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Sexual Harassment Against Transgenders Now a Penal Offence, Says Delhi HC

The court was hearing a petition moved by a transgender student Delhi University after the police refused to lodge a sexual harassment case against one of her male classmates citing ‘lack of an appropriate penal section’.

Debayan Roy | News18

Updated:December 24, 2018, 11:55 PM IST
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Sexual Harassment Against Transgenders Now a Penal Offence, Says Delhi HC
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New Delhi: The Delhi Police has informed the Delhi High Court that all cases concerning sexual harassment against transgenders will now be registered under Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code which deals with "assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty."

The court was hearing a petition moved by a transgender student Delhi University after the police refused to lodge a sexual harassment case against one of her male classmates citing ‘lack of an appropriate penal section’. The police had stated that Section 354 only spoke about a woman and had no mention of any other gender.

A division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal during the hearing stated that post the Supreme Court's National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) verdict, the section 354A is gender neutral.

However, the Delhi Police has now informed the High Court through standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra that their direction to register cases of sexual harassment against transgender people is in pursuance to the landmark NALSA verdict that declared transgender people to be a ‘third gender’.

The case comes close on the heels of the recently passed Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018, by the Lok Sabha, which has been criticised by the rights bodies as it denies equality to the transgender people in relation to sexual offences.

Under Section 354A, acts that cause penal action are sub clause (i) is physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; sub-clause (ii) is demand or request for sexual favours; and sub-clause (iv) is making sexually coloured remarks.

The Delhi Police has also informed the court that a complaint has now been lodged against the accused at the Rajouri Garden police station and has also affirmed that the fundamental rights granted under the Constitution of India "will be equally applicable to transgenders" and gave them the right to self-identification of their gender as male, female or third-gender.

The student has requested the court for anonymity and stated that there was a lacuna in the law as it was discriminatory towards the transgenders. The petition now stands dismissed.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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