Sexual Harassment means an unwelcome sexual advancement, request for any kind of sexual favours or any other kind of sexual harassment. It may be in written, verbal or physical form which creates a hostile work environment for the woman. In 1992, a woman named Bhanwari Devi was raped near Jaipur. A NGO named Vishaka helped convict her rapists which led the Supreme Court pass a landmark judgment in the wake of sexual harassment at workplace where it passed several guidelines to be followed at an establishment (place of work of woman).
In 2013, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was enacted to implement the Supreme Court Guidelines effectively. It applies to women who are working as domestic workers, daily wagers, temporary or permanent, full-time or part-time, as well as volunteers.
What may come under Sexual Harassment?
- Sexually coloured remarks;
- Physical advances and contact;
- Showing pornography;
- Making demands or requests as to sexual favours;
- Any other verbal/physical/written conduct which is considered as sexual in nature.
Important Do(s) & Dont(s) for Organisations
- At all kinds of organisations, awareness should be created as to the guidelines on the rights of the women employees and orientation programs should be held;
- Organisations have to form an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each of their branches and offices having atleast 10 employees (it doesn’t matter whether you have a woman employee or not) and a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) when employees are less than 10;
- An organisation ought to have an anti-sexual harassment policy which meets all the requirements under the 2013 Act;
- Make changes in your employment contracts to make your employees for the acts of sexual harassment;
- Display notices at various visible places in your organisation as to the penal consequences of the sexual harassment at workplace and also the contact info of ICC;
- Organisations to file annual reports before the concerned government authorities, to report interim measures to the ICC or LCC taken against the sexual harassment;
- An organisation is obligated to assist the woman in filing a FIR;
- Provide necessary facilities to the ICC for carrying out their duties including a venue, furniture, stationery, internet, phone connections, company policies and manuals, securing attendance of the accused, etc;
- Identity of the woman, accused and witnesses should not be revealed to the public.
Process of making Complaint
- A woman should the complaint within 3 months of the incident (in case of multiple incidents, 3 months from the last one) before the ICC (date can be extended if ICC allows).
- She can also ask for transfer (hers or her perpetrator) or 3 month paid leave or any other relief for the time being.
- The inquiry has to be completed within 90 days of the complaint.
Statutory Law References
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
Vishaka & Others v. State of Rajasthan (1997) 6 SCC 241
Important Things to Remember
- A legal heir of the woman can also make the complaint;
- Even third parties including contractors, customers can file complain against sexual harassment at that concerned workplace;
- The Act does not save the women agricultural workers and women in armed forces;
- There is an option for settlement between the accused and the woman but only on the request of the woman. However, money cannot be the basis for settlement;
- In case of malicious complaints, action may be taken against the woman;
- Those who do not comply with the provisions of the Act may be fined upto Rs 50,000.