” - A call centre professional, [Dataquest]

Thousands of women silently tolerate sexual harassment at the workplace, because they not only fear loss of job, ridicule or stigmatisation, but also want to avoid embarrassment and further harassment at the workplace. What can you do once you are sexually harassed or are facing ongoing harassment? The most important thing for you is to STOP the ongoing harassment.

 

Informal Steps

Informal mechanisms are not only faster and cheaper than the formal route, but are helpful, in most cases. Here, your objective is to stop the ongoing harassment immediately. The harasser usually does not expect you to resist. Your aim is to make his acts visible.

How to confront the harasser:

  • It is important you resist or speak out as soon as an incident of sexual harassment takes place. Be direct and specific. Practice, if needed. “I found it offensive the way you (fill in the blank) on (this day) and I ask that you stop immediately.”
  • Make his act visible in the office. Let other people know about it. You never know, but there might be other women who have faced similar situations.
  • Inform the harasser that you have a right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment.
  • Your tone should be serious but polite.
  • Control your body language while confronting. Be strong, maintain direct eye contact and do not slouch. Stand straight while talking and keep your voice firm. Do not cry or hurl abuses at him. Stick to the issue of his misconduct.
  • Writing a letter is also an effective way of confronting the harasser, especially if he does not stop the harassment after verbal confrontation. Copy this letter to yourself and may be to the HR (if you decide to include them in the process). Be factual, giving details of the incident(s), the date(s) and how they made you feel (again, in a factual manner). Send the letter by registered post and keep the signed slip.
  • Even if you have given in to the sexual demands of the harasser in past circumstances (under threat or pressure), you have every right to protest or stop any sexual exchange at any point. You have every right to file a complaint as well.
Semi-formal Steps

Semi-formal mechanisms mean that you are taking the issue up informally with the management or any other authorised person. For instance, an official mail from the management or the supervisor may be enough to fix the problem. Many organisations would want to settle cases of sexual harassment to avoid negative publicity.

  • Find out if there is a complaints committee (as prescribed under the Vishaka Guidelines) or an anti-sexual harassment policy in your company. The HR is usually the department which helps you in these matters.
  • If the harassment persists, despite verbal warning, consult the HR. A letter from the HR or supervisor is often an effective way of stopping the harassment.
  • Spread awareness in the office regarding the Vishaka guidelines and the existing company policy among your co-workers. Share with your colleagues. If there are other women who have faced similar situation, it is possible to file a joint complaint.
  • Send a copy of the sexual harassment policy or the Code of Conduct rules to the harasser.
  • You have every right to insist on confidentiality while discussing these matters with the HR or a Supervisor.

Getting help from Trade Union or a NGO

If you feel the management has not treated your problem properly or you feel intimidated by them, you can approach a third party such as the Trade Union or a local Non Government Organisation. An NGO (dealing specifically with women’s issues) will especially be useful if you want to take legal action against the harasser. Part of the semi formal steps is preparation.

Preparation for a formal complaint

  • Documenting the harassment is one of the most important prerequisites, should you decide to file a formal complaint. This basically means that you must keep notes on the incidents or threats, with details of dates, places where the incidents occurred, how they made you feel, how you reacted, frequency and actual time of these incidents, how harasser behaved when confronted, the actual exchange of words, and if there were witnesses to the event.
  • Do not keep these notes in your office but at home and in your personal notebooks.
  • Keep a note of any changes in the portion and nature of your work/ projects, that is, if you have been given projects which are not part of your role.
  • If the incident of sexual harassment includes physical violence or assault, then get yourself medically examined. Retain the medical report as this is an important document for legal action.
  • Do keep copies of work records, the company’s work and anti-sexual harassment policies, performance appraisals, official documents commending your work and any other official documents which may help you with the case. But again, they must be kept in your home.
  • It is important that you get these documents authenticated by a witness. Also you must know the source of these documents.
  • Create a witness to the incidents of sexual harassment by sharing with a colleague and making him/her either an eye- or an ear-witness to the incident. This is crucial for establishing a strong case.
Formal or Legal Steps

Formal mechanisms mean written complaints. The course you choose depends on the nature of your workplace. For instance, the options available to a woman working in a bank will be different from the one working as a domestic worker. Usually, you have four options.

1] Filing a formal complaint with the office

Each company has their own set of Rules of Conduct. Sexual harassment would usually fall under violation of conduct rules related to morality and discipline. As per the Vishaka guidelines, sexual harassment in the workplace is misconduct and disciplinary action must be taken.

1.Find out the time frame of filing a formal complaint in your organisation. In some organisations it is 6 months while there is no time frame for the informal process.

2.Complaint Form: A complaint should have the following details:

a.Date of complaint

b.Complainant’s and alleged harasser’s name and position

c.Details of incidents, with the date, place, time and context of the incident

d.In the case of more than one incident, the latter should be written in a chronological manner.

e.Any witnesses to the incidents and their names. However these persons should know give their consent.

f.Mention the fact if the harasser is at a higher position than you.

g.Mention if you have given in to the demands made by the harasser or if you resisted the same.

h.Accurately put down any verbal comments.

i.The complaint should be as detailed as possible.

3.Focus on the incident/s of sexual harassment and not on any other work-related matters.

4.Reiterate the offensive aspect of the incident.

5.Submit the formal complaint, along with a covering letter and an acknowledgement receipt, to the Disciplinary Authority.

6.Make sure that you get an acknowledgement receipt of the complaint form. It is an important proof of your filing a formal complaint and there is no chance of the employer denying it later!

7.Once a formal complaint has been made, the employer can either send your complaint to the local police station (under whose jurisdiction the office is located) or take disciplinary action against the harasser.

2] Filing a case with the Complaints Committee

You also have the option of approaching the complaints committee which, according to the Vishaka Guidelines, must have at least 50% women members with one third-party presence of a non government organisation representative. This option is applicable only to the organised sectors, whereas victims of sexual harassment in the unorganised sector will have to follow their case in the Court. Do keep the following pointers in mind.

  • If you are a victim of sexual harassment, either you can directly approach the Complaints Committee or your complaint can be referred by the Disciplinary Authority.
  • This committee has the power to call the offender(s) informally for matters of investigation.
  • In case you feel the Complaints Committee is not properly constituted, then you have every right to put forth your written objection to the Disciplinary Authority. For instance, the members of the Authority must not be subordinate to the offender; or the third party representative is not an expert in the issue of sexual harassment.
  • It is difficult to prove cases of bias, either in favour of the accused or against you and you need to give factual details to prove either. At the same time, in case you know the third party personally, you should at no point show your connections, as this may be used against you.
  • You have a right to confidentiality in the entire proceedings. In fact, your witnesses too can maintain confidentiality if the situation so demands (for example, in case of threat and harassment by the accused).
  • When facing an enquiry, you can be assisted by a friend or a counsellor and in some cases, even a lawyer. Moreover, you may be assigned a Presenting Officer for the purposes of presenting the case to the Committee.
  • It is a high possibility that you do not have a witness. In such cases, factual details of the incident and denial of promotions etc will play an important role.

 

Filing a Criminal Case

Filing a criminal case means you have decided to go the whole way. It will mean time and money. It begins foremost with lodging a First Information Report (FIR). Since this is a criminal case, the latter can be registered by other persons as well. For instance, in the case of hostile work environment, a group of colleagues can file a joint case as well. Besides, in cases of sexual harassment at the workplace, the employer is legally bound to file a complaint to the police as well.

The Home

 

The Home

Our homes are one of the last places we would expect to be harassed. But sadly, it is one of the most common sites where violence against women begins.

“My elderly landlord asks me personal questions about my whereabouts, my family and even my boyfriends. Sometimes he calls me at inappropriate times and makes suggestive remarks.”

“My husband’s close friend once came home when he knew my husband would be away at work. I was shocked when he began to ask personal questions like if I was happy with my husband and that he could make me very happy. I am scared to tell my husband about the incident… I have been so disturbed. Will he believe me?”

It is important to recognize sexual harassment at home. It can often be prolonged or become a prelude to stalking or serious harassment.

 

What it is

What is sexual harassment at home?

Sexual harassment includes unwanted sexually determined behaviour such as physical advances and bodily contacts, sexually coloured comments and double entendres, demanding or requesting sexual favours and any other unwelcome sexual conduct. When this happens in our homes or in the vicinity, by people who we know (uncles, father’s friend, extended family members, security guards, friends, residents of the same colony, neighbours and so on) it becomes sexual harassment at home.

Why is sexual harassment at home serious?

Sexual harassment at home is serious because there is a good chance that you know the perpetrator, making the incident even more painful for you. The perpetrator can be an uncle, the son of a family friend, an extended family member, a neighbour, a cousin, the landlord or a friend of your own/brother’s/father’s.

According to NCRB data, of the 18555 rape cases where the perpetrator is known to the victim, 35.2% are committed by neighbours, 7.4% by relatives, 2 % by parents or close family members and a majority of 55.4% by other known persons.

The incidents may be premeditated, especially if the offender is close to the family and knows your whereabouts and daily schedule.

Who can do it?

Any man can be a potential harasser: a distant cousin, a family friend, a friend, a neighbour, father’s friend, brother’s friend, distant relative, close relative, neighbour’s son, the landlord, service people such as security guard, domestic helper, postman, plumber, electrician, vegetable vendor, salesman, friend’s friend and strangers, among others.

“My mama (uncle) came over to stay for few days with us. At first I thought he was warm and friendly. But soon he started giving me long hugs, rubbing my arms and shoulders, and one day he even touched my breasts. Though he apologized immediately, I know it was not an accident. Now he makes me feel very uncomfortable.”

Age and marital status are not factors (either the harasser’s or the victim’s) that can prevent a person from harassing or from being harassed.

Why is it so invisible and unrecognised by law?

It is hidden because not many report it and not because it does not occur.

1.Women fear that they will not be taken seriously or will be ridiculed.

2.The victim might ‘genuinely’ believe she is responsible for the sexual harassment.

3.When sexual harassment occurs by family members, there are pressures to keep it hushed and hidden.

4.The witnesses, who are also family members, tend to back out during legal processes.

5.It is believed sexual harassment dishonours the woman. Reporting will cause further embarrassment to her.

Is sexual harassment at home the same as child sexual abuse?

Sexual harassment and child sexual abuse are related but not the same. In the latter, the victim is a minor, that is, below 18 years of age. While the former may happen at the workplace, streets, homes and colleges, among others, the latter usually occurs in private spaces.

Is sexual harassment at home different from domestic violence?

It depends. Sexual harassment committed by a relative, spouse or live-in partner living under the same roof as the victim falls under the purview of domestic violence. However, it is a case of sexual harassment when the offender is a family member not living under the same roof as the victim.

 

Possible Steps

If you are currently facing sexual harassment at home, the first step for you is to stop it. You need to ensure that you are safe. Moreover, you do not need to go through this alone. Share with people whom you can trust. You must, especially if you are below 18 years of age.

You can prevent this by not going through this alone. Seek help. Report it. Remember sexual harassment is a crime. Reporting it is an important way to ensure justice. You are probably saving other people from going through a similar situation of harassment.

 

Personal Safety

Your first priority is your personal safety. While common sense is your best defence, your aim should be to make your environment safe and protect yourself.

The following strategies of safety are not exhaustive. Your individual case of sexual harassment may require a unique response.

  • Physically remove yourself from the situation of risk immediately, if possible. Use whatever means that work. Sometimes even small talk or sweet talk can help you in buying time.
  • Avoid being alone with the harasser. Ensure that there are people around you when the harasser is around. The latter will try and corner you. But gauging his actions from before can save you from risky situations.
  • Keep emergency contact numbers in hand. One way of securing these numbers is to save them as speed dials in your mobile phone. This way you can dial them when you need help and even create witnesses to the incident.
  • You do not need to join a self-defence class (though that’s a good option if you are being stalked!), but do not hesitate to use common household items (scissors, pen, safety pin, knives, etc) or even your elbows as your weapons.
  • Having a dog as a pet is a good idea to preserve your sense of protection.
  • You can put up a good safety net by using your own intelligence, being alert, trusting your intuition, common sense, being assertive and physical strength.
  • Refuse service members such as electricians/ plumbers to enter home without seeing their ID. If you feel uncomfortable still, ask them to come later or on a particular date and time, when there may be people around.

