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 in one way or another. Generally, we are aware of the road sideways 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 every day 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 the highest number of occurrences of sexual harassment and about 88% of women witnessed kinds of sexual harassment during their work tenure. Not only that, but the survey also reveals that many of them kept suffering due to ignorance, non-confidence, fear of disrepute wrongful termination 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 for 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 ambiance. Today, the internet is acting as a boon for people as it gives a tailor-made platform to find a right lawyer or get online legal advice on pertaining issues.
Act legislated to prevent sexual harassment at work-place
The terrifying incident in 1997 of the 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 true, beneficial for women as it emphasizes on promoting a safe and gender-friendly working of women. Moreover, any complaints within the organizations can be resolved through the 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, the complaint can be filed.
- It requires all workplaces to form 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. The period extension may be considered by the committee.
- If a victimized woman wants, she can settle the complaint by way of conciliation excluding settlement for monetary 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 the victim fails to prove her allegation.
- The best part, the identity of the victimized woman will not be disclosed to the media and publicized.
- It indulges organizations and employers to hold workshops/seminars and other kinds of awareness programs to make people/employees aware of the consequences of such actions in the respective work area. In other words, it is a way to give a secure working ambiance to their employees.
Sexual harassment at the workplace is an epidemic that is endemic in 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 of the definition of sexual harassment, organizational internal policies supporting the prevention of such acts and legal aids available to get apt legal advice. Moreover, he/she should develop the confidence to stand against violence and raise their voice at the right time. In case of dilemma/fear/hesitation, find the 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 the aforementioned act. This offense 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 workplaces. This first step will automatically change the perspective of people and prevent the uprising of such acts.