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Indian court says calling unknown woman ‘darling’ is sexual harassment

The man reportedly asked a woman constable in Hindi: ‘Darling, have you come to impose a fine?’

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Tuesday 05 March 2024 06:32 GMT
FILE: New campaign to stop sexual harassment on transport

A court in India observed that using the word "darling" to refer to an unknown woman would amount to sexual harassment and would be punishable under Indian laws.

Justice Jay Sengupta at the Calcutta high court on Friday held that the word "darling" had sexual connotations and the Indian society does not permit a man to "gleefully" use such expression to address "unacquainted women".

A single bench of Justice Sengupta was hearing an appeal, in which a man – allegedly inebriated – had been accused of calling a woman constable "darling" nine years ago.

The incident took place in the picturesque Andaman Islands in October 2015, when a team of local police deployed to maintain law and order detained Janak Ram for creating a ruckus.

Ram reportedly asked a woman constable in the Hindi language: "Darling, have you come to impose a fine?"

The prosecution presented 11 witnesses, who corroborated the woman's account throughout the legal proceedings.

"Addressing an unknown lady, whether a police constable or not, on the street by a man, drunken or not, with the word 'darling' is patently offensive, and the word used is essentially a sexually coloured remark," the judge noted, according to India Today.

The defence argued that the words used by Ram were intended as a joke and that the word "darling" was commonly used in Indian society without any sexual undertones. The defendant also claimed there was no proof of him being drunk during the incident.

The court responded saying: "If this was done in a sober state, the gravity of the offence would perhaps be even more."

The court found the use of the contentious word towards unknown women to be a criminal offence under Sections 354A (outraging modesty of a woman) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the IPC.

The court reduced Ram’s jail term to one month after observing that he did not “aggravate” the offence and stopped after uttering the words.

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