 

Confronting the harasser

Harassers choose their victims carefully. They look for victims, who they think will be silent and/or not resist. Avoiding or ignoring him is only a temporary solution.

Silence, as a form of communication, is often deliberately mistaken as consent by the harassers. Consequently, a good way of dealing with the harasser is to do the unexpected – name the action. A harasser has power over you as long as you are quiet about it. The moment you spell out his deed and confront him, you are implying you are not ready to let him overpower you. You are letting him know that he has transgressed a boundary and that it is NOT ON with you. And that he should stop immediately!

Not all of us are born assertive, so it is a good idea to practice if necessary. Learn what your personal boundary is and react as soon as it is transgressed. Remember, you are protesting against the actions of the harasser which you find offensive, and not personally attacking the harasser.

Some tips for confronting the harasser.

  • Ensure your body language is assertive and firm. DO NOT smile, hesitate, squirm, cry or giggle. Be confident in your approach.
  • Be precise, loud and clear when you speak. Use a no-nonsense tone. Practice if necessary. Do not whisper or talk softly.
  • Hold him accountable for what he did. Say, “You (with the specific details) __________. This is sexual harassment. I want you to stop harassing me.” Make short statements; do not pose questions that give the harasser opportunities to deny.
  • Be angry, assertive and firm.
  • It is your prerogative to end the conversation. You do not need to continue arguing or owe him (or listen to) any explanations. If he argues, interrupt him and end the dialogue.

 

Documenting the harassment

Keep a note of when (date, day and time), where and by whom were you harassed. Note how the incident happened and if you know the identity of the harasser. This is important especially if and when you want to pursue a legal case. Also if you have been facing continuous harassment, also document how you felt during those incidents and how you reacted to the same.

 

Sharing with Others

As long as you keep silent about the sexual harassment, you are giving the harasser powers to continue what he is doing. When you share with somebody, you take the case of sexual harassment from your personal level to a political level.

Sharing with a trusted family member or a friend is vital, not just for your own safety, but also to help have witnesses. Sharing also helps you to deal with the trauma and mixed emotions.

In case the harasser is a family member, by sharing, you might be helping some other members from the same fate.

Sharing is a difficult exercise for you. But until you don’t, you are not only supporting the sexual harassment with your silence, but also the harasser. So speak up, speak out. It is the harasser who is at fault. Not you!

 

A Safe Neighbourhood

The local community is an important safety net. When in need, you should not hesitate to call your neighbours for help. Remember, it is not your fault you were sexually harassed, but the harasser’s!

A safe neighbourhood not only means a socially conscious space, but one that makes you feel protected. You should know who you can contact if you are being harassed or attacked in the residential area. Evoking social sanction against sexual harassment is still an important way of preventing it. Some of the prerequisites for a safe neighbourhood include the following:

  • Infrastructural facilities such as street lighting, public telephone booths, etc
  • Public toilets or common toilets should have proper lighting and locks on the doors
  • Regular rounds by security guards/ patrolling by either vehicle or foot
  • In colonies, screening of entry of visitors to the neighbourhood. Registers can be maintained along with contact number and where the person is visiting.
  • A team of residents can take charge of informing people on sexual harassment laws, contact details during emergency, such as police, help lines, ambulances, etc.
  • Organize public awareness campaigns on sexual harassment in your locality, involving both men and women. Involve young people in this community project, as they are an important agent for bringing about change.
  • Residents of a colony/ residential area can come together to deal with cases where community boys sexually harass women on the street. In such cases, positive actions such as warning the boys or even taking joint police action can go a long way in making women feel safe in the locality.

 

Legal Means

Sexual harassment is a crime. But when it occurs at home, it is difficult to resort to legal means.

In case, you think that you need to take legal steps, the following information will be helpful:

 

Criminal Procedure

When you choose to file a criminal case, it is important you prepare yourself with info on the Criminal procedure.

  • The criminal procedure begins with filing a FIR. It is the first information report that the victim as a prime witness gives to the police and it sets the ball rolling for Criminal justice. However, even before you file the FIR it is a good idea to know the difference between Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences. Sexual harassment is a cognizable offence.
  • Once the FIR is lodged, an Investigating Officer is assigned to begin a fact-finding process. Based on its investigation, the police can decide if the accused needs to be arrested or not. Post completion of the investigation, the police is required to draw a charge-sheet, which is to be submitted to the magistrate.
  • The case is then presented in the Court, whereby the accused is either sent to judicial custody (for cognizable offences) or where the police seek permission to investigate the offence (for non-cognizable offence).
  • Charges are framed by the Court, where the accused is informed of the same and is asked to take a stand (guilty or not).
  • Evidences and witnesses of both the parties (prosecution and defence) are examined and cross-examined.
  • Arguments are placed by both the parties.
  • Finally resulting in judgment is announced, where the accused is either punished or acquitted.

 

Immediate Police Action

In case you are stuck in a situation where you need help from the police immediately, then do not hesitate to call 100. Your call is relayed to the nearest mobile Police Control Room.

 

Lodging a First Information Report (FIR)

The only way to stop sexual harassment is to name it for what it is. There will always be people to tell you it means nothing or that you are over-reacting. It might be “time-pass” for some, but filing an FIR is letting them know that it is a crime.

Keep in mind the following while lodging a FIR ….

  • An FIR is always filed in the police station. However, it is not necessary that the victim must lodge it. It can be filed by a witness or by a police officer who comes to know of the crime too.
  • Do not wait for too long before filing the FIR. It is understandable that you are apprehensive about the whole process, but unnecessary delay may hamper the legal process.
  • The FIR must include time, venue and date on when the incident of sexual harassment took place, the identity of the accused and any other persons who might have supported him. In case the harasser was a stranger, then try to give as accurate description as possible.
  • You must describe the incident as accurately as is possible. For instance, if you were groped, you should describe how and where.
  • If you feel an ongoing threat or apprehensions of your personal safety from the accused, do mention it in the FIR.
  • The FIR must be lodged in the area where the case of sexual harassment took place. Thus if you are sexually harassed in the harasser’s or your own home, you must then go to the police station under whose jurisdiction the area falls.
  • Do go through the FIR once before you sign.
  • The FIR must be duly stamped and signed by the Duty Officer and carry a Police Station stamp. Do note the serial number of the Report.
  • Know that you are entitled to a copy of the FIR at no cost.
  • When you file a FIR, remember you are only reporting the facts as you know, and do not have to prove them then.

Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences

Cognizable Offence Non-cognizable Offence
  • An offence which falls under direct responsibility of the Police.

 

  • They must file a FIR to begin this process.
  • The Police can arrest without a warrant.

  • The Complaint seeks justice in a Criminal Court.
  • The Police do not have any responsibility for such a case. They must get an order from the Magistrate to investigate.
  • The Police must file a Non-Cognizable report, which is to be then forwarded to the Magistrate.
  • The Police needs to issue a warrant (from Magistrate) in order to arrest.
  • The Complainant seeks redressal in the Civil Court of Law.

The College

 

The College

“If as a teacher I have had to contend with a system that had little to offer by way of support, where does a student turn for help? The harassment that women students experience from their teachers is persistent and subtle.” Professor of English, Lucknow University, [Nov 2003, India Together]

We usually relate college life with a sense of freedom and enjoyment. However, when that fun is at others’ expense it turns out to be quite a nightmare for some. Sexual harassment in college is one such menace.

 

Your Questions

What does sexual harassment in college mean?

Sexual harassment within the college refers to the incidents of unwanted physical and verbal sexual advances between students. The term ‘college’ includes not only the physical space or construction but also public spaces, the places of residence such as hostels, staff quarters, etc., and institutions, administrative offices and other organisations.

Remember, the key word here is unwanted. That is, it includes any sexual behaviour which is unwelcome and offensive. It could occur at several levels and manifest itself in different degrees: among students, between student and staff, among staff, between Staff and the Principal, between the Principal and students or between students and visitors to college. Each relationship would then have its own context, equation and power dynamics. It can be a one-time event or it can be ongoing. It could be done by only one male or by a group.

Educational institutions, both private and public, are obligated to establish a redressal system against sexual harassment post the Supreme Court judgments of the Vishaka guidelines in 1997. It is a Constitutional duty of the employer (either private or State) to offer an environment of safe education and ‘workplace’ (place of either work/study).

What forms can it take?

Sexual harassment can take various forms from verbal and psychological to physical.

“The harassment is so covert that victims come forward only if it becomes unbearable or if they can complain in a group, like the six staffers of the Rajasthani Seva Sangh College.” –a lawyer, [Times of India, 29/02/2004]

They are primarily of two forms: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

Quid pro quo refers to asking/requesting/ demanding sexual favours in lieu of marks, grades, promotions and so on. Even if the victim gives consent, it is still a case of sexual harassment as she was under pressure. Quid pro quo is more direct and definite in nature and can be easily understood.

Hostile work environment sexual harassment is actions of a sexual nature which make the environment of the college unsafe, threatening and offensive for women students and women faculty, in general. It is vague in nature, has a broader scope and is often veiled.

The following are some examples of the above categories:

  • Non-verbal actions of a sexual nature such as staring at body parts, leering, brushing past or ‘accidentally’ touching your body, hugging unnecessarily and making suggestive gestures, among others (hostile work environment)
  • Verbal harassment such as passing lewd remarks, singing songs, cracking jokes of a sexual nature, making sexual advances, spreading sexual rumours about you (hostile work environment)
  • Asking constantly for dates despite being refused (hostile work environment)
  • Showing pornographic material against your wishes, sending lewd text messages or e-mails or displaying sexual graffiti (hostile work environment)
  • Physical harassment such as groping, touching, kissing and fondling, among others (hostile work environment)
  • Faculty teacher(s) asking for sexual favours in lieu of marks (quid pro quo)
  • Forcing you to drink/smoke/consume drugs forcefully (hostile work environment)
  • Harasser stalking you to home or passing sexual rumours about you. He could also be stalking you through mails, emails, text messages on the mobile, etc. (hostile work environment)
  • Principal abusing teachers in return for sanctioning leaves (quid pro quo)
  • Lack of girls’ toilets and medical aid for women (hostile work environment)
  • Finding faults with your work because you are a woman (hostile work environment)
  • A teacher asking for sexual favours for teaching or passing her in exams. (quid pro quo)
  • Teasing or passing comments (either privately or publicly) on your sexual orientation

But is it really so serious?

It can be just fun but can also be quite serious with a deep impact.

“…some common feelings are of confusion, powerlessness, betrayal, questioning one's self beliefs, feeling dirty, shame, vulnerable, unsafe, scared, terrified, angry, suspicious, untrusting, hurt, panic and feeling miserable, to more serious psychological reactions.” – Psychiatrist, Sagar Apollo Hospital, [The Deccan Herald, 21-06-2008]

The nature of sexual harassment is such that while it is a criminal offence, it is often perceived as ‘frivolous’, ‘harmless’ and even ‘normal’. Sexual harassment might be ‘normal’ as in ‘common’, but it is definitely NOT ‘normal’ as in ‘healthy’!

Unlike what most people believe, women DO NOT like unwanted sexual attention nor do they provoke such behaviour. This is a male perception of the crime and women have simply internalised it. Blaming the action on the victim, in terms of dresses, mobility and demeanour, are merely excuses which most men (and even women) put forth.

Sexual harassment is known to have an adverse impact on its victims, some of them being low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, humiliation, anger and frustrations. It results in a lot of confusion among victims, often leading to absenteeism, lower grades, poor work performance, and an inability to form healthy relationships with the opposite sex in future and loss of self-confidence among women, in context of sexual harassment within college.

