top of page

PREVENTION OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE

Introduction

Sexual harassment[1] is defined as any form of discrimination that includes unwanted sexual attention. It can range from relatively little offences and annoyances to actual sexual abuse or sexual assault. Sexual harassment can affect anyone of either gender, and anyone of either gender can be a perpetrator. Sexual harassment also involves coworker activity that is verbally or physically harassing and has the potential to humiliate or embarrass an employee or the firm.

The Indian Preventative of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act requires every business to identify its sexual harassment policies, preventative systems, processes, and service regulations for its employees. According to recent reports, the number of occurrences of sexual harassment at work has increased. In addition, the number of women in the business world reporting such serious instances is growing. Such workplace situations can be stressful for both individuals and the entire firm.

Such actions have negative physical and emotional consequences. It has a negative impact on staff productivity and creates an uncomfortable environment. Performing routine activities at work might be challenging at times. By ensuring that all employees receive the essential PoSH training, a safe working environment may be ensured.


How did the PoSH Act come about?

The Vishaka Guidelines, which were established by the Supreme Court in a 1997 judgement, were enlarged and given legislative support by the 2013 statute. The case was brought by women's rights organisations, including Vishaka, in response to the alleged gang rape of Bhanwari Devi, a social worker from Rajasthan. Bhanwari was allegedly gang raped as revenge for opposing the marriage of a one-year-old baby girl in 1992.

The Vishaka Guidelines defined sexual harassment and imposed on institutions three key obligations: prohibition, prevention, and reparation. The Supreme Court ordered that a Complaints Committee be formed to investigate allegations of sexual harassment of women in the workplace. The rules were rendered legally binding by the court.

What constitutes sexual harassment under the PoSH Act?

Sexual harassment, according to the 2013 law, covers "any one or more" of the following "unwelcome acts or behaviour" perpetrated directly or indirectly:

  • Advancement and physical interaction,

  • A solicitation or demand for sexual favours,

  • Remarks of a sexual nature,

  • Displaying pornography,

  • Any other unwanted sexual physical, verbal, or nonverbal activity.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development's 'Handbook on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace' includes more extensive examples of workplace sexual harassment activity. These circumstances broadly include:

  • Sexually suggestive or innuendo remarks; serious or frequent offensive remarks; inappropriate queries or comments concerning a person's sex life;

  • Sexist or offensive images, posters, MMS, SMS, WhatsApp, or emails;

  • Threats, intimidation, and blackmail in exchange for sexual favours;

  • Threats, intimidation, or reprisal against an employee who raises concerns about these issues;

  • Unwanted social invites with sexual implications, frequently seen as flirtation; and unwanted sexual advances.

According to the Handbook, "unwelcome behaviour" occurs when the victim feels bad or powerless, and it produces anger/ despair or low self-esteem. Unwanted behaviour is defined as "illegal, demeaning, invading, one-sided, and power-based."

Furthermore, the PoSH Act specifies five instances of sexual harassment:

  • Promise of special treatment in her workplace, implied or explicit;

  • The implied or outright threat of adverse treatment;

  • Threatening the complainant's current or future work status, either implicitly or explicitly;

  • Interfering with the complainant's job or producing a hostile or insulting work environment;

  • The complainant is subjected to humiliating treatment that is likely to jeopardise her health or safety.

What is the procedure for a complaint under the Act?

  • The aggrieved victim is not required to register a complaint in order for the ICC[2] to take action. The Act states that she "may" do so, and that if she cannot, any member of the ICC "shall" provide "all reasonable assistance" to her in filing a written complaint.

  • If the woman is unable to complain due to "physical or mental incapacity, death, or otherwise," her legal heir may.

  • The complaint must be filed "within three months of the date of the incident," according to the Act. However, the ICC has the authority to "extend the time limit" if "it is satisfied that the circumstances were such that the woman was unable to file a complaint within the said period."

  • The ICC "may" — provided that "no monetary settlement shall be made as a basis of conciliation" — "take steps to settle the matter between her and the respondent through conciliation" prior to inquiry.

  • The ICC may either refer the victim's complaint to the police or initiate an investigation that must be concluded within 90 days. The ICC has the same authorities as a civil court in terms of summoning and examining someone under oath, as well as mandating the discovery and production of documents.

  • When the investigation is over, the ICC must present the employer with a report on its findings within 10 days. Both parties must also have access to the report.

  • The identities of the woman, respondent, and witness, as well as any information regarding the investigation, recommendations, and actions taken, should not be made public.

What happens after the ICC has filed its report?

  • If the sexual harassment charges are proven, the ICC will advise the employer to take action "in accordance with the provisions of the service rules" of the company. These may differ from one company to the next.

  • The ICC may also suggest that the company withhold the person found guilty's wages "as it may deem appropriate." The compensation is determined by five factors: the woman's suffering and emotional distress; her loss of job potential; her medical expenses; the respondent's income and financial standing; and the feasibility of such payment.

  • If either the aggrieved woman or the respondent is not pleased, they have 90 days to file an appeal in court.


Conclusion

As of now, all these efforts are towards women empowerment and all these steps are taken for that. Also, the introduction of such acts and laws that are providing females as well as males with a feeling of security at workplace as well. Earlier, there was a lot of pressure on the students that their parents won't allow them for private job because of exploitation, but after this, the situations have changed now.

It's not specific for females, according to me, males are the victims of sexual harassment but less talked about. That is why all these laws are not supposed to be gender bias, I would totally agree that females need it more but the males in society also need it. It is very true that the majority of cases are by female victims, but we cannot ignore the other side as well.

At last, I would conclude by saying that it's not okay to go through unsafe environments just for your job's sake, all these technical processes are important because staying in quotes gives the other person courage to do it again. Maybe the result can be a slow process but it's a part of development, we should make our part better for faster development of these laws.

If the employer fails to follow the legislation, a punishment of Rs.50,000/- may be imposed. Employers who repeatedly fail to comply with the law may face double penalties. Noncompliance may also result in the termination, withdrawal, or non-renewal of a business licence by the government.


References [1] "Sexual harrasment" the act defines acts that includes physical contract, verbal request and showing of pornography, Legalservicesindia, https://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/2545/The-law-Against-Sexual-Harasment.html, 9 June 2023 [2] ICC- Internal Complaint Committee

15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page