1.1 Crimes against women
Crime against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. It can include physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse, and it cuts across boundaries of age, race, culture, wealth and geography. It takes place in the home, on the streets, in schools, the workplace, in farm fields, refugee camps, during conflicts and crises. It has many manifestations — from the most universally prevalent forms of domestic and sexual violence, to harmful practices, abuse during pregnancy, so-called honour killings and other types of femicide. It has far-reaching consequences, harming families and communities. Gender-based violence not only violates human rights, but also hampers productivity, reduces human capital and undermines economic growth.
1.2Sexual harassment and basic human rights
For centuries past, women all over the world have not only been denied full justice, social, political and economic but as a “weaker sex” they have been used, abused, exploited and, then discarded to lead immoral, street vagrant and destitute life till their death. Although they constitute about half the total population and have contributed and sacrificed not less than the men in national freedom struggles at any point of time but they have been deprived of their due shares in various areas of activities and have been subjected to inhuman and humiliating wrongs from birth to death for no sin. The general, though, unfortunate impression has ever since, been that women are sub-human species, an object of contempt and ridicule, a commodity for barter, an expendable asset and a plaything for mere sexual enjoyment. Now-a-days, however, women have broken their ill-social shackles and are ready to face the contemporary challenges without any help and hesitation and, consequently, March 8, is formally observed and celebrated in several countries, including India, as a mark of integrated achievements towards the equality of rights, status and dignity of women and their equal participation in economic, social and cultural development in contemporary world scenario.
Women constitute about one-half of the global population, but they are placed at various disadvantageous positions due to gender difference and bias. They have been the victims of violence and exploitation by the male dominated society all over the world. Ours is a tradition-bound society where women have been socially, economically, physically, psychologically and sexually exploited from time immemorial, sometimes in the name of religion, sometimes on the pretext of writings, in the scriptures and sometimes by the social sanctions. The concept of equality between male and female was almost unknown to us before the enactment of the Constitution of India. The Preamble of the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, seeks to secure to its citizens including women folk, justice, social, economic and political liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, equality of status and opportunity, and promote fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual.
An enforceable right to compensation is not alien to the concept of enforcement of a guaranteed right, as a public law remedy under Article 32, distinct from the private law remedy in torts. There is no reason why these international conventions and norms cannot, therefore, be used for construing the fundamental rights expressly guaranteed in the Constitution of India which embody the basic concept of gender equality in all spheres of human activity.
In view of the above, and the absence of enacted law to provide for the effective enforcement of the basic human right of gender equality and guarantee against sexual harassment and abuse, more particularly against sexual harassment at work place, the Apex Court lay down the guidelines and norms specified hereinafter for due observance at all work places or other institutions, until a...