If it is so serious, why don’t women report it?

There are many reasons why women do not report sexual harassment!

“I have always been told to ignore such loafers who crack sexual jokes and comments. Sometimes my ears burn and hands itch to give them a slap, but I get scared of the consequences.”

“Even if I want to complain, who will take me seriously?”

“I will become the butt of jokes and gossip in the canteen!”

“What’s the point of telling anybody? My father will forbid me to go to college.”

“I do not know if there is a complaint committee in college. This is the first time I have heard of it.”

“Boys tease. It is part of their nature. What can you do about it?”

“I have to get along with the people I work with. There’s no point pursuing harassment charges, unless you’re a film star or a politician.”

Further harassment, embarrassment, fear of blame and trivialization, lack of awareness and a repressive system are the usual reasons why most cases go unreported.

Is sexual harassment within the college the same as ragging?

“Verbal abuse and groping are part of what most girls have to put up with. It starts as introductions or know-your-senior-meets, but it continues even after the first year. It is very hard to classify it as ragging as no threatening words are used.” An engineering student, [Dataquest, 15-11-2007]

Yes and no. Ragging is the initial getting-to-know-each-other interaction between new and senior students. In the process, the new students are given tasks by older ones, following which they are initiated into a group or community. There have been several severe cases of ragging in India where students have either lost lives or years of study. Ragging can take an ugly turn towards sexual, physical and mental harassment, when the ‘tasks’ given during ragging become offensive, forced and dangerous.

On the other hand, sexual harassment happens because of your gender (and mostly on women). Ragging is targeted toward both male and female students. Both ragging and sexual harassment in colleges fall under disciplinary matters. Moreover, there are high chances that prolonged ragging and sexual harassment come in the same package. While many colleges have banned ragging, it is still very common today.

Isn’t this the same as ‘eve-teasing’?

YES! The term ‘eve-teasing’ usually refers to light verbal and non-verbal harassment, such as leering, passing comments, etc. of a sexual nature, which are seen as normal, harmless and fun.

Moreover, the term implies that it is the woman who “tempts” such behaviour through her actions. It implies that women who are harassed have somehow ‘overstepped’ their social boundaries and deserve to be punished. Though both sexual harassment and eve-teasing refer to the same form of behaviour, the ‘light hearted’ aspect of ‘eve-teasing’ conceals the fact that sexual harassment is a crime, and that too, a non-bailable and cognizable one, if it falls under Section 509!

Is sexual harassment different from flirting?

Flirting is mutual and with the consent of both people. Whilst sexual harassment is one sided and usually done by a man who harasses a woman student or faculty. The key difference is in unwanted attention versus mutual and welcome attention.

Where does sexual harassment take place in college?

Sexual harassment within college can happen in the corridors, the college ground, secluded areas, outside college gates, car parking, canteens, inside and outside classrooms, staff rooms and staircases.

Note that a case of sexual harassment will fall under the jurisdiction of the University if it happens between two people who met in college, but the actual harassment took place outside its physical space and beyond the working hours. This is true, irrespective of whether you are a student, a faculty member or non-teaching staff.

For instance, if a lecturer is harassed by the principal outside college and after working hours, it will still fall under the purview of the college discipline. ‘College’ also includes areas such as hostels, sports grounds, staff quarters, health centres, canteens and public spaces such as parks, lanes and streets, among others.

Moreover, sexual harassment will fall under the jurisdiction of the University, if it takes place during activities such as field trips, conferences, sports tournaments and college festivals, among others.

 

Possible Steps

“First, we need to understand that abuse is not followed by complete silence from the victim. This is a myth…. A formal complaint is usually a "climatic" event and is preceded by the victim sharing the information with friends, or relatives. And then, perhaps, with colleagues or those in positions of some formal (though not necessarily legal) authority.” [The Hindu 29/09/2002]

Speaking out and naming it as sexual harassment is the first important step. Just as building your confidence to deal with it. Ultimately, prevention calls for considerable behavioural change, not only for you as a victim but for the harasser as well.

 

Informal Strategies

“Most students back out after making complaints, while others prefer to settle it among themselves." Tata Institute of Social Sciences lecturer, [Times of India, 8/08/2002]

Informal strategies are the ones which are relevant at the personal level for you. These strategies essentially comprise confronting the harasser, but keeping in mind your own personal safety. Your objective is to stop further harassment!

At this level, we forward strategies which guide you through building self-confidence to deal with the sexual harassment and develop your own strategies. Voicing your protest immediately when the harassment takes place is important, as it informs your harasser that sexual harassment is NOT on with you! Moreover, we help you to prepare yourself for taking up formal mechanisms as well.

 

Confronting the Harasser

By speaking out, you not only stop your own harassment, it will also make the harasser think twice before harassing someone else.

Demanding that the harasser stop the harassment is your right! This is irrespective of who that harasser is: a fellow classmate, a batch mate, a teacher, a friend’s friend, an acquaintance, the sweeper, the non-teaching staff like librarian, sports coordinator, laboratory assistants, and administration, among others. The sexual harassment becomes more serious when the harasser is a Faculty Lecturer or the Head of Department or the Principal. Remember, any kind of quid pro quo harassment is a crime under the IPC Section and a gross violation of human rights. Nevertheless, it is best to voice your protest immediately when the sexual harassment takes place./p>

Speak out when you are sexually harassed. Be firm, if it is a person in a higher position than yours. Be blunt and precise, if it is a friend. Speak confidently. Demand that he stop the harassment immediately!

Read the do’s and don’ts for confronting the harasser.

Do

  • Be direct and specific in your approach. Say exactly what he did and how it is not ‘on’ for you. Be professional, firm and objective, where your tone is concerned. Practice, if needed. “I found it offensive the way you (fill in the blank) on (this day) and I demand that you stop immediately. Stop harassing women.” In case your harasser is a stranger, then respond accordingly, “You just _________. It is sexual harassment. Stop harassing women!”
  • Inform him that his actions are offensive and that it is sexual harassment. This should be done especially to make the perpetrator aware of his actions. For instance, when your male friends/colleagues crack offensive jokes and you find them offensive as a woman
  • Let him know you will not be quiet about it. That protesting against sexual harassment is a matter of your values. This also implies that you respect yourself enough to protect yourself
  • Make his actions visible if needed
  • Understand that ‘fun/flirting/making friends’ is not the same as sexual harassment. You do not feel offended or intimidated in the former
  • Inform the harasser that sexual harassment is a crime and he can go to jail for it!
  • Keep you tone serious. Be very firm that you want this harassment to stop immediately
  • Control your body language while confronting. Be strong and maintain direct eye contact. Stand straight while talking and keep your voice firm
  • Remember, having a sense of humour has got nothing to do with sexual harassment. Do inform the perpetrator his is one of poor taste, if he thinks he can have fun at your expense
  • Stick to the issue of his misconduct
  • Remember, even if you’ve had a relationship with him in the past, he has no right to force his attentions on you, especially when you don’t want to.
  • Remember, it is your prerogative to end the conversation. You do not need to continue arguing or owe him (or listen to) any explanations. If he argues, interrupt him and end the dialogue

Don’ts

  • Do not slouch, giggle, smile, hesitate, squirm or cry
  • Do not cry or hurl abuses at him. Do not become over-emotional while approaching him
  • Do not use a gentle or a timid tone while confronting harasser
  • Do not give excuses for the actions of the harasser. Or defend him for that matter. If you are offended or hurt by his actions, then say so. Do not deny his misconduct for interest in you or that it is an aspect of his nature and that he can’t help it. Do not deny that it happened Do not respond to his excuses or arguments. Interrupt him if needed
  • Do not hesitate to use a physical response if needed
  • Do not blame yourself for the perpetrator’s action in any way
  • Do not linger long on the confrontation. Make it quick, precise and to-the-point
  • Do not ignore any piece of information/ warning regarding the perpetrator
  • Do not assume you are alone while facing sexual harassment. There might be other individuals who are going through a similar situation

 

Documenting the Harassment

Keep a note of when (date, day and time), where and by whom were you harassed. Note how the incident happened and if you know the identity of the harasser. This is important especially if and when you want to pursue a legal case. Also if you have been facing continuous harassment, also document how you felt during those incidents and how you reacted to the same.

 

Sharing

The idea of protesting is not just about confronting the harasser, but to also make the incident visible. The moment you share the incident with a trusted friend/family member/colleague, the incident ceases to be a personal issue.

We understand you are scared, but when you share you defy the harasser’s expectation that you will keep quiet about it. Remember, any form of violence against women, be it sexual harassment or domestic violence, is not your personal issue. It is a social problem; it is a crime.

Talking with people in the same position as yours means you are creating witnesses for your situation. They are also a witness to the impact the incident has had on you. At the same time, you might find other women who have been victims. Your talking will make other women aware of such incidents.

 

Personal safety

“Show me a boss who doesn't have a roving eye and hand and I will show you ten who do… He made it impossible for me to pursue my diploma course.” A Delhi University lecturer harassed by the Head of Department, [The Hindu, 20-2-2000]

A single incident of sexual harassment can break the sense of safety and security that most students feel in their classrooms. It is a traumatic experience. It is important to create a safety net.

When you are sexually harassed, it will take more time to recover. But a secure safety net is vital, not just in the form of a cushion for victims, but also for further prevention of sexual harassment incidents. Read on how to ensure personal safety within college.

  • Your first objective should be to remove yourself from the situation of threat and danger
  • You do not need to carry knives or mirchi powder. Instead items commonly carried such as pen, deodorants, safety pin, hair pins, keys, books, umbrella, bags, elbows, etc could become your weapon
  • If you are caught in a situation where the harasser is aggressive, see if you can use sweet talk/ false promises to get away from the situation.
  • React immediately when the harasser corners you. Most of the time, the harasser does not expect you to speak out. He is counting on you to be afraid of him or to be too shy to voice your opinion
  • It is easier to react when the harasser is a stranger, we can become confused when we know the harasser. Irrespective of whom it is, know it is sexual harassment and what he did was a crime
  • communicate immediately when you feel offended. This alone may help to deflate the situation as the harasser does not expect you to speak out
  • Keep emergency contact numbers in hand. One way of securing these numbers is to save them as speed dials in your mobile phone. This way you can dial them when you need help and even create witnesses to the incident
  • as the harasser does not expect you to speak out
  • Keep your trusted friends in the loop when you are sexually harassed as the harasser does not expect you to speak out
  • You do not need to speak to a person with whom you don’t want to. Do not give away personal information to people you don’t want to as the harasser does not expect you to speak out
  • You have a right to choose the person you go out with. You have a right to say NO. Exercise that right as the harasser does not expect you to speak out
  • Ask for help when you are in need as the harasser does not expect you to speak out
  • If a person in authority misbehaves with you, share it with others. Take heed of what others have to say of a certain person

 

Setting your boundaries

“Am I as offended by the liftman in my building complex oggling at me as by a fellow student who is hip and happening?” Lawyer, [Women’s Feature Service, 23/05/ 2009]

Every individual has his or her own comfort zone or a personal boundary. This boundary basically outlines what is and what is not acceptable behaviour for that person.

The boundaries vary with regard to people, their tolerance levels, degree of closeness with that person, gender, the context and the situation. Setting your boundary in your friendships, personal relationships and work relationships is important. To some extent we take this for granted, and hence get shocked, when some one crosses those boundaries. For instance, a lecturer hugging or touching students unnecessarily shocks our sensibilities and is a gross violation of that boundary one has set up for him.

The boundaries can be violated not just by gesture or physical proximity, but also verbally, such as asking personal questions or expecting certain responses from you. With friends or peer groups, the boundaries are rather thin. All the more important who we allow inside that boundary and who we choose to be distant from.

The key in setting your boundary is to say NO the moment it is violated. You must be vocal, blunt and honest with this regard. You might hurt egos in the process, but your personal safety must get the first priority here.

