Women are still looked at from a medieval point of view, they are not spared on the road, not spared at a social gathering, and they are not even spared at workplace. It should be mentioned here that women are thought to be easy because they go to work and mingle with men, and thus starts the harassments. Sexual harassment at workplace is a very serious issue that needs to be dealt with an iron fist, and thankfully the Indian Law allows a woman to take things to light if in case something uncanny happens with her at the workplace.
At the very start it is important to realise that the recipient must by all means unwelcome the conduct of the person charged. The twist is that the
conduct will not be considered to be sexual harassment if it is welcomed. Courts would therefore look at the complainant’s reaction at the time of the incident and assess whether it was right for the complainant to file a complaint in the first place.
The Vishaka Guidelines
The Supreme Court has laid down the Vishaka Guidelines for employers that aimed towards preventing sexual harassment cases against women at workplace. The laws apply to all women, whether student or working both part time and full time. The guidelines say that the following sexual acts are acts of harassment according to law:
- Showing pornography
- A demand or request for sexual favours
- Physical, Verbal/Non Verbal Remarks – whistling, obscene jokes, comments on physical appearance, threats, innuendos, and gender based derogatory remarks, etc.
The guidelines suggest:
- Employers should form a complaints committee
- Make employees aware of the laws and restrict harassment in any form
- Prohibition of sexual harassment in the standing orders under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 to be included by private employers.
- Ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women
- Harassment victims have the option to suggest their own transfer or the transfer of their perpetrator.
Sexual Harassment Laws and Provisions
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 sought to widen the scope of the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court by bringing in many other factors, and these include:
Sec 2e – includes a domestic worker
Sec 2n – includes the following unwelcome acts that says, physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography, unwelcome physical, verbal, or non verbal conduct of sexual nature. Also, implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment, implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment, implied or explicit threat about present or future employment status, interference with work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment; or humiliating treatment likely to affect health or safety.
Sec 2f – defines “aggrieved woman”, includes regular, temporary, ad hoc, daily wage employees and persons who are working on a voluntary basis i.e. without remuneration. The term also includes contract workers, probationers, and trainees.
Sec 2a – in relation to a workplace, a woman, of any age whether employed or not, who alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment by the respondent, and in relation to a dwelling place or house, a woman of any age who is employed in such a dwelling place or house.
Sec 2o – department, organisation, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, branch or unit which is established, owned, controlled or wholly or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government or the local authority or a Government company or a corporation or a co-operative society, any private sector organisation or a private venture, undertaking, enterprise, institution, establishment, society, trust, non-governmental organisation, unit or service provider carrying on commercial, professional, vocational, educational, entertainment, industrial, health services or financial activities including production, supply, sale, distribution or service; hospitals or nursing homes; any sports institute, stadium, sports complex or competition or games venue, whether residential or not used for training, sports or other activities relating thereto; any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation provided by the employer for undertaking such journey; a dwelling place or a house.
The Complaint Process against Women Sexual Harassment
The complaint process has five steps, and they are as follows:
A written complaint should be given by the aggrieved woman within three months of the date of incident. Time limit could be extended under certain circumstances.
Upon receipt of the complaint, the ICC(Internal Complaints Committe within organisation) or LCC(Local Complaints Committe at District Level) must proceed to make an inquiry in accordance with the service rules applicable to the respondent or in their absence, in accordance with rules framed under the Act.
Inquiry should be completed within a period of 90 days and if it is a complaint from a domestic worker then the LCC is required to forward the complaint to the police to register a case under the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
If the accusations prove to be true then the LCC must submit a report to the employer, so that the employer can take action for sexual harassment as a misconduct in accordance with the provisions of the applicable service rules or where no service rules exist, in accordance with rules framed under the Act; and to deduct from the salary or wages of the respondent, a sum that it may consider appropriate to be paid to the aggrieved woman or to her legal heirs.
The laws must be utilized in the most effective manner for the betterment of women and their safety.