WHAT IS POSH ACT (2013)?
Protection of women from sexual harassment, 2013 is a legislation enacted by the GOVERNMENT OF INDIA in 2013 to address the issue of SEXUAL harassment faced by women in the workplace.
HOW THE POSH ACT CAME IN PICTURE:-
The Supreme Court in a landmark in the VISHAKHA and others V STATE OF RAJASTHAN 1997 case gave “Vishakha guidelines”. These guidelines were responsible for the formation of the basics of the HARRASMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (prevention, prohibition and Redressal) ACT, 2013. The supreme court drew its strength from several provisions of Article 15 of Indian constitution (against discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth), also drawing from relevant international conventions and norms such as the GENERAL RECCOMENDATIONS OF THE CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (CEDAW), which India ratified in 1993.
The POSH ACT has taken the conventional aspects of equality of women in the workplace, gender–specific violence, and unwelcome sexually coloured behaviour. The POSH ACT was the exact need of the hour to bring the safety of women from any form of misbehaviour at the workplace.
IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS UNDER POSH ACT
This act highlighted the term SEXUAL HARASSMENT in a very elusive manner. The POSH defines sexual harassment under SECTION 2(n)
Definition of sexual harassment:- under the 2013 law, sexual harassment includes “any one or
more” of the following “unwelcome acts or behaviour” committed directly or by implication:-
1. Physical contact and advances
2. A demand or request for sexual favours
3. Sexually coloured remarks
4. Any other unwelcome physical, verbal, or non–verbal conduct of a sexual nature
This act primarily focuses on creating a safe and conclusive work environment for women and providing protection against sexual harassment.
Under section 2(f). the act defines employees broadly to include regular, temporary, and ad hoc employees. An employee is an individual who is engaged in a daily wage position, either directly or indirectly through an agent, a co-worker, etc. whether on a voluntary basis or on terms of employment.
In section 2(o) of the act, A workplace refers to any place visited by any employee as part of his or her employment, including any transportation provided by the employer for travelling to and from work. POSH ACT introduces an extended workplace. Not necessarily the office but also the works of employees outside the office which is part of the employment.
WHY IT IS IN THE NEWS?
Recently in the judgement of the Supreme Court, SC called out the lacunae in the constitution of ICC, citing a newspaper report that 16 out of 30 national sports federations in the country had not constituted an ICC to date. This report was generated in the WRESTLER’S PROTEST IN DELHI against Wrestling Federation of India head Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged acts of sexual harassment. It was pointed out that ICC had an inadequate number of members or they lacked a mandatory external member.
SOME DRAWBACKS OF THE ACT
Gender neutrality- in section 3 of the act it is stated that the harassment of women is prohibited at her workplace, this excludes the men and LGBTQ+ from lodging a complaint. So this act is biased only towards women, cause women have been disadvantaged during past historical times.
Threats of retaliation:- the majority of victims do not raise their voices because of the fear of retaliation by the harasser or the organization. They fear if they file complaints against senior employees they might lose their job or they have the fear of social stigma.
Compliance and governmental scrutiny:- the govt is responsible for keeping track of the cases of sexual harassment and their disposal at the workplace so the grey areas can be identified and highlight those that need further investigation. But the failure of govt in their objective makes the law less efficient.
Under the act, the limitation period for filing a complaint with the IC is three months from the date of the incident. This leads to many people avoiding themselves to bring up the issue as the procedure is very much time taking and lengthy because in the meantime the social stigma can affect the victim’s reputation in society, the workplace etc. and if a complaint is filed after three months for example 10 months, it is barred and not filed.
Monetary penalty:- In case sexual harassment has been proved, the criteria for determining a monetary penalty under the POSH Act remains vague and unclear POSH Act does not include any female who is already governed by the Supreme Court service regulation. Any harassment against the judges of high courts and supreme courts cannot be dealt with by POSH ACT, 2013.
Limited recourse for women in the informal sector:- the victims feel that they would be better off not participating in a lengthy legal process that sometimes fails to provide favouring results.
HOW THE ACT PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT?
A safe environment is one in which the employee feels comfortable, secure, and at ease when it comes to both their physical and emotional safety. The POSH ACT requires all companies to implement a set of measures to prevent, prohibit, and address workplace sexual harassment.
