In the present case, the Bombay High Court has correctly settled the proposition that an extramarital consensual gay relationship is not a criminal offence; just like how it is no more a criminal offence in case of a heterosexual spouses. However, such a relationship comes under the purview of “adultery” as a ground for divorce (civil wrong). The Bombay HC judgment signifies the social acceptance of homosexuality as human nature, and it is a step closer to recognising gender equality and different sexual orientations.
So far, the rule of thumb that prudent men followed was that if you are harassing someone, you will know that you are; it isn’t something you do unknowingly. But cooption of the tools of the #MeToo movement i.e. public shaming with a call to ostracise, by some women to deal with incidents that were basically bad judgment calls by them in their younger days is leading to two very serious problems. One, it is giving plausible deniability to men who have rightfully been accused of harassment. And more disturbingly, it is reducing career opportunities for women in industries that are controlled by men.
It is essential to criminalise marital rape in order to break the age-old understanding that “marriage sanctions sex” or that married women are incapable of giving consent or that consent is presumed/implied upon marriage. This understanding only legitimises the patriarchal notion that a woman is the property of her husband after marriage.
The Writ Petition challenged Section 354A of IPC — Sexual Harassment and Punishment for Sexual Harassment — to the extent that it had been interpreted to deny protection to a complainant who does not conform to the stereotypical and binary notion of “woman”, based on sex assigned at birth, resulting in violation of fundamental rights under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India, and being contrary to the decision in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India.
The fundamental right to self-identified gender under Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution stands violated blatantly. With only four MPs addressing the debate, the Bill passed by the Lok Sabha is a washout. The Rajya Sabha must now resist, especially since it has already passed ‘The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014’ in April 2015.
The right to fair trial by the procedure established by law is the right guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution. The arbitrary actions of the State in detaining under preventive laws, torturing of the detenu in custody and imposing impossible conditions for executing bail are few examples of violation of rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
#MeToo is a scream for help as well as a call to action — by women from all walks of life, united in their demand to end rape culture in general and sexual harassment at workplace in particular. The #MeToo tracker is a collation of all the names that have been accused of sexual harassment so far in India in the wake of the 2018 movement.
The Union Government has not yet implemented the directions issued by the Supreme Court of India that required the Central Government to give wide-scale publicity to the Supreme Court judgment in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India.
Justice for women means the right to work, expecting their employers to understand and prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, zero tolerance of sexual harassment by employers, providing a mechanism to raise complaints when it happens. When employers fail in their duty to prevent sexual harassment, or even to recognise its existence under their nose, where is the question of ‘due process’?
M J Akbar’s resignation is a testament to the sheer power of the #MeToo movement, and the horror of its stories and experiences. In fact, Akbar tried to emulate this government’s bullying tactic by initially denying all the allegations, and then filing a criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani, a senior journalist.
It is evident that neither Vishaka guidelines nor The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (‘SHW Act’) were followed by the organisations, as most of the complaints were either not investigated properly, or women could not complain.
We are in a situation where the allegations of sexual harassment are so pervasive — ranging from the judiciary, the legal profession, the newsrooms, the entertainment industry, academia, and politicians — that it would be counterproductive to deal with each case individually. What is required is a commission of inquiry to inquire into the failures of the existing legal systems and the Sexual Harassment Act to prevent the happening of these incidents.