From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- Sexual harassment at workplace
Why the Ramani judgement matters
- The verdict went beyond a mere refusal to convict Ramani for criminal defamation.
- The verdict vindicated Ramani by accepting Ramani’s truth as a defence to the charge of defamation.
- The verdict urged society to “understand that sometimes a victim may for years not speak up due to mental trauma,” and underlined that a woman has a right to speak up about the abuse, even after decades.
- It pointed out that since sexual harassment typically takes place in private, women’s testimonies cannot be dismissed as untrue or defamatory simply because they are unable to provide other witnesses to back their allegations.
- Institutional mechanisms have systemically failed to protect women or provide justice, the verdict reasoned.
- Therefore, survivors are justified in sharing their testimonies on media or social media platforms as a form of self-defence.
Right to dignity
- The Ramani verdict points out that sexual abuse violates the constitutionally recognised rights to dignity (Article 21) and equality (Articles 14 and 15), and that (a man’s) right to reputation cannot be protected at the cost of (a woman’s) right to dignity.
- The Ramani verdict is a huge moral vindication of the #MeToo movement and will serve to deter powerful men from using the defamation law to silence survivors.
Problem of institution
- Sexual harassment is a problem of institutions rather than of individuals alone.
- The world over, employers deploy sexual harassment as a means to discipline and control women workers.
- In India and Bangladesh, at least 60 per cent of garment factory workers experience harassment at work.
- In Guangzhou, China, a survey found that 70 per cent of female factory workers had been sexually harassed at work, and 15 per cent quit their jobs as a result.
- For factory workers, domestic workers, street vendors, sanitation and waste workers, construction workers, sex workers, labour laws or laws against sexual harassment exist only on paper.
The women who spoke were unanimous that individual complaints were not an option, they needed unions to fight collectively. Women workers fighting sexual harassment, need more support and attention.