March 8th or International Women’s Day marks a call to action for accelerating gender disparity. A day specifically dedicated to celebrating the socio-economic, cultural and political achievements of women, this day calls for the global celebration of womanhood. Most of the developed countries of the world have witnessed a massive shift in both the attitudes and inherent thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Women in the west are more secure, liberated and aware to fight the oppression or injustice at any given point of time.
However, in developing countries like ours, women are still struggling to get equal rights. It is very painful to witness that in 2018 when the world is moving towards economic and technological revolution, we are still struggling for equal rights. It is depressing to see that the women of India continue to be ill-treated, oppressed and exploited. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we thought it would be appropriate to tell you about 5 laws which can help women in India:
1. Stalking is punishable. Don’t avoid it, report it.
In one of the many aftermaths of the Nirbhaya Case, stalking was added as an offence as Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) under Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. In a shocking state of affairs, after this ordinance came into effect, as many as 203 men were arrested and 259 cases were registered in the first 6 months of the enactment of law, as per a report by Times of India. However, even these numbers are far away from the magnitude of reality.
Stalking is, unfortunately, not given enough attention in India, because of the casual attitude of the society and women getting uncomfortably used to it. “Getting-used to” stems from the idea of self-preservation or being taught, if not actively, to not retaliate in case of any danger. Stalking is strictly censured as per the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. Section 354D enables the State to take legal action against the offender.
Even after the law is in place, why do you think the women are not reporting it? Most of the women are either intimidated by the stigma of reporting, or with the casual attitude of police officials who most of the times dismiss such cases calling them trivial. If you are being stalked, you can report the crime through an online application to National Commission for Women (NCW). Once the NCW is intimated about it, they will take up the case with the police. If you are being stalked, and need immediate assistance, you can also dial 1096 or 0111-23219750.
2. Lodge your FIR – Don’t worry about the jurisdiction.
You can only register an FIR in the police station of your own jurisdiction or where the crime has been committed. This is one of the primary reasons why police officers often refuse to lodge an FIR and ask you to visit a different police station. It often leads to the aggrieved individuals being stressed, frustrated and eventually giving up on even filing the complaint. But, if you are a woman who seeks to file a complaint, you can file a Zero FIR. It came as an after effect of Nirbhaya Rape Case with an intention to initiate the investigation or an action by the police officials without taking the place of crime into account.
Once the FIR is lodged and the filing is done with the magistrate, the case is redirected to the actual police station, i.e., the police station in whose jurisdiction the case belongs. For example, in the infamous Asaram Bapu Case, although the crime was committed in the district of Jodhpur, the FIR was lodged at Kamla Market Police Station, Delhi.
In case you need to cite the law, it is under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Every police officer is bound to register the complaint of cognizable offence irrespective of the jurisdiction. If not his jurisdiction, he is bound to register the FIR under the number 00 and then forward the FIR to the apt police station.
3. Sexual Harassment at Workplace is not acceptable, report it!
As per a recent survey of 6,074 participants (both male and female) conducted by Indian National Bar Association, around 38 percent respondents confessed to being sexually harassed at their workplace. The same report reveals that around 69 percent respondents decided against complaining to the management.
In addition, 65 percent of the participants revealed that most of the companies did not follow the procedure prescribed under Sexual Harassment (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 (‘the SH Act’).
Sexual Harassment at workplace is more common than it may seem. However, as a woman it is your primary duty to know your rights, keep yourself updated and complain in case of any discomfort. When we first started the course on sexual harassment, our idea was to help the companies and HRs implement better policies. However, with due time we have realized that more women are taking up this course to prepare themselves for legal battles if required. Here are few things you need to know:
1) Your employee status does not matter.
