All you need to know about sexual harassment at workplaces
Our country is being run by corporations. All these corporations/legal entities i.e.from schools to big MNCs, the government offices are places where women work and the number of working women at such places has been increasing greatly. At such places we are still bound by the legacy where women are treated secondary to man. Well true, however with the technological revolution and social change, women have been recognized equal to men. To change the basic mindset of public at large there is always necessity for the system to change and people to adapt to such change. There are many social evils in our country i.e. dowry system, racism etc. but we shall discuss those one by one.
Today we shall discuss sexual harassment at workplaces in India, and for that we must know a bit of history. Well according to the Protection of Human Right Act, 1993 “human rights” means the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India. It is necessary and expedient for employers in work places as well as other responsible persons or institutions to observe certain guidelines to ensure the prevention of sexual harassment of women as to live with dignity is a human right guaranteed by our constitution.
Previsouly Sexual harassment has been termed as “Eve teasing” and is described as: unwelcome sexual gesture or behavior whether directly or indirectly as sexually colored remarks; physical contact and advances; showing pornography; a demand or request for sexual favors; any other unwelcome physical, verbal/non-verbal conduct being sexual in nature. The critical factor is the un-welcomed behavior, thereby making the impact of such actions on the recipient more relevant rather than intent of the perpetrator.
The Indian Constitution(soul of each every law in India) make sexual harassment an infringement of the fundamental right of a woman to gender equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and live with dignity under Article 21. Although there used to be no specific law against sexual harassment at workplace in India but many provisions in other legislations protect against sexual harassment at workplace, such as Section 354 IPC deals with “assault or criminal force to a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty, and Section 509, IPC deals with “word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.
What is sexual harassment?
Our own supreme court in Vishaka Vs. State of Rajasthan and others 1997, has observed for the first time and has defined the sexual harassment as an unwelcome sexual gesture or behaviour whether directly or indirectly as
1. Sexually colored remarks
2. Physical contact and advances
3. Showing pornography
4. A demand or request for sexual favors
5. Any other unwelcome physical, verbal/non-verbal conduct being sexual in nature.
It was Vishaka Vs. State of Rajasthan case that the sexual harassment was identified as a separate illegal behaviour. The most important factor in sexual harassment cases is the UN-welcomeness of the behaviour of the accused. Thereby making such actions on the recipient more relevant rather than mens rea (intent) of the culprit.
Such conduct of of may create apprehension in the mind of the female employees in the organization( i.e. government, private or public enterprises) that they will be the victims of sexual harassment and thereby creating fear in the minds of women at such workplaces. The employer may also extend threats to the female employees regarding their transfer, promotion etc. and it has been seen in the corporates that the employer do ask for some kind of favour in order to give the job, transfer or promotion or for that matter in order to increase their salary. Concisely all that is done against the will of the female employee amounts to Sexual Harassment and the employees who are in need might agree to the illegal terms of the employer.
Thereafter the government legislated the Sexual Harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act 2013.
DUTIES OF THE CORPORATIONS
All the corporations where the number of employees exceeds 10, have to form an internal complaint committee. Such committee should have one senior female employee, Two members from existing employees and one member from an NGO.
An endevour should be made by the corporations to make the workplace female friendly.
How and where to file a case and procedure ?
- The complaint must be filed within 3 months of the incident.
- A further period of three months may be extended.
- A legal heir can make the complaint on behalf of the women in case of physical/mental capacity, death or otherwise.
- If both parties are employees, an opportunity of being heard must be given to both and a copy of findings must be made available to both parties.
- Complainant can ask for the transfer of herself or the respondent/ 3 months leave or other relief.
Role of police
In cases of molestation, sexual harassment, eve teasing etc, the complainant/aggrieved person may also approach local police whereupon depending on the allegations the police may register FIR against the culprits under sections 354, 354A, 354B, 354C, 354D and section 509 IPC.
Police shall investigate the case. It should be noted that police also have power to arrest the culprits in such cases.
A Civil suit can also be filed against the opposite party for damages under law of torts. Which means, the basis for filing the case would be mental anguish, physical harassment, loss of income and employment caused by the acts sexual harassment.