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Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when

  • submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly or condition of an individual employment or
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual or
  • such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

Sexual harassment includes many things actual or attempted rape or sexual assault

unwanted pressure for sexual favours, unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching, unwanted sexual looks or gestures, unwanted letters, telephone calls or material of sexual nature, unwanted pressure for dates, unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks or questions. Referring to an adult as a girl, hunk, doll, baby, honey, whistling at someone, catcalls and sexual comments. Turning work discussions to sexual topics, sexual innuendos or stories, asking about sexual fantasies, preference or history. Even personal questions or our social / sexual life. Sexual comments about a person's clothing, anatomy or looks, kissing sounds, smacking lips etc. Spreading rumours or telling lies about a person's sex life.

Provision Relating to Sexual Harassment.

In india there is no specific legislation on sexual harassment. Therefore in the absence of such a law various provisions of the Constitution are interpreted while resorting to such cases. In the instances of sexual harassment it is treated that each such incident results in violation of the fundamental rights of gender equality and 'the right to life and personal liberty'. As such it is a clear violation of the Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution. Apart from this, Articles 19(1)(g), 42 and 51A(e) are also coming to the rescue of women in such instances. Above all recourse to the apex Court can be taken under Article 32 by any one who has experienced such harassment.

Article 14 of the Constitution provides equality before law while Article 15 provides that, " The state shall not discriminate against any citizen of grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them". Thus it is implicit from the above two provisions that there should not be any gender discrimination. Another important consequence of such an incident that it is also violative of fundamental right of the victim under Article 19(1)(g) which provides "to practice any profession or to carry out any occupation, trade or business". Thus when unnecessary and unwelcome attitude of superiors or male counterparts create a hostile work environment and make it quite difficult for the women workers to work under the circumstances, the victims can seek remedy for enforcement of their fundamental rights under Article 32 of the Constitution.

Further Article 21 says that "no one shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law". Thus depriving any body from the work in any profession leads to establish the fact of preventing somebody from his/her right to life and liberty which includes the right to live in dignity. Besides Articles 42 also provides that "the state shall make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief". Further under Article 51A(e) it is said that "it shall be duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities, to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women". Thus it is amply clear while the former directs the state to provide for just and humane conditions of work, the latter makes it obligatory on the part of the every citizen on India to promote harmony and keep up the dignity of women.

Besides the constitutional provisions, on the legislative front, in most instances, sections 354 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code are being relied upon. It is true that both these sections do protect women in general from certain categories of sexual misconducts that seem to be offensive or disgustive but the protective measurers provided under these sections do not exactly attract the cases of sexual harassment at work place and thus do not safeguard the interest of the working women.


Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code provides "whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he shall thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two year or fine or with both".

Section 509 provides that "whoever intending to insult the modesty of any woman utters any word, makes any sound or gesture or exhibits any object, intending that such gesture or object shall be seen by such women or intrudes upon the privacy of such women shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both".

The Sexual Harassment of Women at work place(Prevention, Prohibition & Regulation) Act 2013


1. Police Circular Order 343/2013 regarding Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for investigation of Crime against women has been issued to all the District SsP/ DCsP, Bhubaneswar-Cuttack/ SRP Rourkela and SRP, Cuttack.

2. Police Circular Order 338/2013 regarding Prompt investigation and prosecution of crime against women has been issued to all the District SsP./ DCsP, Bhubaneswar-Cuttack / SRP Rourkela and SRP, Cuttack.

3. Concerned Dist. Ss.P. /D.Cs.P. have been advised to intensify patrolling near shandies, women institutions, and during in fairs and festivals. They have also been asked to watch on activities of anti-socials/ drunkards and to conduct raids against circulation of obscene literature and display of blue films.

4. To facilitate integrated approach towards crime against women and children Mahila & Sishu Desks have been setup in 537 Police Stations of the State of Odisha to deal with the complaints of victim women. The District HRPC will act as the Nodal Agencies in such matters within the District.

5. A toll Helpline Telephone Number 1091 has been connected to 6 Mahila Police Station of Odisha to attend the calls from the women victims for redressal of their problems.

6. Women and Child Cells have been setup under the control of Ss.P. of the district assisted by DSP,HRPC and comprising women Inspector & Women Officers & Men of the District to facilitate an integrated and improve response of the police to crime against women & children.

7. Women & child Protection PCR Van with necessary staff with the district police have been provided to women and child cell to attend to all urgent calls received from women and distress.

8. The Chief General Manager, Telecom, Odisha, Bhubaneswar has been moved for allotment of toll free women helpline telephone number to all district women and child cell to attend the calls from the victim women for 24 hours.