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Nagendar Sharma, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 14, 2013
The new definition of sexual harassment in criminal law allows men also to file complaints as victims of sexual harassment with the police, and those found guilty of committing the offence will have to spend five years in jail.

The government's Criminal Laws (Amendment) Ordinance which has now been implemented, defines the term sexual harassment in the Indian Penal Code and allows "any person" irrespective of gender to lodge a complaint.

Till now, the police lodged complaints of sexual harassment against women under various sections of the IPC, applicable only to the fairer sex.

Last year, the Lok Sabha had passed the bill for prevention of sexual harassment of women at workplaces, which is currently pending before the Rajya Sabha. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/2/14-02-13-pg-10a.jpg

The bill is based on the landmark Supreme Court verdict of 1997, commonly known as Vishaka case, in which SC laid down certain guidelines to check harassment of women at work places.   

The government has now widened the scope of this term and laid down five definite acts which will be treated as sexual harassment against any person. These include "physical contact and advances involving unwelcome sexual overtures, a demand for sexual favours and making sexually coloured remarks."

The latest addition to Section 354A of IPC, also states "forcibly showing pornography and any other unwelcome verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature", will also be treated as sexual harassment.

Asked about the need for making the offence gender neutral, a government official said: "The government has felt the need to provide effective protection to minor children and teenagers irrespective of their gender. There are numerous examples of boys being harassed in hostels during ragging and other anti-social activities."