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Gov changes sexual harassment definitions; watching porn can win you jail

Weeks after popular outrage over the brutal rape and murder of a student in Delhi, the government has increased the punishment and widened the scope of anti-harassment legislation in several laws.

Insertions include new definitions of what constitutes sexual harassment, specifying punishment for throwing acid, use of hidden camera to record women’s private acts, stalking, gang rape, sexual acts by persons in authority etc.. The new rules have also made the “character” of the victim irrelevant to deciding whether the victim gave permission for the act or not.

The new rules also make watching hidden camera footage punishable by a minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 3 years in jail.

The new rules have changed the definition of both “sexual harassment” and “sexual assault.”

First, sexual harassment has been defined to include “physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures or a demand or request for sexual favours.”

They also include making sexually coloured remarks, forcibly showing pornography and any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

The punishment for sexual harassment has been increased to up to five years of jail in the first two cases and to one years in the last three above cases.

Similarly, definition of acts of “sexual assault” has been changed to include insertion of any part of the body “into the vagina, the urethra or anus of another person or makes the person to do so with him or any other person” or manipulation of “any part of the body of another person so as to cause penetration into the vagina, urethra, anus or any part of body of such person or makes the person to do so with him or any other person.”

It will also include the application of one’s “mouth to the penis, vagina, anus, urethra of another person” and also touching “the vagina, penis, anus or breast” of another person.

Such conduct is considered sexual assault if done against the other person’s will, or without obtaining the other person’s consent, or by obtaining the other person’s permission by putting the other person in fear of death or of hurt.

Consent given when the person is drunk is not considered as consent.

“At the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by that person personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, the other person is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that action to which such other person gives consent,” the sexual intercourse would be considered to be without consent.

Sexual assault definition will also include cheating a woman for sexual favors by making her believe that the person is her husband, when he is not.

Consent has been described as “an unequivocal voluntary agreement when the person by words, gestures or any form of non-verbal communication”, a willingness to participate in the specific act.

Just because someone did not say “no” at the time of the act does not mean that that person said “yes”, the new rules say.

The new rules also say that where the question of consent is in issue, evidence of the character of the victim or of such person’s previous sexual experience with any person shall not be relevant on the issue of such consent or the quality of consent.

A new section on hidden camera footage or voyeurism makes it criminal to watch such films.

“Whoever watches, or captures the image of, a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed .. shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine, and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to seven years,” the new sexual harassment rules say.

The new definition of stalking would also put many bollywood characters behind bars for one to three years.

“Whoever follows a person and contacts, or attempts to contact such person to foster personal interaction repeatedly, despite a clear indication of disinterest by such person, or whoever monitors the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, or watches or spies on a person in a manner that results in a fear of violence or serious alarm or distress in the mind of such person, or interferes with the mental peace of such person, commits the offence of stalking.”

It also adds a new section for “persons in authority”

Such persons include those that are in “a position of authority or in a fiduciary relationship” with the victim, or a public servant.

If that person abuses (misuses) his or her position or fiduciary relationship to induce or seduce any person, the punishment will be five to ten years of jail and fine.

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