If you are a girl or a woman, you must know how it feels to walk down the streets at night. You must know the jitters in your teeth and fear in your heart.
Home is said to be your safe place. But sadly, not so for many women. All over the world, 1 in every 3 women faces sexual harassment or violence by someone who’s “their own”.
Cases of Sexual Harassment at Home
Imagine how distressing it must be for women to be stuck with their perpetrators? The lockdown witnessed a rise in such unfortunate incidents. The number of calls made to women helpline numbers increased manifolds during this time.
The infamous Nirbhaya case of Mahipalpur still sends shivers down our spines. However, there are plenty of cases of sexual harassment that women have to face in their own homes.
A 23-year-old woman in Bareilly was the prey of sexual assault by her brother-in-law. He then made a bid to rape her. On voicing this concern, she had to face torture and leave the house. Such is the heart-breaking situation of women in the country.
What is ‘Sexual Harassment’?
Stories of sexual harassment are often concealed and spun especially when the harassment takes place at home. The victim might fall prey to believing that the ordeal is not an offence if it is not extreme in nature. However, harassment, whether physical or verbal, is qualified to be called harassment, as long as the harasser intentionally made the victim feel uncomfortable.
As per the supreme court of India, sexual harassment is an unwanted sexual act against women. This sexual act can be either physical, verbal, or non-verbal.
Sexual harassment can also include-
- Any undesirable physical proximity
- Request for sexual favours
- Showing lewd materials/photos/videos without consent
If you are wondering ‘what constitutes sexual harassment?‘ there are three forms of sexual harassment.
- Verbal: Passing lewd comments, non-consensually discussing sexual fantasies, passing comments about clothing or body in a sexual manner are forms of verbal harassment.
- Non-verbal: Nonverbal forms of sexual harassment are where a person makes the victim uncomfortable by their actions, stare, movements, and body language. For example, scan from top to bottom, winking, sexual gestures through hands or body, showing sexual visuals to someone or indecently exposing themselves to others.
- Physical: Any form of unwanted physical contact or proximity counts as physical harassment. Examples of physical harassment are touching, rubbing genitals against someone, groping, massaging shoulders, and kissing.
So, if you ever feel you’re a victim of something similar, don’t hesitate to take the most appropriate and reasonable action at that moment.
Actions victims can take for sexual harassment
Often victims feel uncomfortable in sharing incidents of sexual harassment particularly when it’s occurred within the family. They feel ashamed or perceive themselves as mistrusted. However, the victims should not shy away from voicing their opinions.
Some instant actions that victims can take on falling prey to sexual harassment are –
- Tell the person to stop it immediately. Talk about how it is hurting you and why he should stop indulging in harassment. Also threaten them of the consequences.
- Inform someone trustable from your family, blood relations, or close friends. People whom you trust will act as your support system.
- File a complaint or seek legal help. You can always call the women helpline number 7827170170 or file an FIR against the assaulter.
- Secretly record the actions of the harasser in case of frequent harassment. You can record lewd phone calls and messages to keep them as proof.
Sexual harassment laws in India
As per reports, 39% of rape cases are by acquaintances of the victim.
Some laws by which women can seek redressal against sexual harassment at home are-
- File an FIR at the nearest police station. The officer on duty is bound to file your complaint and act on it.
- The Domestic Violence Act of 2005 undertakes domestic abuse against women. The abuse can be physical, mental, emotional, and sexual torture.
- As per section 498A of the IPC, harassment by husband and in-laws is punishable for up to 3 years.
- As per section 294 of IPC, obscene songs in public or any unlikely act in public is punishable for up to 3 years of imprisonment.
Though several laws are there to protect women, the reality is heart-breaking.
Section 375 of IPC does not consider marital rape a crime unless the wife is below 15 years of age. The noteworthy point is that the law considers marriage equivalent to lifelong consent. There is a hardcore need for such laws to be amended to suit the interests of victimised women.
Women still have to face cases of sexual assault by their partners, family or relatives. However, women must not shy away from voicing their ordeals. We can set better examples in society only when the assaulters get punished.
Have you or someone in your known ever experienced sexual assault?
What punishment do you think should be given to a harasser?
Share your opinion by commenting below.