What actions can be considered as molestation of women?

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The United Nations declaration on the elimination of violence against women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”Sexual violence, on the other hand, is specifically defined as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, or other act directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting. It includes rape, attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching and other non-contact forms”. 

The estimates published by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that 1 in 3 women comprising 30% of the women worldwide have been subjected to either physical or sexual violence, either partner violence or non-partner violence in their lifetime.This is a staggering census, and much impetus is on the enforcement of strict laws against sexual violence.

UAE Laws governing molestation:

The UAE laws pertaining to sexual harassment are codified in Federal law number 3 of 1987, promulgating the penal code and its amendments (UAE Penal Code) which provide the provisions governing sexual harassment.

The UAE penal code provides a broad definition for sexual harassment as, ‘Sexual harassment shall mean excessive annoyance of others by repeating acts, words or signals that would molest them, for the purpose of pushing them to respond to their own sexual desires or the desires of others.’ (Article 359 bis).

The UAE Penal Code defines molestation as an indecent act either by words or actions in a public road or in a frequented place and imposes a penalty for molestation as one-year Imprisonment and /or a fine of ten thousand dirhams.

Article 359 (1) states, ‘Imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding ten thousand Dirhams or one of said two penalties shall be imposed on whoever molests a female in an indecent way by words or acts on a public road or in a much-frequented place. The same penalty shall be imposed on any male, disguised in female apparel, who enters a place reserved for women or where entry is forbidden for other than women. Should he perpetrate a crime in this condition, this shall be considered an aggravating circumstance.’

Sexual abuse can take many forms and manners; it can be touching of a victim in a sexual matter or forcing a victim the perpetrator in a sexual manner to or even forcing a victim to look at sexual body parts of the perpetrator or otherwise or forcing the victim to watch sexual activity. The keyword in all such circumstances is the concept of ‘Consent‘. Such consent should be mutual, voluntary, sober, honest and informed. Such consent should not be vitiated due to minority of age or any other factors, and further, it should not be in breach of any existing laws or rules.

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