 

Semi-formal Strategies

“Surprisingly harassment is high in the education sector and in Government offices. A couple of cases had come to us from colleges with the complaint that male teachers were making snide and obscene remarks and initiating sexual advances toward their female counterparts.” Activist of the Jagruti Mahila Sangam, [The Hindu, 27/08/05]

Semi-formal strategies are the ones which are a step below the formal mechanisms. You complain [but not in written form], not only to the harasser, but to lecturers, unions or students’ groups, the principal or a Grievance Committee.

 

Fact-finding process

At this stage, gather all the information you can. This will not only enable you to reach an informed decision, but you will also help others who might have suffered in silence.

Here is a checklist for Fact Finding:

  • Is there a grievance or sexual harassment cell in your college? If not, what is the alternative form of redressal?
  • What do you need to do to file a formal complaint?
  • Do the lecturers have an authority to help you in this matter?
  • If you are a lecturer yourself and have been harassed by fellow colleague or the Principal, can you approach a committee?
  • How strong is your case for going to the police? Check with a lawyer
  • Will the Cell or committee protect you against any further harassment?
  • Will this process cost you?
  • Can you keep the entire process confidential? To what extent?
  • How long would the process, from filing a complaint to penalising the harasser, take?

 

Sharing with Lecturers/Head of Department/Principal

“I was to go with the other students at 11am, but as I was unable to make it, I met him at 5pm. By then, most of the teachers had left for the day. The principal initially yelled at me and threatened to call my parents, but when I started crying, he came to console me... and then began fondling my breasts.” 19-year old commerce student, who had to be counselled by her teachers to resume college, [DNA, 02/12/2007]

Lecturers are not only an important source of support, but they may also guide you further if and when you are sexually harassed. The matter becomes more serious when your harasser is a lecturer. In such cases especially, it is advised you speak informally to a trustworthy member of the teaching staff or committee members such as National Social Service.

 

Creating a witness

Most cases of sexual harassment occur when you are forced to be alone or in close proximity. One of the ways you can help yourself is by creating a witness to the sexual harassment. This means that you share your experiences with a particular person. This person should be ready to give a statement to a committee or court.

 

Informal interaction

While you must approach the sexual harassment committee with a formal complaint, it is a good idea to informally talk to a member. It will give you a fair idea of what to expect and the possible repercussions of filing a formal complaint. Moreover this will help you to weigh your options of filing a formal complaint.

 

Speaking with a Union

“…We set up a body named GSCASH (Gender Sensitisation committee against Sexual Harassment) comprising students, teachers and faculty representatives plus wardens. This committee reports, monitors and investigates cases of sexual harassment. Forty cases have been filed since the inception of GSCASH and stringent punishment has been meted out to five individuals, including a faculty member.. The administration was not willing to take action against him but it had to after we called a massive strike.” Joint Secretary of the students union at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University,[November 2003, India Together]

The Students’ Union is a good option to approach if you are a victim of sexual harassment. Backed by a group, your case will have greater scope of being heard and taken to its end than if you are fighting alone. Moreover, Unions can also play an important role in spreading awareness on the role of committees and in preventing sexual harassment within the college.

 

Formal Mechanisms

Formal mechanisms are the ones which allow you to take the incident of sexual harassment to the level of institution head/the principal/the sexual harassment committee with a formal complaint. At this level, if you are unsatisfied, you may also decide to take the case to the police. Remember, sexual harassment is a cognisable crime, and non-bailable.

“What is this Sexual Harassment Committee?”

“We do not wait for unfortunate things to happen; we create awareness among the students.” - Chairperson, committee against Sexual Harassment (CASH), University of Hyderabad, [The Hindu, 02/03/2009]

  • The sexual harassment committee was formed as a result of a directive of the Supreme Court to all employers to set up a redressal system. Consequently, the Cells work towards prevention and redressal of sexual harassment cases, creating awareness, providing guidelines and establishing sexual harassment committee at the level of colleges
  • The structure of the sexual harassment cell varies from one university to another. For instance, while University of Mumbai has the college sexual harassment committee and University sexual harassment committee, Delhi University has a three-tier structure: Cell at the levels of individual colleges, Cell for cluster of University Departments, Cell for institutions which do not fall under the above two categories and finally, an apex complaints committee for the whole of Delhi University
  • The complaints committee is a five member team, in which at least 50% of the team will be women, a member from a third party NGO and a member from the reserved category.
  • The penalties for a person found guilty of sexual harassment varies with regard to his position in the system. If the harasser is a student, the penalties can range from warning, written apology, suspension for a stipulated time to debarring from exams and expulsion. If the harasser is an employee, it could vary from warning, fine, withholding promotion to termination of service and compulsory retirement.

“How do I approach the sexual harassment committee?”

“Any female employee, be it the student, the lecturer or non-teaching staff, should not be quiet on any case of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a cognizable offence and sexual harassment committee is here to help you. Have confidence in yourself to approach us and then take it to its end. A small step of yours will go a long way in preventing sexual harassment.” Chairperson, UWDC, University of Mumbai

  • In most cases, the complaint must be filed by the complainant. A formal complaint cannot be filed without the consent of the person who has been harassed.
  • The complaint must be in a written format duly signed by the complainant. You can choose to give an oral complaint, but this will be reduced to a written format by a sexual harassment committee member. Till you do not sign this document, it will not be considered a formal complaint. This document goes to the complaints Register, which is a confidential document.
  • You may file a complaint with full confidentiality at this stage. This is especially important if you fear adverse impact if it was to be made public.
  • The complainant is then heard by the five-member complaints committee, following which it is decided whether the case falls under the purview of definition of sexual harassment. An enquiry report is consequently prepared and should the case be dropped, the reasons should be laid down as well.
  • If the sexual harassment committee decides to take up the case, then the accused is now intimated of the Enquiry against him. He must be present in the next meeting/hearing, though the stipulated time varies from one University to another.
  • You must decide at this stage how you want to pursue the case. That is, whether you want the sexual harassment committee to only warn the harasser or if you want the committee to take more serious action, such as transfer. The proceeding will vary correspondingly.
  • It is the sexual harassment committee who decides the degree of penalty depending on the severity of injury to the complainant, the frequency or repetition of harassment, the impact of harassment on the complainant and the institution as a whole and the positions of both the complainant and the harasser. Thus, stalking a student by member of the teaching staff is a more serious offence than verbal comments passed by a student.

“There’s no sexual harassment committee at my college. What do I do?”
Or “The sexual harassment committee at my college is lying dormant for years. Who do I approach then?”

According to the study done by Akshara, a women’s resource centre, almost half of the 45 Colleges of Mumbai University visited had a dormant or a partially functioning sexual harassment committee. It is a great possibility that you find no formal redressal system in your college. You have some options if you are a student being harassed by another or by third party (outsider).

  • Approach other specialized bodies such as the Gender Sensitisation committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) of the Jawaharlal Nehru University or the Delhi University based Forum Against Sexual Harassment (FASH)
  • Approach the Department Head/ the Principal/ other Lecturers.
  • Seek help from your peers and lodge a joint complaint for support.
  • Approach the Union, if there is one.
  • Lobby to set up a redressal mechanism in College.
  • Approach the sexual harassment committee at the University level with your complaint

When a lecturer is harassed by fellow colleague/principal/ non-teaching staff or a student harassed by lecturer/principal/non-teaching staff and there is no grievance Cell at your college, it is a very serious offence because a person of authority is involved here. You must choose at least one of the following options:

  • Approach the sexual harassment committee at the university level
  • Go to the police
  • Seek help from other colleagues
  • Approach the management/ members of the governing body/ board of trustees
  • Lobby with help from other colleagues to set up a sexual harassment committee at your college level

“What should my complaint letter/form comprise of?”

  • Your formal complaint must contain the date of complaint, your name and position (department you belong to). It must mention clearly when the incident of sexual harassment happened, the identity of the harasser, his position & Department, the context in which the sexual harassment took place. Mention how the incident impacted on you and your response to the same.
  • Keep the tone of the letter formal and non-emotional.
  • Stick to the issue of sexual harassment. You do not have to describe the nature of the harasser, but stick to the incident.
  • Mention if the harassment has been repetitive with the respective dates, places, how you were harassed and the respective contexts.
  • Describe the trauma you went through.
  • Mention if you’d like to maintain your confidentiality.
  • Mention if you want to pursue formal/legal action against your harasser.

Is going to the police a good option?

Yes! If you think the college authorities do not have an adequate mechanism to follow through with your complaint, then go ahead and file a FIR!

Most of the university colleges have a police station located within or nearby. There are also mobile police stations working in many colleges. Many hesitate to approach the police, thinking it will complicate matters. But remember, by not voicing your protest, you are letting the harasser get away with it.

To know more on the criminal procedure, how to lodge a FIR, the Sections under IPC dealing with sexual harassment at home and other laws on sexual harassment, pl go to the section on Going to the Police

The Streets

 

Sexual Harassment in the Streets

Hands sliding out of the crowd to touch you, cyclists grabbing your chunni, leering comments from group of ‘boys’, eyes which undress you in the bus, auto drivers adjusting mirrors so they could check you out or a man brushing against you deliberately. Sexual harassment, otherwise known as ‘eve-teasing’ in India, on the streets is both extremely common and infinitely distressing.

 

What it is

In brief, sexual harassment is unwelcome attention in numerous forms like whistling etc. The main problem with a definition is its association with the term ‘eve teasing’.

The term ‘eve-teasing’ implies harmless fun, which women even secretly desire or like. ‘Eve’ implies a woman who is a temptress or a seductress, who invites the attention and probably deserves the consequences of that attention. ‘Eve-teasing’ is symbolic to the light heartedness of those situations in Bollywood movies and songs, where the heroine resists the unwanted attention of the hero only to fall in love with him later.

However, it is not that harmless. It is a traumatic experience for the woman. Eve-teasing is a misnomer – it hides the power dynamics behind the incident of sexual harassment. It is not only a crime under the Indian Penal Code, but also a violation of Constitutional rights, of freedom to move about freely and to live with self-respect and dignity.

Why do men harass? Studies have shown that men harass because women are easy targets. Because they know that they can get away with it under the cover of a crowd. It’s a form of ‘cheap thrills’ and a way to tell women – the streets are our domain. Your place is in the home, if you are out on the streets then you can become a target. It’s a form of patriarchal control on women and their mobility. It has nothing to do with dress or attitude.

 

Forms of sexual harassment on the Street/ Public spaces

“After living here for two years, I will be truly glad to leave, because of the incessant verbal, visual and physical sexual harassment I received from men on the streets. I am a white woman and that made me a marked target." a British national who came to study Sanskrit, [The Hindu, 11/09/2005]

“From a running car, they caught my shirt collar and almost pulled me out. I kept driving and dialled 100 on my mobile.” A young woman driver who was almost pulled out of her car by four drunken men, very near to the Delhi Police headquarters, [TOI, 25/08/2002]

The majority of women are harassed in a number of ways and in different forms. .

It could happen any where–crowded buses, trains, lonely subways, busy pavements and streets, swarming market places, auto rickshaws, taxis, roads, parks, empty lanes, nooks and corners. It could happen any time of the day –not only concealed in the darkness of the night, but in broad daylight as well. It could happen irrespective of whether the place is buzzing with people and activity or empty.

The following are some ways:

  • Staring
  • Leering
  • Gesticulating obscene signals
  • Showing private parts
  • Scratching groin while staring at you
  • Touching
  • Groping
  • Pinching
  • Winking
  • Feeling up
  • Singing songs
  • Calling you obscene nicknames such as ‘Sexy’, ‘Rani’, ‘Mirchi’, ‘Pataka’, ‘Bomb’, ‘Item’, ‘Gulab jamun’, ‘Atom bomb’, ‘Phuljhari’, ‘Laddoo’ and so on
  • Brushing past your body
  • Standing too close
  • Passing double entendres
  • Propositioning
  • Vehicles following you
  • Drivers honking/crashing against you deliberately
  • Making kissing sounds
  • Staring at your breasts
  • Asking personal questions
  • Kissing or demanding a kiss
  • Following you
  • Rubbing body parts against you
  • Fondling breasts
  • Stalking
  • ‘Accidentally’ touching you
  • Bumping against you

What do you feel when you are harassed? After the initial shock, there are gush of other feelings –intimidation, fear, anger, confusion and most of all, helplessness for letting the harasser get away with it..

