Sexual Harassment – an abominable truth in India
Have you ever noticed one important thing when you open your newspaper or TV news channel? Not even a single day passes without the disgusting news of sexual harassment on women by one way or another. Generally, we are aware about the road side ways of harassing women by way of vulgar remarks, wolf-whistles, eve-teasing, stalking or touching. This serious violence doesn’t even leave working women from its horizon. Rather, working women have to bear the sexual harassment at their workplaces everyday in varying forms like gender discrimination, sexual exploitation, gender inequality etc. which are covertly hideous as well as endemic.
A glimpse at Indian statistics on Sexual harassment at work-places
Indeed it is affecting Indian women and compels them to leave the job instead of taking a stand. A survey conducted by Reuters in 2010 revealed that India recorded highest number of occurrences of sexual harassment and about 88% of women witnessed kinds of sexual harassment during their work tenure. Not only that, the survey also reveals that many of them kept suffering their due to ignorance, non-confidence, fear of disrepute or professional victimization. On serious thought, it has been observed that in the past, not many provisions or acts on sexual harassment have been effectively brought into action by the victims or approached lawyers for related legal advice.
Legal remedies as available in India
First and foremost, the working women or men must get aware about the legal definition of Sexual Harassment which means unwanted sexually ascertained behavior or conduct in any of the following forms:-
- Physical contact i.e. grabbing, brushing, touching, pinching etc.
- A demand or request for sexual favors in exchange of work or any other benefits
- Sexually colored remarks
- Showcasing pornography directly/indirectly
- Any other physical, oral or non-verbal conduct/behavior of sexual nature.
In workplaces or offices, the general observation clarifies that there are two broad types of sexual harassment- sexual favors and unwelcoming or unbearable working ambience. Today, internet is acting as a boon for people as it gives a tailor-made platform to find a right lawyer or get an online legal advice on pertaining issues.
Act legislated to prevent sexual harassment at work-place
The terrifying incident in 1997 of brutal gang rape of a social worker in Rajasthan led the law enforcement bodies to enact a serious law to address the grievances pertaining to sexual harassment at work-place. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace(Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act, 2012 (a.k.a Vishaka guidelines) is providing protection to working women from tormenting acts of sexual harassment at their offices and Redressal of relating complaints. This act is indeed, beneficial for women as it emphasize on promoting a safe and gender friendly working of women. Moreover, any complaints within the organizations can be resolved through Redressal mechanism as prescribed in the Act. Let’s take a glance at how it is beneficial:-
- It is applicable to women only.
- Any act of sexual harassment during the course of employment or transportation, if provided by office is punishable under the Act and thus, complaint can be filed.
- It requires all workplaces to form an Internal Complaints committees and districts to set up Local Complaint Committee to address any such complaints.
- Complaint Filing can be made within 3 months of the incident. Period extension may be considered by the committee.
- If victimized woman wants, she can settle the complaint by way of conciliation excluding settlement for money compensation.
- The total time of completion of inquiry against complaint is 90 days.
- No relief towards woman/person if she files a malicious/fraud complaint. Though it doesn’t include cases where victim fails to prove her allegation.
- Best part, the identity of the victimized woman will not be disclosed to media and publicized.
- It indulges organizations and employers to hold workshops/seminars and other kind of awareness programs to make people/employees aware about the consequences of such actions in the respective work-area. In other words, it is a way to give secure working ambience to their employees.
Sexual harassment at workplace is an epidemic that is endemic in the society. It needs joint action & collaboration. Want to know how?
- Employers’ sincerity and sensitivity:
Employers must set-up policies regulating sexual harassment and formulate unbiased internal complaint committee to both addresses as well as redress such issues/grievances/complaints. It is extremely important for an employer to responsibly understand the sensitivity of the issue and sincerely make arrangements to prevent such incidents.
- Employees awareness and confidence:
An employee especially women must be aware about the definition of sexual harassment, organizational internal policies supporting the prevention of such acts and legal aids available to get apt legal advices. Moreover, he/she should develop confidence to stand against violence and raise their voice at right time. In case of dilemma/fear/hesitation, find a right lawyer or boutique law firms for seeking suitable advice.
- Colleagues understanding and timely support:
A responsible colleague is also a responsible citizen. He is morally liable to stop or prevent such abominable acts of sexual harassment, if it is happening around his/her proximity or in his/her workplace. His/her right call will be a blessing in disguise for the victim in more than one way.
- Society’s collective cooperation:
Many organizations fail to comply with the requirements of aforementioned act. This offence is not only defaming the whole business world but also India. Law enforcement bodies, collectors, administrators, citizens etc together should fight against it to make this place suitable for women to survive safely and with dignity.
The fact is that the Act is still new and is at its turning point. Organizations and employers have to take the initiative to eradicate sexual harassment from their work places. This first step will automatically change the perspective of people and prevent the uprising of such acts.
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