“The meaning and content of the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution of India are of sufficient amplitudes to encompass all facets of gender equality….” — Late Chief Justice J.S. Verma, Supreme Court of India, Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Workplace sexual harassment is an act or pattern of behavior that endangers the physical, emotional or financial security and safety of a working woman. Legally speaking, sexual harassment involves such unwanted sexual behaviors defined as:
- physical contact and advances;
- a request or request for sexual favors;
- sexual colour remarks;
- the emergence of pornography;
- any other verbal or non-verbal unwanted physical behaviour of a sexual nature.
Sexual harassment is also understood to have occurred if a victim has a reasonable sense of humiliation, and the problem of health and safety in her workplace.
Sexual harassment relates to inappropriate promises of rewards in exchange for sexual favors and sexual nature. Sexual harassment involves a range of actions from mild violations to sexual abuse or assault. Bullying can occur in many different social settings such as the workplace, home, school, church, etc. Harassers or victims can be of any gender.
Sexual Harassment at workplace
When it comes to sexual harassment at workplace it is mostly seen that the instances or cases involve women as the victim and men to be the culprits. Sexual harassment is a common problem affecting all women in this world, regardless of the profession they work in, but the justice system sleeps and therefore they do not fail. Not all women living in countries that have developed a legal system to face other problems, such as expulsion, ridicule, social pressure or promises of promotion, etc., which leave them speechless. Sexual harassment is about the prevalence of men over women and is used to remind women that they are weaker than men. In a society where violence against women is presented only to show the patriarchal value that acts in society, these values of men represent the greatest challenge in curbing sexual harassment. Studies have shown that 1 out of every 3 working women is affected by sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is rooted in cultural practices and is exacerbated by workplace power relations. If there is not enough emphasis on workplace awareness, legal changes are unlikely to be successful. Workplaces need to design their own comprehensive policies on how to deal with sexual harassment. Rather than squabbling the committees in court intervention together, a system and path of compensation should already have been created.
Remedies in India under statues
- Article 14 of the constitution identifies sexual harassment as a violation of the fundamental right of a woman to sex.
- Discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth is prohibited under Article 15.
- Under Article 21 which talks about right to life and live with dignity, sexual harassment is a violation of such right.
Indian Penal Code:
- Sections 292, 293 and 294 deal with obscenity
- Section 354 deals with the assault or criminal force on a woman with the intent on insulting his modesty
- Section 509 deals with words, gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman
- Criminal Law Act (edit), 2013, makes sexual stalking, harassment and other sexual offenses a crime under the Indian Penal Code.
The Supreme Court of India saw his ruling in 1997 (known as the Vishaka Guidelines), which was in response to a written petition. “Vishaka and others v. The State of Rajasthan“, through comprehensive judgment to address sexual harassment in the workplace. It was decreed that these directives of the Supreme Court would have the effect of law, until specific legislation was enacted.
Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986:
The Law on the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition), 1986, makes the indecent representation of women through books, photographs, paintings, films, brochures, packages, etc. a punishable offense. Section 7 of the law makes companies / organizations guilty if a case of indecent representation of women (such as pornography exposure) has occurred on the premises.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013:
The government introduced the 2013 Sexual Harassment Act on Women (Prevention, Prohibition and Correction), 2013, to enforce legal measures to combat sexual harassment. The law recognizes that sexual harassment violates a woman’s fundamental right to equality under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide protection against sexual harassment of women in the workplace. It also requires employers to provide procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment to employees by taking all necessary steps. The main provisions of the Act are as follows: Cover and Applicability Act covers the whole of India and applies to public and private, organized and unorganized sectors, where domestic workers, clients, customers, apprentices and daily workers are employed.
Workplace sexual harassment is common in India and there is a need for a positive environment for the female workers. The government needs to draft separate laws dealing with this issue. It should also be realized that female workers are also a part of the working population in India and that it is the government’s duty to provide them with safety at work. New strategies must be made by employers and managers to protect the organization against this evil. The government and employers must ensure that women are treated equally and that gender discrimination should not occur in the workplace. Effective policy implementation can minimize the manifestation and mutilation of sexual harassment. One organization can change their approach to sexual harassment by considering the tactics of other organizations. This will reduce or eliminate errors caused by this harmful offense. The government must understand that separate laws do not bring about gender equality, but a law that addresses sexual harassment would provide women with tremendous support in their struggle. In the end, we want to say that women should not accept anything as it is, because now is the time to speak out against all the injustice they have done.
Edited by Pushpamrita Roy
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
Paludi, Michele A.; Barickman, Richard B. (1991). “Definitions and incidence of academic and workplace sexual harassment”. Academic and workplace sexual harassment: a resource manual. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. pp. 2–5. ISBN 9780791408308.