You feel violated.

And yet, there are women who refuse to name it, call it sexual harassment. We simply give an excuse to the behaviour of the harasser. ‘Boys will be like this only’ or ‘Men are men’ or ‘these things happen’. But sexual harassment derives its meaning not from the intention of the harasser, but from the offensive nature of the action. Any act or gesture –verbal, non-verbal, physical, non-physical, covert, overt –which makes you feel this way is sexual harassment.

 

Possible Steps

“I always check my surroundings but there are times when you don’t pay attention.” Senior Lawyer, Delhi, [India Today, 20/10/2008]

You are sitting on an aisle seat in a crowded bus and the man standing beside you is rubbing against you. What do you do? A common response of most women will be to move away and ignore it. But that is not the only response you can give.

 

Personal Safety

“I stay out late often, either because of work or socializing. I travel by local trains in Mumbai as late as 1 a.m. and I have never felt insecure. It’s not the same in Delhi, where every time I step into a public space, I feel eyes on me.” A female traveller in Delhi, [The Week, 19/10/2008]

“While the physical wounds healed, it was harder to recover from the mental trauma…. Mumbai may be touted as the safest metro but that does not hold true for me” A 28 year TV Executive, [India Today, 20/10/2008]

A sense of security is a relative, depending on personal experiences, upbringing and exposure to a particular place. A public space which is safe for one woman may be unsafe for the other. It is important you devise your own ways of deflating danger. Your intuition and instinct is a good index to help you judge the situation.

  • When it happens in public spaces, your first objective must be to remove yourself from the situation of threat and danger.
  • You do not need to carry knives or mirchi powder. Instead items commonly carried during travelling such as a pen, deodorants, safety pin, hair pins, keys, books, umbrella, bags, elbows, etc could become your weapon.
  • BUT use physical force only as a last option.
  • Be alert when you are out. Be aware of your environment, especially if you are travelling to a new city. Often, this is evident by your dressing style, accent, etc and people may take advantage.
  • Walk against the traffic when walking on a road/street. This helps you to not get caught unawares of cars/cycles/bikes coming from the front.
  • If you are caught in a situation where the harasser is aggressive, see if you can use sweet talk/ false promises to get away from the situation.
  • React immediately when the harasser corners you. Most of the times, the harasser does not expect you to speak out. He is counting on you to be afraid of him or to be too shy to voice your opinion.
  • If you are in a cab or in an auto rickshaw, quietly note the number plate. Do the same even if it is an office cab and you are travelling late in night.
  • Keep a friend/family friend informed where you headed to, especially if you are new to the city. For instance, when you are heading back home from work inform a family member.
  • Keep emergency contact numbers in hand. One way of securing these numbers is to save them as speed dials in your mobile phone. This way you can dial them when you need help and even create witnesses to the incident.
  • Communicate immediately when you feel cornered or intimidated. This alone may help to deflate the situation as the harasser does not expect you to speak out.

 

Confront the harasser

“If a man brushes up against you in a bus, are you going to jump off the bus and lodge an FIR? We have developed our own mechanisms that are far more effective than lodging an FIR - say, slapping or embarrassing the offender by shouting.”
- Women’s Feature Service, 23/05/2009

No – you cannot go to the police for a leering look by a passerby or for deliberately bumping against you or for even simply looking. What do you do? It is more effective to confront the harasser. Take him by surprise by naming his behaviour for what it is and embarrass him in public. .

Indian women have for ages been groomed to treat sexual harassment with silence. Teenagers have been advised by their mothers - “Ignore any lewd looks or comments when you are out in the streets. Maintain your dignity”. But it is by voicing out your protest that you show more respect to your self. No one has a right to sexually harass you. You not only stop your own harassment, it will also make the harasser think twice before he harasses someone else. Sometimes the harasser vanishes quickly, before you can even react to him. If the harasser gets away, do not berate yourself. Remember, he has already planned ahead his route of escape, while you are caught unaware. Your anger is justified, but not your guilt. It was not your fault it happened.

 

Profile of a harasser

Most harassers choose their victims with care. It is important that you know how his mind works, in order to deal with him better. ..

Harassers usually attack in public spaces, if ……

  • They perceive the victim as easy (that is, unaware, shy or fearful)
  • They perceive you as different, an outsider, a tourist or simply new to the place
  • They think it will be easy for them to escape
  • They think you will not react and take it silently
  • They think they can corner or intimidate you.
  • They perceive crowded places as an excuse to get away or use it to their benefit.

Know the do and don’ts for confronting the harasser.

Do

  • Be direct and specific in your approach. Say exactly what he did and how it is not ‘on’ for you. Practice before, if needed. “You just _________. It is sexual harassment. Stop harassing women!”
  • If you are in a crowded bus or taxi, ask him nevertheless to move. Make sure you communicate you are not liking the fact that he’s standing close to you. Ask him to move if needed, especially when there’s space.
  • Make his actions visible. Name the action exactly the way it happened. Like, ‘Stop staring. Not seen a girl before?’ Be loud and to the point.
  • Embarrass him.
  • Keep your tone serious.
  • Control your body language while confronting. Be strong and maintain direct eye contact. Stand straight while talking and keep your voice firm.
  • Remember, having a sense of humour has got nothing to do with sexual harassment. Do inform the perpetrator has one of poor taste, if he thinks he can have fun at your expense.
  • Remember, it is your prerogative to end the conversation. You do not need to continue arguing or owe him (or listen to) any explanations. If he argues, interrupt him and end the dialogue.

Dont's

  • Do not slouch, giggle, smile, hesitate, squirm or cry.
  • Do not hurl abuses at him. Do not become over-emotional while approaching him.
  • Do not use a gentle or a timid tone while confronting harasser.
  • Do not give excuses for the actions of the harasser. Or defend him for that matter. When you are offended by his actions, say so. Do not deny his misconduct for interest in you or that it is an aspect of his nature and that he can’t help it. Do not deny that it happened.
  • Do not respond to his excuses or arguments. Interrupt him if needed.
  • Do not hesitate to use a physical response if needed.
  • Do not blame yourself for the perpetrator’s action in any way.
  • Do not linger long on the confrontation. Make it quick, precise and to-the-point.
  • Do not assume you are alone while facing sexual harassment. Involve others.

 

Make a Scene!

Draw a crowd if needed. Take help from people around you, especially when you feel threatened for your safety. Do not hesitate to name the action.

Complain loudly what the harasser did and that it is sexual harassment. A harasser does not expect you to make his actions visible. Drawing a crowd will not only embarrass him, but it will make his getting away more difficult. Just as the harasser is looking for anonymity or an excuse in the presence of a crowd, you too can draw your safety from the crowd.

 

When the Crowd refuses to help

However, in situations where you call for help and yet people do not respond to you, give specific orders to people around you. Say out loud, “I need your help Sir/Madam. This man here is harassing me”.

Sometimes people are just confused if the situation warrants for their attention. Be specific in your call for help. Directly address the person from whom you are seeking help.

If you still find that people around you do not respond, understand that they do not want to get into trouble. Call a helpline (103 if you are in Mumbai and 1091 in Delhi) or the Police at 100.

 

Devise your own Strategy

Here are some real life stories of women strategising and confronting sexual harassment. Street smart strategies can enable you to buy time and get away from potential harm. .

Nandini, a college student from Delhi, while on her way home noticed a man on a bike watching her. Sensing his intentions she crossed the road and took the first bus that came to avoid him. As she got off the bus she realized that he had followed her. He told her to come with him and demanded a kiss. Nandini pretended she was charmed by him and agreed to meet up with him the next day… Needless to say she did not keep her appointment for the next day.
- from ‘Girls Fight Back’ by Jagori

Street smart strategies can range from negotiating or sweet talking with the harasser, pretending you are hurt, acting insane to giving false hopes, saying what he wants to hear, giving wrong information about yourself or even sheer flattery! This basically means to do what you think the harasser will find unexpected, and then get away from the situation, while you have time!

Preventing sexual harassment is one of the best ways of dealing with it. Use your intuition to judge the situation. A commonsensical approach and your presence of mind can help you to get away in a situation of potential threat.

 

Tips for safety

A woman travelling in a public bus was being harassed by a man who was exposing his genitals to her. Instead of looking shocked and ashamed, she laughed loudly and pointing to his genitals said, ‘Oh my goodness, they are so tiny!’. The man was so embarrassed he got off from the bus immediately!
-From real life story in ‘Girls Fight Back’ by Jagori

  • Remove yourself physically from a situation of threat.
  • If you find a stranger staring at you, then look at him for about 3 seconds (not more than that). You can also look at him, up and down, and then turn your face with disdain. This simple exercise implies you are not interested in him.
  • If you think a car is following you, then cross the road and start moving the opposite direction.
  • While walking on the roads, walk against the traffic flow.
  • Women who walk with dogs are less likely to be harassed, than those who don’t.
  • Do not give away your real name and other details while talking to absolute strangers (fellow passengers in public transport, etc). This must be followed especially when you are travelling to a different city for work or are a tourist. You do not need to talk when you don’t want to.
  • When travelling, often a reasonably full bus or trains are safer options than taking a cab or an auto rickshaw. Watch out for the rear view mirrors in the latter, which are often reportedly used for checking out female passengers rather than the traffic!
  • If you are uncomfortable using a lift with another person, then don’t.
  • Prepare yourself psychologically to use physical force if needed. The eyes, groin and throat are vulnerable spots, even in the harasser. Something as simple as throwing mud into harasser’s eyes can help you to escape!
  • Be aware of your surroundings –the sounds, people and so on. For instance, walking with ear plugs will make it difficult for you to assess if and when someone approaches you from behind.

 

Sharing

“People run up and grab my butt, my breast and brush against me purposely. It happens so fast. I will be walking with my boyfriend and it makes no difference. After that I go through post-traumatic stress. You are so angry and humiliated. There is no one to talk to.” Laura Neuhaus, [SAWF website, 17/7/2006]

When you are sexually harassed, it is important you share the experience with a trusted friend or a family member. This not only helps to create a witness (should you choose to follow legal action), but friends or family members can be important source of support for you. Research studies have shown that women who have shared their trauma with others have recovered faster from the stress and trauma than those who did not confide.

 

Going to the Police

“The law is weak, it is not seen as a strict legal offence, and there are logistical and administrative hurdles in following up cases of ‘eve teasing’. The women, after a few months of pursuing their complaints, also lose sense of conviction as they realize that under the existing laws, there is no solution.” Jasveen Alhuwalia, IFES, Jaipur, [The Hindu, 11/09/2005]

Approaching the police is wrought with its own set of challenges which you must be mentally prepared for. The general apathy of the police is well known. Nevertheless, reporting sexual harassment is important. It will help to know how it ought to work. You need to know your legal rights. You need to know what constitutes sexual harassment under the law and under what section it falls. You need to know the process by which the legal action ensues. Know from before what filing a FIR entails. If needed, take a friend or a family member along with you to the Police Station.

Stalking

 

Harassment by Stalking

Anandita had approached me a couple of weeks ago and asked me to instruct the guard of the building to screen people entering the locality.”
- Interview with the building secretary after she was found murdered probably by the stalker, a man from her office, [Indian Express, 18/10/2008]

Stalking may make for a thrilling scene in reel life, but ask any victim of stalking – it is a traumatic experience, filled with mental anguish and fear. What makes stalking sinister is not only a breach of privacy, but you live in constant threat of how and when your stalker may behave.

 

What is stalking?

