Recently, there has been a huge uproar about sexual harassment of women at workplace including film and media industry, whereby a number of actors and journalists have raised their voice against the indecent or undesirable behavior or acts committed by other film actors and journalists against them.
This led to an announcement by the Minister for Women and Child Development in India, Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, to appoint committees that will look into the allegations of sexual harassment of women at workplace.
The committees may be constituted under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 as amended thereof (the Act). This Act is based on guidelines issued by the Supreme Court of India in Vishaka and others vs. State of Rajasthan and others 1997.
The Supreme Court in the said case of Vishaka and others vs. State of Rajasthan and others 1997, had laid down certain guidelines to be observed by all employers or other responsible persons at workplaces to ensure prevention of sexual harassment of women at workplaces and to preserve and enforce the right to gender equality of working women (Guidelines):
Duty of an employer to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to also provide for procedures for resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment includes unwelcomed sexually determined behavior such as physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favors, making sexually colored remarks, showing pornography, any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature (Sexual Harassment).
Immediate action to be taken by an employer against the offender and ensure that the victims or witnesses of Sexual Harassment incidents are not discriminated or mistreated and victimized.
Establishment of an appropriate complaint mechanism and complaints committee headed by a woman for redressal of complaints related to Sexual Harassment incidents at workplaces.
Such a complaint committee would have to prepare an annual report about the cases filed and disposed of pertaining to Sexual Harassment incidents at workplaces and submit the same to the concerned government department.
Awareness to be increased by employers regarding the rights of female employees and the Guidelines or law in that regard.
The Central/State Governments have to ensure that the Guidelines or law in that regard are followed by employers, etc.
The Act provides for protection against Sexual Harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of Sexual Harassment, etc:
Workplace- Any Government establishment and/or private sector enterprise, non-governmental organisation, hospital, sports institute, any other place visited by employee during course of employment including transportation provided by employer, a house or dwelling place would come under the purview of a workplace (Workplace).
Prevention- Apart from prevention of Sexual Harassment, the Act also provides for prevention of acts of promise of preferential treatment, threat of detrimental treatment, creation of intimidating or hostile work environment, etc.
Committee- The Act provides for setting up of an internal complaints committee by an employer, local complaints committee by Government in every district, etc where an aggrieved woman can file her complaints of Sexual Harassment at Workplace within 3 months of the date of incident, which may be extended by the committee concerned if they are satisfied that circumstances were such which prevented the aggrieved woman from filing the complaint.
Settlement or inquiry- The committee concerned may settle the matter, failing which, it may conduct an inquiry into the matter and/or register a case with the police.
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer