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Sexual Harassment at Workplace

By Bhavneet Vohra June 29, 2016


Background

Although Sexual Harassment is an old concept but it gained momentum and popularity in India in the 20th Century.

Vishakha v State of Rajasthan

This case forms the base and lays the foundation of the Sexual Harassment Laws in India. This case recognized that fundamental rights of women under Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India were violated by the Sexual harassment at workplace. The 12 point guidelines known as the “Vishakha Guidelines” were laid down, which was made applicable to all employers and institutions.

In the year 2013, THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION AND REDRESSAL) ACT AND RULES came into picture, where these guidelines form the essence of the Act.

THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION AND REDRESSAL) ACT AND RULES, 2013

What constitutes Sexual Harassment?

Section 2(n) of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act defines the term ‘Sexual Harassment’. According to this section, sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by implication) namely:

  1. Physical contact and advances
  2. Demand or request for sexual favours
  3. Making sexually coloured remarks
  4. Showing pornography
  5. Any other unwelcome, verbal or non verbal conduct of sexual nature

 Steps to institute a complaint against sexual harassment at workplace?

  1. Who can file a complaint?
  2. How to file a complaint?

Section 9 of the Act lays down the Steps for ‘Complaint of sexual harassment’. According to this section:

The following people can file a complaint:

  • An aggrieved woman on her own (Section 2(a))
  • An aggrieved woman with the assistance of any member from ICC (Internal Complaints Committee)
  • The legal heir or any person, as prescribed, on behalf of the aggrieved woman, where she is not in a condition to make the complaint herself due to physical or mental incapacity, or her death.

Rule 6 also specifies the persons who have the authority to file a complaint on behalf of the aggrieved woman.

Sexual Harassment Act does not describe any specified format to file a complaint. According to Section 9: It is ideal to file a complaint within three months by the aggrieved women from the date of the incident of sexual harassment occurred. If the complaint of harassment consists of a series of incidents, then three months can be calculated from the date of last occurrence of such incidents.

Obligations of the employer under the Act

According to Section 4(1) in Chapter 2- Every employer of a workplace, shall by an order in writing, constitute a Committee to be known as the “Internal Complaints Committee.”

Apart from the above, IPC makes available certain relevant provisions that can be applicable to Sexual Harassment-

  • Section 294
  • Section 354
  • Section 509

Section 19 of the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013 defines the duties of an employer.

  1. PROVIDE SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT

The environment should be safe working and it also includes the persons coming in the contact of the workplace.

  1. DISPLAY OF PENAL CONSEQUENCES AT CONSPICIOUS PLACE

The notice should be noticeable to all the employees and it should also contain the order by the Internal Committee Section 4(1).

  1. ORGANIZE WORKSHOPS AND AWARENES PROGRAMMES

It should be organized at regular intervals to sensitize the employees with the provisions of the act.

  1. PROVISION OF NECESSARY FACILITIES

ICC AND LCC (Local Complaint Committee) should be provided with necessary facilities to deal with the complaint and to conduct an inquiry.

  1. PROVIDE ASSISTANCE IN SECURING ATTENDANCE

In order to secure attendance of respondent and witnesses before the ICC and LCC, it requires assistance.

  1. AVAILABILITY OF NECESSARY INFORMATION TO THE ICC OR LCC

Information related to the complaint should be made available.

  1. PROVIDE ASSISTANCE TO THE WOMEN

Assistance to be provided to the aggrieved woman if she is willing to file complaint under IPC or any other law.

  1. INITIATE ACTION AGAINST THE PERPETRATOR WHO IS NOT AN EMPLOYEE

If the aggrieved women desires to take action under the IPC against the perpetrator who is not an employee at the workplace where the sexual harassment took place.

  1. TREAT SEXUAL HARASSMENT AS A MISCONDUCT

J.    MONITOR THE TIMELY SUBMISSION OF THE REPORTS.

Procedure for inquiry of a Sexual Harassment Complaint

If we look through the act the inquiry and investigation is present in parts in almost in the whole Act but the majority of it, is included under the Chapter 5. So some of the salient features related to the Inquiry and Investigation are as follows:

  1. The ICC and LCC can initiate to settle the matter between the parties through conciliation, but provided that there is no monetary settlement. (SECTION 10 CHAPTER 4)
  2. In some circumstances and in certain cases, the ICC and LCC acquire the authority and powers that are similar to that of a Civil Court. (SECTION 11(3), CHAPTER 4)
  3. Temporary leave can be provided to the aggrieved woman in the form of an Interim action by the ICC and LCC.
  4. It is necessary to file an INQUIRY REPORT by the ICC and LCC upon completion of the inquiry.
  5. The ICC and LCC have the full authority and jurisdiction to punish a malicious or false complaint. (SECTION 14 CHAPTER 5)

 

Conclusion

Since the Sexual Harassment Act had come into existence in the year 2013 and its been only three years passed, not much can be reported about its implementation in the reality field. But since the society and the laws in India do not acknowledge the harassment against men, which does not imply that no crimes exist against men in India. Hence, it is necessary to adopt the gender neutral approach so that every individual can be protected against the humiliation without any discrimination.

Sources:

http://www.mylaw.net/VirtualClassroom/Free_MOOC_on_Prevention_of_Sexual_Harassment_at_the_Workplace/

http://www.mondaq.com/india/x/238076/Discrimination+Disability+Sexual+Harassment/Indias+New+Labour+Law+Prevention+Of+Sexual+Harassment+At+The+Workplace

Image Source: http://www.hrovercoffee.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Sexual-harassment-021.jpg

Author- Bhavneet Singh Vohra

Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies

Tags: sexual , harassment , gender , sex , workplace , discrimination , vishakha guidelines , employer , work , office , equality , gender neutral , Vishakha v State of Rajasthan , Section 2(n) , Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act , Section 9 , Section 19


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