Stalking refers to any kind of intrusive behaviour with the aim of establishing contact, obtaining private information or/and keeping a tap on your movement and actions. When the same form of intrusive behaviour occurs online or via the internet, it is called cyber-stalking.

“He forced girls to talk for long hours and at odd hours. If any girl refused, he got angry and used foul language. He even called their neighbours, making obscene allegations about the girl. He spent lakhs on such phone calls.” Additional CP, Crime, on a stalker who lifted phone numbers of women from the social networking site Orkut and took to harassing them, [Indian Express, 23/12/2007]

How to know if you are being stalked?

Most people know when it happens, but are either not aware that it is called so, do not take it seriously or are hesitant to come out in the open. If you think you are being stalked, take it seriously. You should know it is stalking when:

  • You live in torment of the person accosting you or contacting you.
  • You feel he is following you or trying to get in touch with you via emails/ posts/ calls/ text messages and so on.
  • He tries to get in touch with you too often, a frequency you are not comfortable with.
  • You feel threatened by the actions of this person or fear that he will cause physical harm to you
  • His messages are not only intrusive but also obscene and repulsive.
  • He has tried to get in touch with your family or workplace without your permission.
  • The above has been happening over a period of time, say from few weeks to few months.

If two or more of the above is true, then beware, you are being stalked! If you are, then do something. Take action. Do not ignore it!

 

Common Questions and Beliefs: Stalking

What is not stalking?

The prime feature of stalking is that the stalker may or may not threaten you with other forms of crime. .

Nevertheless it is important to differentiate it from other forms of crimes, though they may be accompanied by the same. Stalking is definitely NOT

  • >Violent actions such as assault, molestation, pornography as these constitute separate charges.
  • Spamming is not stalking. Spammers basically look for active e-mail ids for adverts. They are not interested in your other personal details.
  • A one time event of staring or passing lewd comments. Stalking are repeated actions or establishing contact over a period of time.

Having made this differentiation, it is important you take your case of stalking seriously, as every case has the potential to escalate to a violent or a more serious crime.

Does stalking happen in India?

Yes! Stalking is very common in India and it is not restricted to popular personalities. It could happen to anybody. Though there are no statistics available on stalking, it happens, irrespective of victim’s background –class, age, rural or urban areas and social status.

Is stalking serious?

Yes! Stalking is a serious criminal offence. Sending you flowers or looking at you may not be dangerous in itself, but when you begin to feel threatened or intimidated by the person’s actions, it is time to get serious. Stalkers have the potential to cause you much harm. Moreover, stalkers have been known to become more violent over due course of time, and especially, when rejected. Stalking is often a prelude to other crimes such as rape, molestation, harm to physical property and even murders.

Can it happen to men too?

Yes, it could happen to men too, but it has been seen that it is women who are more commonly targeted. For the purpose of the website, we assume that the victim is a woman.

Can the stalker be a woman?

Yes. It could be a woman stalking a male child (as in a recent case), but it is more common for men to be the stalker. For the purpose of this website, we assume that the stalker is a man.

Why does stalking happen?

“There's an unholy desire among stalkers to exercise control over their victims, and in many cases, the cyber stalker has a prior relationships with the victim.” - Cyber forensic expert in the Ministry of Home Affairs [TOI, 6/9/2005]

Stalking is an extreme form of sexual harassment. .

There are several factors that could encourage a stalker

  • The stalker may believe he is in love with you. This form of obsession could come from either a complete stranger or a jilted boyfriend (as is more common).
  • The stalker through his actions –intimidation and threats –wants to control you. It is essentially a power struggle for him. It is similar to other forms of sexual harassment in this sense.
  • The stalker may have chosen you randomly -merely to vent his frustrations or desperations. In the process, he could be using either the internet or stalk offline or use a combination of various means. It is his way of forcing your attention on him, which you will not give otherwise.
  • A stalker may be stalking you out of revenge or hatred. If this is the case, then be aware that he has potential to physically harm you and here too, the victim could be randomly chosen.

Who could be a stalker?

Stalkers could be anybody – colleague, ex-partner, ex-boyfriend, a neighbour, a friend, lecturer, class mate or a complete stranger. There are high chances it could be a person whom you have rejected earlier. Or it could be a relative stranger –some one who you have met online. .

In a certain case, the accused Pawan Kumar had made 1,627 calls out of which 885 were to the police control room, 137 to the MTNL operators and 595 to customer care services of mobile companies. Usually calling between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., under influence of liquor, he loved talking to women on the phone. Moreover, these numbers were free of charge. [15/04/2006, The Hindu]

A small study among girl colleges (with a sample size of only 150 girls) in Tirunelveli City, Tamil Nadu (2007) found that 68.7% of the girl victims were being stalked by a stranger, while the rest had been stalked by a friend (13.3%) or a relative (18%).

Some of the most likely ‘places’ online where you can meet your stalker are community groups, chat groups, Bollywood music sites, social networking websites such as Orkut and Facebook.

How does stalking manifest?

“The caller may be doing this out of anger or aggression. Very often it's the jilted lover or colleague who has been rebuffed. Or an ex-husband - people who are not able to express their anger directly. These men get excitement out of imagining the anxiety the women go through with such calls. In case of working women, it becomes inevitable that they take calls on their cell while at work. But such unrelenting calls can affect their work, send them into depression and even force them to resign.” - A psychiatrist, [The Hindu, 15/04/2006]

A stalker is known to use several ways of establishing contact with you. What makes stalking a unique crime is that the stalker uses not one, but several actions, and that not necessarily are criminal in nature. Even if they are routine in nature and not necessarily illegal (such as passing by your house or looking at you), they are not less intimidating for the victim. Here are some of the forms, which stalking can take. Remember, the stalker will use more than one of the following illustrations and will not be limited to these.

  • Following you (either on foot/by vehicle/internet)
  • Making blank phone calls repeatedly
  • Making obscene calls over the phone (at strange hours)
  • Sending obscene e-mails
  • Sending unsolicited letters
  • Photographing you without your permission>
  • Sending untoward text messages on your cell phone
  • Standing outside home
  • Standing outside college/workplace
  • Sending constant messages on online networking site
  • Trying to break into your house or visiting home
  • Spreading rumours about you
  • Sending obscene messages to your online messengers
  • Trying to make contact with you
  • Keeping a tap on who you meet
  • Keeping a tap on your friends
  • Threats to harm you
  • Making threats to harm your family and friends
  • Harming your property or pets
  • Cyber-stalking
  • Spying on you
  • Sending unwanted gifts
  • Putting your morphed pictures/personal contact details on porn websites

Should I confront my stalker?

NO. It is advisable not to confront your stalker aggressively, especially when you are alone or the stalker is a rejected partner or when the stalker seems to have an obsessive personality.
Confronting a stalker may aggravate threats of physical and sexual assault. On the other hand, you should never cooperate with your stalker, as this may be read as an encouragement, even if you mean it as a rejection. Quietly, say you are not interested to your stalker, but do so firmly and every time. Also inform your family and/or go to the police.

“I must have done something to encourage him.”

No! You are in no way responsible for the actions of the stalker. Blaming yourself for the stalking is neither productive nor true.

In India, it is a common notion to believe it is the women who brought on the crime (for their behaviour, looks, clothing or lifestyle). This could not be more incorrect. You have done nothing to encourage the stalker. Resist if you are facing a blame for the crime from others. Remember, it is the stalker who must be penalized for stalking you, and not you.

“May be, he is in love with me….”

A stalker stalks because he wants to control the life of the victim. He may profess his undying love, but it is only a way of controlling another human being’s life. .

Priyadarshini Mattoo, a law student in Delhi, was stalked for over a year by her senior, who professed to be interested in her. She had rejected him, so he raped and brutally murdered her. It is hard to deal with a stalker, if he has been your intimate partner, but it needs to be done –firmly and without getting emotional. A person cannot be in love with you and then control you. Know the fine line between a healthy and unhealthy relationship.

“Stalkers must be fanatics or mentally disturbed men.”

This may or may not be true. Whether a stalker is mentally disturbed depends on their motivation to stalk you. .

But irrespective of their motivation, stalkers may look completely normal, may be educated, employed and may be from good families. Remember, a stalker may have the following feelings for you or a mix of several:

  • Profess undying love for you.
  • May believe you are in love with him.
  • Feels resentful towards you, not necessarily romantically
  • Feels rejected and seeks either a relationship or revenge
  • Wants to sexually assault or physically overpower you

“Stalking is a harmless activity.”

Stalking is NOT harmless. In fact, a survivor of stalking lives through an extremely scary existence. .
There have been many cases where the constant fear and harassment has forced many victims to commit suicide. There is always a threat of the situation escalating or turning violent. This forces many stalking victims to keep mum out of fear. But maintaining silence only further aggravates the situation. You should neither confront the stalker nor ignore him. You should definitely take action.

 

Cyber Stalking

“Awareness should begin in schools and colleges so that kids are not susceptible to the negative side of technology. This year, till March, we have received 20 petitions on cases of victimisation of women and children in cyber space." - Assistant Commissioner of Police, Cyber Crime Cell, [The Hindu, 03/05/ 2007]


Everyday we log onto the internet, either for business or for leisure. Consequently we leave a trail of information, including websites we visited, photographs, contact details, birth date and other personal information.

For someone who is adept and who is interested, it isn’t difficult to trace information online especially through community networks such as Orkut, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, among others. Orkut is known to have communities specifically for stalkers, with such names as ‘Orkut Stalkers’ club’ with 664 members and ‘Creepy Stalkers Unite’. These communities are known to give tips to stalkers on different ways to stalk women! [The Hindu, 04/03/2006]

Cyber-stalking means stalking using Internet and electronic means. This could manifest in different ways and degrees. It feels especially threatening because of the relative ‘anonymity’ of the stalker and the internet still makes most people uncomfortable. All the more important why you should take precautions when you are online.

The following are some examples of cyber-stalking:

  • You start getting obscene calls from strangers, after you have posted your private contact details/photographs, etc on pornographic websites.
  • When someone is following you online
  • Leaving repeated unwelcome messages on your e mail
  • Spreading rumours about you online, especially in online communities
  • Sending you obscene unsolicited emails
  • Establishing contact via repeated emails which may be either threatening, sexually explicit or propositioning.
  • Sending you pornographic material
  • Keeping tap of your personal whereabouts via Internet
  • Hacking your email id and password, using it for establishing contact or impersonating you
  • Establishing contact with you in guise of different user names or profiles

There are several precautions you can take:

  • Do not give away personal (real) details to ‘chat friends’.
  • Avoid meeting a ‘chat friend’ offline. The person could not be what he or she seems to be. If you have to meet, then meet in a public space and take a friend along with you. Inform others of your whereabouts.
  • Do not share your email ids and passwords with anybody, even best friends or siblings.
  • Be careful who you befriend online, especially in community networks such as Facebook and Orkut (even if you have common friends).
  • Do not click on links embedded in unsolicited emails.
  • Be careful that you not give away details such as home address, phone or cell number and real name to people whom you have just met online.
  • Do not send photographs to people you have just met.
  • Use the privacy option in networking sites religiously. But nevertheless be careful, as these can still be hacked.
  • Use a strong and different password (which variations of alphabets, numbers & case) for every online service you use, such as emails, chats and so on.
  • Do not give away credit/ debit card details to any emails or web page which asks for such data. Most banks do not ask for such information on emails or via phone.
  • Do not delete your existing profile, as this will remove evidence.

 

Possible Steps

First things first, take it seriously! The more cautious you are, the more chances there are of your stopping it and ensuring your safety. Whatever strategies you adopt, your personal safety should be your first priority.

Do not respond!

Unlike in sexual harassment cases, do not respond to your stalker. Ask him only once immediately to stop stalking you.

Be firm but not rude. Remember, the stalker will attempt to establish contact with you often. Do not respond to these contacts. Ask him to leave if he visits you at your home or workplace. Be firm, neither rude nor polite. Never meet him, either privately or publicly, even if you know him or have been intimate with him. This may weaken your case later, as it shows your cooperation with the stalker. If your stalker is making frequent calls, then do not respond, but just keep it down without disconnecting the line. Similarly, do not respond to text messages or emails either.

