Kerala court’s order on sexual harassment draws women activists’ ire | India News

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KOZHIKODE: The Kozhikode sessions court has observed in its order granting anticipatory bail to writer Civic Chandran that IPC Section 354A pertaining to sexual harassment will not prima facie stand against the accused as the woman complainant was wearing a “sexually provocative” dress.
The case was registered by Koyilandy police under IPC Sections 354A (2) (punishment for sexual harassment), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and 354 on a complaint filed by the woman that Chandran sexually harassed her and tried to outrage her modesty at a camp at Nandi Beach, Kozhikode, on February 8, 2020.

The court also observed that the wording of IPC Sec 354 makes it clear that there must be an intention on the part of the accused to outrage the modesty of a woman. Also, in order to attract the section of sexual harassment, there must be physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures. It also observed that it is a settled proposition of law that when there is a long delay in lodging the FIR, it must be properly explained.
Chandran had secured anticipatory bail on August 2 in another case registered by Koyilandy police on charges alleging that he had sexually assaulted a young woman author in April when the woman, along with Chandran and others, had a get-together at a house in Koyilandy in connection with her book release function.

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Irrespective of the merits of the case, the observations made by the sessions court smack of victim shaming and were uncalled for. Such comments underline why gender sensitisation lessons are important for the judiciary as much as for other institutions and individuals.

Advocates P V Hari and Sushama M appeared for Chandran in both the anticipatory bail petitions.
The observations in the judgment came in for strong criticism from the Kerala state women’s commission chairperson and women activists. Women’s commission chairperson P Sathidevi said it is a matter of great concern that courts are justifying heinous attacks against women by pointing to things like attire, which is a very personal matter.
“Instead of looking into circumstances that should be considered while granting bail, the act of granting bail by arriving at the conclusion that the case itself is not sustainable cannot be approved. In a way, by making such observations, the court has rejected the allegations raised by the complainant even before the trial. It would convey a very wrong message in serious cases like sexual assault,” she said.
Anweshi president K Ajitha said the stand that provocative dressing by women was responsible for sexual assaults against them is a “totally anti-women stand and reflects the patriarchal mindset prevailing in society”.
All-India Lawyers Union state secretary C P Pramod issued a statement saying the sessions court order did not follow the law and urged the high court to suo motu examine it.

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