Assumptions and confusion arose as a result of legislation as to what is included in harassment and what is not included. For example- Does asking someone for lunch also constitute harassment? The POSH Act holds companies accountable for ensuring the workplace is safe for their employees. The act is not only for the employees but also for the non-employees who can access the workplace.
The POSH ACT establishes an internal committee in each business which has more than 10 employees. And that committee is responsible for hearing and resolving complaints about sexual harassment in the workplace. Still, a question arises what about the women working in other workplaces, other than the
workplaces having 10 employees? POSH Act also makes it mandatory for the establishment of a local committee (LC) in each district that hears and resolves sexual harassment complaints from companies with less than ten employees. What about the employer, what if the employer itself is involved? The local committee looks after the complaints against the employer of the workplace.
Within 90 days the IC/LC is obligated to undertake an investigation into every allegation of the victim, this ensures the full working of the committee and checking its shortcomings. The IC/LC submits a report according to the findings. If the accusations are proven, the accused is disciplined by the employer or the district officer. This working procedure of the POSH act enables the creation of a safer environment. This sends a very strong message that harassment will not be tolerated and reinforces the importance of respect and dignity in the workplace.
AN INCLUSIVE WORKPLACE?
An inclusive environment is a place where everyone feels valued, heard, and respected regardless of their background, status, or beliefs. One of the main advantages of the POSH Act is that it is responsible for the establishment of an inclusive workplace. By the POSH Act, the employees are assured that the workspace they work in is free from all forms of sexual harassment. This directly leads to the better working of an individual as an employee as they feel more confident, and comfortable and are definitely motivated to perform at their best. This encourages women to actively participate in the workforce which also leads to better gender representation across all levels of the organization.
POSH ACT also encourages open communication, embracement of diversities, and practice of inclusivity in decision-making processes in addition to open-mindedness, empathy, and a commitment to create a space where everyone feels welcomed and appreciated. The committee that is formed either in the organization (IC) or in the district (LC) actively listens to all the victims, looks for different viewpoints and then only goes for any kind of decision.
DOES THIS LEAD FOR A RESPECTFUL LIFE FOR WOMEN?
A respectful workplace is the type of environment where every woman/employee is valued, treated with dignity and given fair treatment. The POSH BEHAVIOUR is practised with genuine consideration and respect for others, which ultimately leads to a respectful life. under the POSH ACT, the people understand the provisions of the act and one’s rights and responsibilities within the workplace. this leads to a respectful workplace for women as the act promotes respect, equality, and zero tolerance for harassment of any kind. They live a fearless life with respect to their security at the workplace. There is a right for women to feel empowered and speak up on the issue. The manager, IC/LC, support groups support the employee and encourage them to live a fearless life in matters of retaliation. The POSH Act emphasizes on manners, politeness, and a respectful attitude towards women in conversations, interactions, and social situations.
PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT FOR EMPLOYEES
POSH Act entails on maintaining a high level of politeness, etiquette and professionalism. It helps in creating a professional environment by fostering respect, basic courtesy and proper communication among individuals. This boosts the level of confidence in the women/employees that ultimately work for the betterment of the results of the organisation and the betterment of their own self. Professionalism is promoted through this act as it also promotes the sense of respect for all the employees of the organisation and safeguards their security at all levels of society as well as in workplaces.
Frequently asked questions about The Posh Act...
Question: What is the primary objective of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act?
Answer: The main goal of POSH is to create a safe and secure working environment by preventing and redressing sexual harassment incidents at the workplace.
Question: How can organizations foster awareness about sexual harassment prevention among employees?
Answer: Employers can conduct regular training programs, workshops, and awareness campaigns to educate employees about the types of harassment, reporting procedures, and the importance of maintaining a respectful workplace culture.
Question: What role does the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) play in addressing sexual harassment cases?
Answer: The ICC is responsible for impartially investigating complaints, recommending action, and ensuring a fair resolution. It serves as a crucial internal mechanism for handling sexual harassment cases in organizations.
Question: Are there specific measures organizations should take to address online or digital sexual harassment under POSH?
Answer: Yes, organisations should extend their policies to cover online harassment, establish guidelines for digital communication, and provide awareness on appropriate online behaviour to prevent and address instances of digital harassment.
Question: Can employees file anonymous complaints under POSH?
Answer: Yes, POSH allows for the filing of anonymous complaints to protect the identity of the complainant. However, providing detailed information can aid in a more effective investigation.