This is not easy when you know your stalker or when you have to meet him in some other space, say at work or when he lives near your house. He could be a friend, an acquaintance, a neighbour, a colleague or even your ex-partner/boyfriend. Nevertheless, it is important you do not cooperate with him. At the same time, remember direct or violent confrontation may aggravate the stalker.

What not to say to the stalker

Do not unconsciously give excuses to the stalker, especially when he is a friend or an acquaintance or an ex-partner. A NO means just that.

You do not have to justify yourself or give explanations.

  • Do not argue/discuss/ negotiate with the stalker.
  • Do not say “I have a boyfriend” or “I am married.” This suggests you would have been interested if you didn’t have a boyfriend or weren’t married.
  • Do not suggest you are not interested in a relationship at this point. This suggests you are in some near future.
  • Do not say you are busy right now. This encourages the stalker to contact you later.
  • You should never approach your stalker. This is a direct encouragement to the stalker.

 

Document the Stalking

It is very important you maintain a diary of actions the stalker takes. Maintaining records is important for these become important proof when you take up the case in Court.

Remember to note down the following in your diary:

  • Phone calls, its content, the time of call & duration
  • See if you can install caller id. Note down the number the calls committee from. It is highly likely there will be more than one number.
  • Keep a record of stalker’s actions, such as if he has been following you, trying to speak to you, established contact with your family and so on. Record even what dress he was wearing on any particular given date.
  • Keep details of cars or any other vehicle the stalker has used to follow you.
  • Do not delete any unsolicited e-mails you might have received. Take print outs and even screenshots, if possible. Keep them in your computer as well for future reference.
  • Take photographs of destroyed property before calling the Police
  • Do not throw away any letters received by post. Keep them safe, along with photocopies, if necessary.
  • Keep chat messages you might have had online with the stalker or messages he left on your messenger.
  • Online profile of the stalker, if you are being stalked online.
  • Website addresses where the stalker visits.
  • Keep any gifts you might have received.

 

Friends and Family

Most victims of stalking keep it to themselves, thinking if they choose to ignore the stalker, he will go away.

This will not happen and neither is it a safe option. In fact the more time you take to take action, the more encouragement you give him.

Instead inform your trusted family members & friends who you think can help you with further action. If your stalker is someone from workplace, then your colleagues should know about it. Sometimes a warning from family members can also curb the situation, especially when the stalker stays in your locality or is an ex-partner. Moreover, the more you involve other people, the more witnesses you create, should you choose to pursue a legal case later.

 

Going to the Police

Reporting your stalker is vital, especially since stalking is a crime by Indian law. For this, the first thing you need to do is file a FIR.

The police may ask questions such as whether you know the stalker; how you know him; your daily schedule and so on. Do not hesitate to give out personal details, where needed. In some cases, a police warning may be enough to stop the stalking. Book each and every illegal incident with the Police, as and when it happens, under the required Section [Laws for Stalking].

You need to take the situation even more seriously when the stalker is an ex-partner/ ex-boyfriend or the obsessive kind. You must approach the police as such type of stalker may be more notorious. Do not feel sorry for your stalker because you have rejected him or because you know him or think that he will stop. Whatever be the case, it is important that you come out and come out safe. Report the case to police!

 

Complaint Application

In order to report your case of cyber-stalking, you must report to the Head of the Cyber crime investigation cell.

A complaint application must contain the following minimum details at least:

  • Print outs of e-mails or instant messages received
  • Phone numbers from which the stalkers have called
  • Website address where the profile of the stalker is present
  • Screen shots of any relevant webpage

This must be accompanied by documents of proof such as necessary print outs, phone bills, any pamphlets or brochures received by post/courier and so on.

 

Personal safety

Your personal safety is your first priority.

  • Be mentally prepared to defend yourself physically, if needed.
  • Inform your family members of your whereabouts periodically.
  • Seek police protection, especially when the stalker is an intimate ex- or rejected partner.
  • Keep your mobile phones handy. Save important emergency contact numbers through speed dial.
  • Housing pets are good ways of protecting yourself from stalkers.
  • Install a good & strong security system for your house.
  • Keep your car or house keys ready in hand.
  • Keep your house well-lighted, especially the doorway, the staircases and so on.
  • Give necessary instructions to the security guards (if any), where you stay or work, to screen entry of visitors to your place. Inform them of your experience of stalking.
  • Ask one of your neighbours to watch out your place for any suspicious characters.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially when you are in walking or moving about in a public space.
  • Keep a friend or a neighbour informed about your circumstances and stay at her place, if the need arises.
  • Keep changing routes to any regular destinations such as your school, college, workplace or home. Also, change your routine frequently, if possible.
  • Use peepholes for main entry and install wire meshes.
  • Do not change your phone number.
  • Trust your instincts. They are your best friend, especially in time of need.

 

Laws dealing with Stalking

see the following section on Taking Legal Action

 

Taking Legal Action

 

Taking Legal Action

As of now, India does not have any law specifically for sexual harassment. No doubt, the existing laws are wrought with loopholes. However, it is with these existing laws that we need to move forward.

In the process, it is important for you to know your rights. An aware and informed woman has a better chance of dealing with the system.

Before going for this option, do be aware of loopholes and problems in using the law. .

Laws regarding sexual harassment is based on ‘outraging modesty’, ‘annoyance’ or ‘obscenity’ which are difficult to define and therefore difficult to use.

The entire criminal procedure is a long drawn affair. Cases have been known to reach the Court only after considerable time, and even when it does, the entire process is never as effective (as it should be). Some of the important gaps, you need to be aware of, are as follows:

  • The burden of proof still lies on the woman to a large extent. She not only has to prove that she possesses the modesty, but also that the harasser has outraged or insulted her sense of decency with his actions.
  • The victim has to also prove that the conduct was sexual in nature.
  • The laws are filled with archaic terms such as ‘modesty’ (a concept which is subjective), ‘annoyance’ (a concept which is relative) and ‘woman’ (who could be of any age).

Supreme Court Guidelines for Sexual Harassment

The Supreme Court had passed, what is now called the Vishaka Judgment, as a result of a long and resilient battle of women’s groups.

At the centre of this struggle was a brave and valiant figure: Bhanwari Devi. A village saathin [a village worker, employed as a field worker under the Rajasthan’s government’s Women’s Development Programme], Bhanwari Devi was gang-raped by upper caste men, as retaliation for protesting against child marriage in her village.

This was not the end of her ordeal. Police women taunted her mercilessly through the night when she went to register a complaint, refused her medical attention and socially boycotted by the village. Women’s groups diligently organized a campaign for justice. In December 1993, in the Vishaka vs. State of Rajasthan case, the High Court declared that Bhanwari Devi was gang-raped as a form of vengeance. Finally women’s groups filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court decision on Vishaka vs. State of Rajasthan case in 1997 became a landmark judgment to deal with sexual harassment at workplace. Not only was sexual harassment defined for the first time, but the onus of responsibility was legally laid on employers for establishing appropriate disciplinary action, to create awareness and for setting up a Complaints Committee. The judgment also has provision for worker’s initiative and for third party harassment. The guidelines also made it mandatory for the employer to initiate criminal proceedings in case it amounted to an offence under the Indian Penal Code.

The Vishaka guidelines are applicable to any office set-up, irrespective of whether it is public, private or the voluntary sector. Employers have to heed the Vishaka guidelines and take steps.

  • Sexual harassment must be prohibited in your Organization, as a company policy, irrespective of whether you are in the public or the private sector. This should be made known to all employees, both when they join and they be sent a periodic reminder as well. The company must recognize sexual harassment as a serious offence.
  • All employees must fall within the purview of the sexual harassment policy, irrespective of whether the accused/the victim belongs to administration, the management, other grade officers or member of the Board/Governing Body.

For this to happen, you must know what sexual harassment constitutes and relay it to your entire staff (both men and women) in simple words and with context specific examples.

  • In case you are in the public sector, you must include sexual harassment as a form of misconduct in the rules relating to conduct and discipline.
  • In case you are an owner of a factory, it is imperative you recognize sexual harassment as part of the standing orders under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
  • If a particular offence falls under the Indian Penal Code, it is your duty to register it separately with the Police.
  • Besides these, all employers must follow certain preventive measures, such as spreading awareness regarding sexual harassment policy, discussing such matters in meetings, creating awareness for women’s rights and so on.
  • Appropriate disciplinary action must be taken if the offence amounts to misconduct.

A complaints mechanism must be set in place, with the authorized person, an informal/formal mechanism and necessary contact details in place. The system should instil a sense of confidence in its women employees.

  • A complaints mechanism is mandatory in all workplaces.
  • The Complaints Committee should be headed by a woman.
  • At least 50% of its members should be women.
  • It must include an external or a Third party member, preferably a NGO/individual familiar with issues of sexual harassment.
  • The complainant has a right to keep it confidential. This must be respected by the Complaints Committee during the entire formal process.
  • The complaints committee must be time bound. There should not be unnecessary delays in hearings.
  • The members must be sensitive to the issues concerning women in any workplace.
  • The complaints committee must present an annual report to the concerned Government department or the Organization.
  • The complaints committee too has a preventive role to play, similar to that of the employer/management.
  • The complainant and the witnesses have a right to confidentiality. You as an employer must respect that during formal proceedings.
  • You, as an employer, are bound to institutionalize proper training of the complaints committee members. Invite experts in the field of gender for drafting a sexual harassment policy.
  • Keep the complaints committee as an autonomous unit, so that it can work independently when the employer himself is accused of sexual harassment.
  • In case of third-party sexual harassment, the complainant must be assisted and supported by you while dealing with the same.
  • Set aside a portion of the budget for the activities of Complaints Committee, training workshops, informal discussions, etc

As a victim of sexual harassment or the complainant, you should be aware of the definition of sexual harassment and the method of formally taking up the issue.

  • You have a right to make your co-workers aware of existing sexual harassment policy or the Vishaka guidelines.
  • You can broach issues of sexual harassment in employer-employee meetings or staff meetings.
  • You have a right to question your employer/management regarding sexual harassment.
  • In case of sexual harassment by an outsider/client/third-party member, you have a right to claim assistance and support by your employer.
  • Know of the employers’ responsibilities, as laid down, by the Vishaka guidelines.
  • The employer, management & the complaints committee must guard you and the witnesses to your sexual harassment against retaliation/ victimization/ trivialization of the issue.

 

Filing a Criminal Case

Filing a criminal case means you have decided to go the whole way. It will mean time and money. It begins foremost with lodging a First Information Report (FIR). Since this is a criminal case, the latter can be registered by other persons as well. For instance, in case of hostile work environment, a group of colleagues can file a joint case as well. Besides, in case of sexual harassment at workplace, the employer is legally bound to file a complaint to the police as well.

  • It is important that you know the difference between Cognizable and non-Cognizable Offences. In case of a non-cognizable offence (where the police cannot arrest the accused without a warrant), the victim is required to fill a Non Cognizable Report, which is then forwarded to the Magistrate for further direction.
  • This is followed by an investigation by the police (the Investigating Officer), who at this stage collects evidence by recording statements, questioning colleagues and employer, collecting documents (if any) and so on. Based on its investigation, the police can decide if the accused needs to be arrested or not. Post completion of the investigation, the police is required to draw a charge-sheet, which is to be submitted to the magistrate.
  • The case is then presented in the court, whereby the accused is either sent to judicial custody (for cognizable offences) or where the police seek permission to investigate the offence (for non-cognizable offence).
  • Charges are framed by the court, where the accused is informed of the same and is asked to take a stand (guilty or not).
  • Evidences and witnesses of both the parties (prosecution and defence) are examined and cross-examined.
  • Arguments are placed by both the parties.
  • Finally resulting in judgment is announced, where the accused is either punished or acquitted.

