Does harassment start only after a touch?

Our societies are becoming fast-paced in learning about abuses. Inappropriate behaviours are experienced and responded against. The concepts of harassment are learnt and fed to children through teaching materials. Despite this progress, what constitutes an inappropriate gesture, still remains an area not explored adequately. Much of our understanding and legislative actions fail to consider that even a non-physical motion may amount to harassment. 

What is harassment anyway? It is a feeling of inferiority borne out of someone’s direct or indirect, intended or unconscious, but a positive action that is disagreeable to the victim in the given context. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines harassment as “the act of annoying or worrying somebody by putting pressure on them or saying or doing unpleasant things to them.” All definitions of harassment endorse the act being derogatory, degrading, offensive, unfavorable to, or causing humiliation or effecting a lowered self-esteem in the receiver.

By these definitions, even the uncomfortable glances our bodies are made to receive in order to make us feel uncomfortable and mark us differently from the crowd are a kind of harassment. While unintentional harassers are subject to education and awareness rather than punishment, intentional ones are just bad influences in the community that need to be taught a lesson regarding respect of human entities.

Does abuse start only after a certain kind of physical contact? Are there other ways a person can contribute to the harassment of their fellow humans? If yes, what are the issues that constitute an offensive act but are not generally registered in human conscience as such? Does our law offer enough scope of retaliation against such acts?

Scope of Harassment

Harassment can be found in a range of types like:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse
  • Child Abuse
  • Workplace Violence or Harassment
  • Civil Harassment
  • Criminal Harassment
  • Cyberbullying or Cyberstalking

and in a number of forms like:

  • Verbal Harassment
  • Physical Harassment
  • Conduct-Related Harassment
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Psychological Harassment
  • Discriminatory Harassment (race, gender, religion, age, disability-based, sexual-orientation)
  • Power Harassment
  • Quid Pro Quo Harassment
  • Retaliation Harassment

Among these wide varieties of ways in which a person can cause damage to another individual’s person, the abusive and prying stares can very justifiably be included within ‘conduct-related’ harassment.

The Harms They Cause

These seemingly minor inconveniences nevertheless should be subjected to severe and effective consequences as harassment issues have pervaded the personal boundaries and securities making life hard to bear.

Most of the time, we tend to undermine the magnitude of abusive gestures. One simple action of an abuser may have the potential to trigger inferiority in confidence which may scar a person for life. Such impacts are often reflected in the education, career paths, vigour in work, family life, conscientiousness and impede overall progressive steps in the life of the harassed.

Mental illnesses like PTSD, depression, anxiety, panic attacks leading to weakening physical health and demoralised spirit in all walks of life are the terrible consequences borne by the victims.

International and Foreign Inclusivity 

  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) provides a statement which reads, ”the victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.” This re-definition has introduced one more tier of victims as a consequence of the same act. 
  • The Indian Penal Code in its chapter of ‘Criminal Intimidation, Insult and Annoyance’ mentions multiple provisions that state causing alarm, hurt and annoyance to someone through words, gestures or any misconduct as criminal offences.
  • The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 of Australia has defined sexual harassment as “an unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.”

Legislations around the globe are more focused on pronouncing tangibly visible misconducts (mostly against women) as mistreatments, meanwhile creating an option for harassment of an abstract nature to let pass. While many of these provisions can be interpreted in ways to hold the abuser accountable, lack of clear and specific definitions for abstract-natured offences and difficulty in ascertaining the offences in a procedural stream are only motivating more of such offences. 

Status of Nepalese Legislation

Nepal has made significant progress in development of anti-harassment laws compared to the background it has its roots in. However the legislations still do not seem sufficient for the issue this blog is trying to turn heads towards.

The preamble of the ‘Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention Act) 2071’ talks of prevention of sexual harassment in workplaces safeguarding the right of every person to work in a safe, fair and ‘dignified’ environment. The term ‘dignified’ should be interpreted to mean a person is free from even the interfering stares and other facial expressions. 

The punishment provision of the same act has opened a possibility of reconciliation that has a higher chance of repressing the victim’s courage to take a stand. And on top of that, if the initial adjudicating authority, the ‘Chief of the Workplace’, fails to take any action, the stipulated next resort, the ‘Chief District Officer’, is allowed to receive the complaint only until 15 more days.

The verdict in the case of Advocate Sharmila Parajuli v. Nepal Government 2060, ‘conduct related’ sexual harassment has also been recognized as a form of harassment. If beneficially interpreted, the decision will run its course in providing justice.

Most laws addressing harassment are limited to a context-based harassment and completely ignore the generic harassment that has been so normalised everywhere around us.


The perpetrators of harassment may not always mean annoyance. The harassment may not always be of a sexual nature. The victim may not always be a woman. And the nuisance may not always be express and audible. 

Every person is born and built differently. We have our own set of characteristics. No naturally-occuring quality should be made a subject of humiliation or disrespectful demeanour.

We should more consciously teach ourselves and others to honour each of our personal territories and not intervene when it causes us inconvenience.

4 thoughts on “Does harassment start only after a touch?”

  1. Минимум потребляемых калорий, в том числе вредных.Сразу понятно, чтобы похудеть на 20 кг, придется в течение 20 дней отдавать предпочтение самым низкокалорийным продуктам с максимальным содержанием минералов и витаминов , которые нормализуют метаболизм и дадут достаточный энергетический запас на весь день.Разрешенные продукты. как пишется минет
    Специально для диеты минус 20 кг составили список из 15 продуктов из области диетического питания, которые не только низкокалорийные, но и имеют максимальную пищевую ценность и пользу, ведь диета, чтобы быстро похудеть, это преимущественно сбалансированное питание , которое тормозит рост жировых складок и ускоряет процессы снижения веса.Брокколи не только богатый минералами, витаминами, фолиевой кислотой и ?-каротином диетический продукт, но и прекрасная профилактика атеросклероза , подагры и новообразований в кишечнике , молочных железах.

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