It does not matter whether you are a permanent employee or not. Even if you are an intern, a part-time worker, a visitor or someone who has come for a mere interview at a certain office and you have been subjected to harassment, you can go ahead and lodge a complaint. 2) If not Internal Complaints Committee, you have Local Complaints Committee If you are ever subjected to harassment you can put down a written complaint to Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of your company within a period of three months. If your company has 10 employees or more, and even one of them is a woman, they are required to constitute this committee. However, under any unfortunate circumstances where the ICC does not exist, or you think the ICC won’t be able to come to your rescue, you can directly approach the Local Complaints Committee which exists at the district level. 3) Not you, but anyone your behalf can file the complaint
If you are still contemplating whether you can file the complaint or not, you don’t have to. The SH Act allows your legal heir or your legal guardian to file a complaint on your behalf. 4. If you are married that does not mean you can be abused! One of the major stigmas associated with the Indian society is, “irrespective of what happens, the marriage shouldn’t break.” This idea has been glorified in various Bollywood movies, speeches of various politicians and protectors of religion and culture. These ideas are so deeply embedded in the mindset of a majority of women that they often suffer domestic violence without raising a voice.
This situation gives a huge boost to the individuals who demand dowry or subject their wives, daughters-in-law or newly married women to domestic abuse. A report by factchecker.in revealed that from 2005-2015, 88,467 women (on an average of 22 women each day) died due to dowry-related cases. In 2015 alone, 7,634 women were killed over dowry. This situation is worrisome.
Section 498A of the IPC aggressively condemns dowry death. In addition, Section 3 and 4 of the Prohibition of Dowry Act, 1961 not only provide for penalty for giving or taking dowry but also for demanding dowry.
The FIR once registered makes it a non-bailable offence in order to ensure that a woman’s safety is not put under question and further abuse can be avoided. Any abuse, be it physical, verbal, economic or sexual is covered under Section 498A.
Apart from IPC, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (the DV Act) enables you to access resources which can help with proper health-care, legal aid, counseling and a shelter home. It also allows you to claim monetary relief from the perpetrators of the crime under Section 20 of the DV Act.
The complaint registered against an offender makes it a non-bailable one, ensuring a woman’s safety and protection from further abuse. The acts of violence are not limited to physical brutality, but also other forms of abuse like verbal, economic, emotional and sexual. 5. No one can upload your pictures/videos without your consent! Call it fortunate or unfortunate. We are living in a world full of technology. Where internet has connected thousands of individuals under one umbrella, cell phones are easily accessible and a mobile camera is in everyone’s pocket.
With the kind of technology available, it is not very uncommon to find nude or smutty pictures, indecent videos shared through WhatsApp becoming the biggest nightmare of women. You can easily find changing room videos or maybe the most intimate moment between a couple doing rounds on the internet. As per a report by the News Minute, transmission of obscene content in electronic form witnessed a sudden explosion in the number of registered cases with a 104.2 percent increase from the year 2012 to 2013. The real number could be higher as many victims do not come forward due to fear or embarrassment. What are the remedies available in such a case?
The first priority is obviously to have the videos or images removed from the portal. You must know that Google has the policy of removing revenge porn or pictures/videos shared without the consent of the victim. You need to directly approach the website that has published your pictures or videos. These websites are subject to laws and are obliged to comply with them. Extorting money for removing the content is equally illegal. You can also opt to get an Injunction Order from the court so that the images/videos cannot be circulated further. Section 67 and 66E of the Information Technology Act (IT Act), deal with punishment for violation of privacy and explicitly forbids capturing, publishing or transmitting the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent. Section 354C of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013, also known as the ‘’Voyeurism Section’’, criminalises capturing and sharing images of a woman during a private act.
All you need to do is be bold and go ahead with the complaint. Be assured that the content will be taken down. Rest assured, the law will back you.
In the end, all I can tell you is: I see my mother, sisters, and friends and keep wondering how difficult it might be to be a woman. These challenges can be easily avoided with knowledge, awareness and a little courage.
Author: Haridatta Sharma
Haridatta Sharma is Semi-Qualified Company Secretary pursuing Professional Course of Company Secretaryship. He is working in the area of law and has ably supported Advocate Deepmala in various cases involving the rights of Woman though his chosen domain of expertise is Corporate & Economic Laws. He is a part of Staava Consultancy and has been very active socially.