 

Filing a Civil Case

A sexual harassment case can be filed under the Tort laws, filed under the lowest Civil Court. While criminal laws aim to bring punishment to the acquitted, the civil law is the only way by which a Plaintiff (the one who has filed the suit) can get compensation. However, the procedure is complicated and it is important you get legal advice.

  • The first step in filing a suit is to prepare the complaint. The latter is a detailed document comprising names and addresses of plaintiff and defendant, details of the incident, detailed pleadings, value of the suit, relief sought and all necessary list of documents supporting argument.
  • You must file the plaintiff within one year of the date of incident, in case you seek compensation.
  • Once a suit has been filed and addressed by a judge or concerned authority, the latter issues summon to the defendant to file a statement. Moreover, this written statement must be filed within a month of summon being issued.
  • Following this, both plaintiff and defendant are to appear in the Court, failing which the case is dismissed. In case the defendant alone fails to appear, an ex parte order is passed by the court.
  • The first hearing is followed by interrogations, inspection of documents and statement of issues, culminating finally to pronouncement of judgment.
  • During the period of the case, it is duty of the Complaints Committee to protect you from further harassment, on written complaint, either from the accused or co-workers.

Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences

Cognizable Offence Non-cognizable Offence
  • An offence which falls under direct responsibility of the Police.

 

  • They must file a FIR to begin this process.
  • The Police can arrest without a warrant.

  • The Complaint seeks justice in a Criminal Court.
  • The Police do not have any responsibility for such a case. They must get an order from the Magistrate to investigate.
  • The Police must file a Non-Cognizable report, which is to be then forwarded to the Magistrate.
  • The Police needs to issue a warrant (from Magistrate) in order to arrest.
  • The Complainant seeks redressal in the Civil Court of Law.

 

Laws under the Indian Penal Code

We briefly mention some of the laws under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Please note that you need to go to a lawyer before you decide on using them.

IPC Sections 294: Obscene acts and songs

Whoever, to the annoyance of others:
(a) Does any obscene act in any public place, or
(b) Sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place

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

Assault or use of criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty [Cognizable & bailable]

IPC Section 509: Word, Gesture or Act Intended to Outrage Modesty

Intending to insult the modesty of any woman, via speech, comments, sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound will be heard, of that such gesture or object will be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman [Cognizable & bailable]

IPC Section 503: Criminal intimidation

Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation.

IPC Section 354 is applicable only when the harasser uses force on the woman, with the intention of outraging the modesty of the woman.

  • It is a more serious Section than Section 509 with more stringent punishment of imprisonment for up to two years or a fine, or both.
  • The conduct must be sexual in nature. Moreover, it will not include verbal forms of harassment such as whistling, passing lewd comments, singing songs and so on.
  • This Section would cover offences such as all physical forms of sexual harassment, including groping, assault, and molestation. Any act which breaches her privacy such as sending annoying messages to her cell, workplace, or inspecting her private belongings without her permission or touching a woman’s clothes knowing it will annoy her will fall under this Section. Any act which is committed with the knowledge that it will annoy or intimidate a woman will come under the purview of this Section.

IPC Section 509 covers words, acts, gestures which are of sexual nature and which intend to insult the modesty of a woman or breach the privacy of a woman.

  • Punishment under this Section can lead to simple imprisonment for up to one year or fine, or both.
  • The conduct must be sexual in nature. The Section does not include physical forms of harassment.
  • Section 509 covers offences such as passing lewd comments, singing songs, whistling, making obscene gestures, following a woman (like in stalking), sending lewd letters or e-mails, making indecent overtures, situations of both hostile work environment and quid pro quo. Any form of conduct that intimidates/ shocks/embarrasses the woman. Any act that restricts the movement of the woman publicly.
  • Under this section, a sexually harassed woman must prove that the harasser intended to insult her modesty. This is proved from the gestures and actions of the harassed himself.

What is Modesty?

“…the ultimate test for ascertaining whether modesty has been outraged is that the action of the offender could be perceived as one which is capable of shocking the sense of decency of a woman.”
-The Supreme Court judgment on Bajaj v. K.P.S. Gill with regard to interpreting the term ‘modesty’ (1995) 6 SCC 194

One of the most contentious issues of the Indian Penal Code is that of the term ‘modesty’. The Supreme Court in its decision of Apparel Export vs. A.K. Chopra case, defined sexual harassment as “any action or gesture, whether directly or by implication, aims at or has the tendency to outrage the modesty of a female employee”. It is a criterion that needs to be filled in both Section 354 and 509. According to the Online Merriam-Webster, it means ‘propriety in dress, speech, or conduct’. This proves contentious as often the complainant’s modesty is judged on the basis of her demeanour and nature. Further more, the complainant must possess the modesty in order for it to be outraged. Though the Supreme Court has given a more positive decision in the Bajaj v. K.P.S. Gill case, lack of ‘decency’ is often used by the defendant.

IPC Sections 294 is the obscenity clause with respect to acts of lewd nature in public spaces, thereby causing inconveniences to people around.

  • Punishment can be up to three months or a fine, or both.
  • This Section would cover offences such as passing pornographic e-mails in workplace, cracking offensive jokes of sexual nature, passing lewd comments, singing obscene songs, making sounds or gestures of sexual activity in public and so on.
  • A crucial index of whether an act falls within this Section is whether the song/gesture/words publicly annoying to the harassed. Since this is subjected to the mental state, it must draw from proved facts.

IPC Section 503 is crucial in context of a woman who is facing sexual harassment at workplace or for a woman who is being harassed/ stalked by her rejected partner.

  • This Section covers any act which is a threat of sexual harassment or which instils fear in a woman for aggravated crime. For instance, when an employer/ supervisor/ stalker does not claim sexual favours in so many words, but hints towards the same. Or when a woman is feeling intimidated by a jilted partner or even a complete stranger. It could also be a threat to privacy, property and to the woman’s reputation.
  • Any act of threat/intimidation which forces/coerces a woman to do what she is not legally bound to do falls under the purview of this Section. For instance, when a woman is threatened for not coming out for a date.
  • Section 503 would cover any act of threat which coerces a woman not to follow options which she is legally entitled to. For instance, when a woman is threatened with adverse consequences for pursuing a formal complaint of sexual harassment or other public decisions.

Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1987) besides Section 294, also deals with the issue of obscenity or the indecent display of women in publications, and especially advertisements.

  • Section 7 of IRWA is especially helpful in context of sexual harassment at workplace, for instance, in situations where women are subjected to offensive display of pornographic material in work places, emails, text messages and so on.
  • Moreover, if it is proved that such obscene display of porn material was done with the approval or neglect of the supervisor or the director, the latter will be punished by law.
  • Punishment under this Act can be imprisonment of up to 2 years or fine or both.

 

Laws dealing with Stalking

It is important to know the sections in Indian law that may be used for a case of stalking. There are no separate laws dealing with stalking. Cases of stalking may fall under the following sections.

IPC Sections 294: Obscene acts and songs

Whoever, to the annoyance of others:

(a) Does any obscene act in any public place, or

(b) Sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place

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

Assault or use of criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty [Cognizable & bailable]

IPC Section 509: Word, Gesture or Act Intended to Outrage Modesty

Intending to insult the modesty of any woman, via speech, comments, sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound will be heard, of that such gesture or object will be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman [Cognizable & bailable]

IPC Section 503: Criminal intimidation

Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation.

Section 66, IT Act, 2000: Hacking with Computer System

Whoever with the intent of cause or knowing that is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person destroys or deletes or alters any information residing in a computer resource or diminishes its value or utility or affects it injuriously by any means, commits hacking.

Section 67, IT Act, 2000: Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form

Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeal to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, will be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.

Section 66, IT Act, 2000

  • Section 66 would include such instances of cyber crime & cyber stalking such as hacking into your email id, passwords, bank accounts and online transactions, online profile and so on.
  • According to the Cyber Cell Mumbai, hacking refers to the illegal intrusion into the computer system, without the knowledge or permission of the owner or user. Hacking provides a large amount of information and personal details to the stalker, which he can use to further intimidate the victim. Putting your personal details on a porn website or a website giving dating services is a common objective among cyber stalkers.
  • The stalker may also assume your online identity and harass other people.
  • Punishment includes imprisonment up to 5 years and a fine up to RS. 5 lakhs.
  • As a victim, you must save necessary documents such as print out of e-mails, bank transaction details, etc. Do not delete the email id or the online profile which has been hacked, as this erases important evidence.

Section 67, IT Act, 2000

  • Section 67 covers instances of cyber stalking related to pornography and any other obscene material online. Publishing any such material online, which will be considered obscene, is a punishable crime under this Section.
  • Punishment includes imprisonment up to 5 years and a fine up to RS. 5 lakhs.
  • The stalker may get access to your photographs, morph them and publish them in porn websites.
  • For proof, it is best to take screen shots of these web pages and save them for evidence.

Going to the police

 

Going to the police
Criminal procedure

When you choose to file a criminal case, it is important you prepare yourself with info on the Criminal procedure.

  • The criminal procedure begins with filing a FIR. It is the first information report that the victim as a prime witness gives to the police and it sets the ball rolling for Criminal justice. However, even before you file the FIR it is a good idea to know the difference between Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences. Sexual harassment is a cognizable offence.
  • Once the FIR is lodged, an Investigating Officer is assigned to begin a fact-finding process. Based on its investigation, the police can decide if the accused needs to be arrested or not. Post completion of the investigation, the police is required to draw a charge-sheet, which is to be submitted to the magistrate.
  • The case is then presented in the Court, whereby the accused is either sent to judicial custody (for cognizable offences) or where the police seek permission to investigate the offence (for non-cognizable offence).
  • Charges are framed by the Court, where the accused is informed of the same and is asked to take a stand (guilty or not).
  • Evidences and witnesses of both the parties (prosecution and defence) are examined and cross-examined.
  • Arguments are placed by both the parties.
  • Finally resulting in judgment is announced, where the accused is either punished or acquitted.

 

Immediate Police Action

In case you are stuck in a situation where you need help from police immediately, then do not hesitate to call 100. Your call is relayed to the nearest mobile Police Control Room.

The Police Control Room is there to assist you till the local police arrive. In case you are in Mumbai or Delhi, you can call local helpline numbers for women such as 103 or 1091, respectively.

There might be certain cases when the harasser tries to flee. In such cases, you can take help from people around you to forcibly arrest the offender, till the police arrive. This is possible under Section 43 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which enables citizens to make an arrest.

 

Lodging a First Information Report (FIR)

The only way to stop sexual harassment is to name it for what it is. There will always be people to tell you it means nothing or that you are over-reacting. It might be “time-pass” for some, but filing a FIR is letting them know that it is a crime.

Keep in mind the following while lodging a FIR ….

  • An FIR is always filed in the police station. However, it is not necessary that the victim must lodge it. It can be filed by a witness or by a police officer who comes to know of the crime too.
  • Do not wait for too long before filing the FIR. It is understandable that you are apprehensive about the whole process, but unnecessary delay may hamper the legal process.
  • The FIR must include time, venue and date on when the incident of sexual harassment took place, the identity of the accused and any other persons who might have supported him. In case the harasser was a stranger, then try to give as accurate description as possible.
  • You must describe the incident as accurately as is possible. For instance, if you were groped, you should describe how and where.
  • If you feel an ongoing threat or apprehensions of your personal safety from the accused, do mention it in the FIR.
  • The FIR must be lodged in the area where the case of sexual harassment took place. Thus if you are sexually harassed in the harasser’s or your own home, you must then go to the police station under whose jurisdiction the area falls.
  • Do go through the FIR once before you sign.
  • The FIR must be duly stamped and signed by the Duty Officer and carry a Police Station stamp. Do note the serial number of the Report.
  • Know that you are entitled to a copy of the FIR at no cost.
  • When you file a FIR, remember you are only reporting the facts as you know, and do not have to prove them then.

 

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