WHAT CONSTITUTES SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

While for an employer-employee relationship, only women survivors may file complaints, due to the difference in agency and vulnerability of the student community, the UGC guidelines are gender-neutral and especially sensitive to groups that are vulnerable to sexual harassment.

Broadly defined, sexual harassment is when a person behaves in an unwanted sexual manner that makes a survivor uncomfortable, creating an environment that is not conducive to a healthy or safe working environment. What constitutes sexual harassment is seen from the perspective of the survivor.


Sexual harassment is:


Unwanted conduct with sexual undertones (directly or indirectly) in the form of-

  • any unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature;

  • demand or request for sexual favours;

  • making sexually coloured remarks

  • physical contact and advances; or

  • showing pornography


that demeans, humiliates or creates a hostile and intimidating environment or is aimed at inducing the survivor to partake by actual or threatened adverse consequences.


or


When a persons behaviour has sexual undertones (explicit or implicit) in relation to the following circumstances

  • Implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment as quid pro quo for sexual favours;

  • Implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in the conduct of work;

  • Implied or explicit threat about the present or future status of the person concerned;

  • Creating an intimidating offensive or hostile learning environment


Unwanted conduct is understood as conduct that is done against the consent of the survivor.


Consent MUST be positive in nature. The lack of resistance or passive submission cannot be understood as consent. Consent must be actively and continuously given throughout the sexual activity. Whether there was consent or not, is viewed from the lens of the survivor, should take into account the power dynamics that exist in universities, such as a professor-student dynamic or a student-student dynamic involving a marginalised community.


Students that are incapacitated in any form, under-age or under the influence of alcohol cannot consent.


Universities that fall under the ambit of the University Grants Commission must have a gender-neutral policy, which is trans-gender friendly and also acknowledges protection needed for marginalised groups are vulnerable to sexual harassment.


Some examples of sexual harassment are-


  • Spreading rumours about a person’s sexuality


  • Name-calling, such as “bitch”,“whore”,“slut”, “fag” or “dyke” or any other offensive word that has a sexual connotation.


  • Offensive or suggestive sexual comments. For instance; inappropriate comments about someone’s body or appearance or jokes vulgar, offensive, or explicit jokes about sex or sexual acts.


  • Intrusive sexually explicit questions. For instance, asking about a person’s sexual fantasies, sexual preferences or sexual activities


  • Direct or indirect threats or bribes for unwanted sexual activity. For instance, offering a promotion in a conversation where unwanted sexual advances are made.


  • Repeatedly asking for a date after the person has implicitly or explicitly expressed disinterest


  • Unwanted letters, notes, telephone calls, e-mails or material of a sexual nature


  • Stalking of the survivor


  • Pervasive displays of pictures, calendars, cartoons or other material with sexually explicit or graphic content


  • Ogling or leering, of a sexual nature


  • Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements


  • Unwelcome patting, hugging or touching of a person’s body, hair or clothing


  • Sexual assault or an attempt to sexual assault


These examples must be viewed from the lens of the survivor and are to be understood based on the facts of the case. i.e, when the above-mentioned conduct is NOT welcomed and NOT consented to, in whole, by the person, it is sexual harassment.

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