[Answered] “Government’s efforts and legal frameworks to prevent sexual harassment against women has not been much successful.” Discuss.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Reasons for less impact of laws on sexual crimes against women.
Conclusion. Way forward.

Despite of enactment of various laws and rules like Sexual harassment at workplace, sexual harassment remains widespread across India. The underlying causes are complex. It is undeniable that irrespective of how good the law maybe, sexual harassment still exists almost everywhere and mostly goes unreported.

Reason behind inefficiency of laws and rules to prevent sexual harassment of women:

  1. Under-reporting: A recent report reveals that there is a 12% increase in the sexual offences. However these number are still very less as compared to crime in the country. Women still not report cases of sexual harassment due to fear of society and thus culprit roam around without being punished.
  2. Mindset: Indian mindset is a major issue. People see sex still a taboo. Further patriarchal mindset downgrade women.  Many women don’t talk or report of sexual offence in starting which later become a major offence.
  3. Objectification: Women are still viewed as a property and is seen as honour of husband especially in rural areas. Many women don’t report sexual offence because of honour of family and husband. This lead to sense of confidence among culprit of not getting caught and punished and he further commits more crime.
  4. Non-supportive corporate sector: Mostly companies are not supportive of Internal complaint Committee. It is primarily because the companies only take sexual harassment prevention as a compliance and not something which is vital for women at their workplace. They tend to ignore that even their top performing managers could be at fault too. They do not cooperate by supporting the victim to save their image.
  5. Loopholes in law: Even law has a lot of loopholes. For example, under Sexual harassment at workplace act, the law states that there has to be an annual report that needs to be filed by companies, but there is no clarity with the format or filing procedure. The evidence to show that a company is compliant or not is also very subjective and needs clarity. The matter of non compliance needs to be reported to a District Magistrate or district officer. In case of any absence, there is no clarity as to whom to approach next.
  6. Dilemma of Dignity vs. livelihood: When a woman files a complaint about sexual harassment, she is labelled as impure at workplace and society by many and is often discriminated. Filing a complaint is not easy and it often comes at the cost of losing a job or being branded a trouble maker.
  7. Poor implementation of laws: The Indian justice system has failed to investigate, prosecute, and punish the perpetrators and failed to provide effective redressal for victims. Especially state police attitude is not good in implementing laws against sexual crime. Many cases of misbehave with women by police has been reported.
  8. Lack of political will: Many times sex crime against women is motivated politically to create an environment of tension and communal conflicts. E.g raping of Dalit by upper caste member. Politicians do not take action to keep their support of a community or sect for votes. Perpetrators are also rarely held accountable due to lack of political will.
  9. Lack of centralised database: There exists no centralised mechanism to collect data on sexual harassment, which is why it is difficult to chart a trends analysis or pattern on harassment that women face.

#MeToo movement has moved the social media with women documenting their stories of sexual harassment, but this has to be followed by due process in order to build accountability of the state in protecting the rights of women.

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