Jan 20,2023 | 11 min read


Sexual harassment is an inappropriate behavior which can include verbal or physical actions such as unwanted sexual advances, comments or gestures. It can occur in various settings including the workplace, home, school or even religious institutions. Sexual harassment makes the person on the receiving end feel uncomfortable, threatened or humiliated and is not acceptable at all. It is important to recognize and address instances of sexual harassment to ensure a safe and respectful environment.



Some examples of sexual harassment include:

Ø  Linking job opportunities or promotions to sexual favors, either directly or indirectly.

Ø  Physical acts of sexual violence.

Ø  Asking for sexual favors.

Ø  Verbal abuse of sexual nature, such as making sexual jokes or comments on someone's sexual orientation.

Ø  Unwanted physical contact or touching.

Ø  Unwanted sexual advances.

Ø  Talking about sexual matters or sharing sexual content in inappropriate settings, such as at work or school.

Ø  Exposing oneself or performing sexual acts in front of others.

Ø  Sending unsolicited sexually explicit photos, emails, or text messages.








Definition of Sexual Violence

Section 354A of Indian Penal Code provides, a man committing any of the following acts- (i) physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or (ii) a demand or request for sexual favours; or (iii) showing pornography against the will of a woman; or (iv) making sexually coloured remarks, shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as: "Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: Submission to such conduct was made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual was used as the 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."

The Equality Act 2010 defines Sexual harassment as “unwanted conduct specifically of a sexual nature or related to gender reassignment and has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the complainant or violating his or her dignity.”


Legal Provisions

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution emphasizes the securing of equality of status and opportunity for all citizens. Article 14 talks about the equality and states that every citizen. Article 15 prohibits all kind of discrimination based on sex, religion, caste, race, etc. Additionally, Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty, including the right to live with human dignity. Sexual harassment a criminal offense under Section 354A of IPC, which is punishable with up to three years of imprisonment or fine. India also enacted The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 to specifically address sexual harassment in the workplace.

Sexual harassment in the is considered a form of discrimination on the basis of sex and is illegal under federal law. Specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 provide protection for employees and job applicants from discrimination in terms of recruitment, selection, termination, and other conditions of employment, as well as wage discrimination on the basis of sex. 


The Equality Act of 2010 deals with the issue of sexual harassment. The Act includes a general prohibition on harassment, as well as specific provisions addressing harassment related to the protected characteristic of sex. The Equality Act 2010 prohibits three types of sexual harassment under Section 26. These include: unwanted conduct related to the protected characteristic of sex, unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, and less favorable treatment as a result of a person's rejection or submission to sex-related or sexual harassment.


Redressal Process

Women victims of sexual harassment can file a police complaint as it is a criminal offence under sec 354A of IPC. In case of sexual harassment at workplace, the aggrieved women may file a written complaint of sexual harassment at workplace to the Internal committee/ Local Committee within 3 months from the date of incident or the date of the last incident in case of a series of incident. The ICC is required to complete its investigation and issue a report within 90 days. If the investigation finds that the complaint is credible, the employer is required to take appropriate action, which can include disciplinary action against the perpetrator.

The sexual harassment redressal process in the United States involves reporting the incident to the employer or designated official, conducting an investigation, determining guilt, imposing consequences and allowing for an appeal. The steps may vary depending on the company and state laws.


In the United Kingdom, there are several ways to report and seek redressal for sexual harassment. In case of workplace sexual harassment, victims can file internal complaint within the organization, seek advice from the government-funded ACAS organization or take legal action through an employment tribunal among others. In cases of criminal sexual harassment, such as sexual assault, victims can report the incident to the police.

Landmark Judgments

Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan (1997): This case established the guidelines for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace, known as the "Vishakha Guidelines". These guidelines were later incorporated into the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act,2013.


Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K. Chopra (1999): The Supreme Court held "sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination projected through unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct with sexual overtones, whether directly or by implication, particularly when submission to or rejection of such conduct by the female employee was capable of being used for affecting the employment of the female employee and unreasonably interfering with her work performance and had the effect of creating an intimidating or hostile work environment for her. There is no gainsaying that each incident of sexual harassment, at the place of work, results in violation of the Fundamental Right to Gender Equality and the Right to Life and Liberty the two most precious Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India."


In 1976, Williams v. Saxbe established sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination. In 1980, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defined sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 1986 case of Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson recognized "sexual harassment" as a violation of Title VII, established the standards for analyzing whether the conduct was welcome and levels of employer liability, and that speech or conduct in itself can create a "hostile environment". In the case of Ellison v. Brady rejected the reasonable person standard in favor of the "reasonable woman standard". Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co. became the first sexual harassment case to be given class action status. In 1998, Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, Florida, and Burlington v. Ellerth established that employers are liable for harassment by their employees, and Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services set the precedent for same-sex harassment, and sexual harassment without motivation of "sexual desire". In 2006, the case of Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White revised the standard for retaliation against a sexual harassment complainant to include any adverse employment decision or treatment that would likely dissuade a "reasonable worker" from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.


Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police v Stubbs (1999):

It was found that a police officer was subjected to sexual harassment by a colleague while at a pub after work and at a colleague's leaving party, both of which were attended by multiple police officers. The incidents were determined to have a sufficient connection to the officer's employment for the Chief Constable to be held responsible for the behavior of the offending officer.

Burton v De Vere Hotels Ltd (1997)

A hotel was convicted of discrimination for allowing its waitressing staff to be subjected to racist remarks and insults from a comedian and guests during an event. Employers are responsible for harassment committed by third parties if the events occurred in a way that the employer could have prevented or limited the harassment by following good employment practices.








Need Free Legal Advice or Assistance Online?

For any Criminal Law related matter, please Post Your Requirement anonymously and get free proposals OR find the Best Criminal Law Lawyers and book a free appointment directly.


Prostitution: Legality and Morality in India

Man or Woman, Everyone is Human: Need for Gender Neutral Sexual Harassment Laws in India

Residential Status for Individuals under Income Tax Act


What is PAN?

Right to Terminate Pregnancy with Relevant Case Laws

Spreading Legal Awareness

Introduction to Tax Evasion



Kanchan Khatana

"Kanchan Khatana and Associates is one of India’s leading Law firm with its Head Office in Gurgaon, Haryana, India with network offices across India. We are an ISO 9001:2015 certified organization.Kanchan Khatana and Associates is known for its in depth research skills and strategic advice, coupled with prompt and effective turnaround. Our aim is to provide pragmatic, solution-oriented and technically feasible advice to our clients. We focus on providing practical and innovative solutions. "