EXCERPTS FROM THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT ACT, 202: What constitutes harassment?

THE Sexual Harassment (Protection and Prevention) Act, 2021, which took effect on July 3, is being hailed as an important piece of legislation for ushering in concrete measures to protect the vulnerable and promote cultural change to end sexual harassment.

Here is an excerpt of the act defining harassment.

Sexual harassment shall be defined as any conduct, act, or behaviour that constitutes unwanted and unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature by one person towards another.

The various forms of sexual harassment include:

Physical harassment— Unwanted pinching, patting, touching, kissing, groping, and hugging which has clear sexual undertones.

Verbal harassment Unwelcome comments on appearance/physical attributes, private/personal life, sexually suggestive or explicit jokes, insults and put-downs based on a person's sex. It is important to note that oftentimes harassers hide behind the argument that comments are compliments.

Non-verbal/gestural harassment Sexually suggestive gestures, for example, winks; licking of lips; gestures with hands, fingers...

Psychological/emotional harassment Consists of persistent proposals and unwelcome requests, unwanted invitations to go out on dates, insults, taunts, or innuendos of a sexual nature.

Written/graphic/visual/audio harassment — Via internet communication (including electronic messages and attachments), letters, land line telephone, cellular telephones, distribution and display of pornographic materials (visual and audio), obscene and sexually explicit language.

Quid pro quo: Harassers use a position of power and authority to negotiate job benefits (employment; re-employment; continued employment; individually favourable compensation; terms, conditions, promotions, privileges).

Stalking/cyber stalking— Obsessively following, besetting, contacting, and watching a person, either in person or using the internet, telephone, mail, and other media, which is motivated by what the perpetrator believes are feelings of desire and love.

Voyeurism ("Peeping Tom") — The act of watching, taping, recording, photographing a person without their knowledge in a clandestine manner or otherwise, while the person uses or inhabits a space where they have an expectation of privacy, such as their domicile, a public bathroom, changing room, etc.

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