Sexual harassment is a common problem affecting all women in this world
irrespective of the profession that they are in, but legal system is sleeping
and so they fail in providing them security. It's not all, women living in those
countries having developed legal system faces other problems like being fired
out of work, ridiculed, societal pressure or promises of desired promotion, etc.
That makes them left with no words. Sexual harassment is about male dominance
over women and it is used to remind women that they are weaker than man. In a
society where violence against women is posed just to show the patriarchal value
operating in society, these values of men pose the greatest challenge in curbing
sexual harassment. Studies have shown that 1 out of every 3 working women are
touched by sexual harassment.
This statute superseded the Vishaka Guidelines for Prevention Of Sexual
Harassment (POSH) introduced by the Supreme Court (SC) of India. It was reported
by the International Labour Organization that very few Indian employers were
compliant to this statute.[failed verification] Most Indian employers have
not implemented the law despite the legal requirement that any workplace with
more than 10 employees need to implement it.
According to a FICCI-EY November 2015 report, 36% of Indian companies and 25%
among MNCs are not compliant with the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013. The
government has threatened to take stern action against employers who fail to
comply with this law.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment has been identified as a term which is difficult to define as
it involves a range of behaviors. Efforts have been made at both national and
international levels to define this term effectively. Often, the term is
subjected to different interpretations. Some believe that it is better not to
mingle with female colleagues so that one does not get embroiled in a sexual
harassment complaint. The reality of sexual harassment incidents at the
workplace is that there is more to worry about under-reporting, than people
misusing the law.
In 1997, in the landmark judgment of Vishaka and others v. State of
Rajasthan, the Supreme Court of India defined sexual harassment at the
workplace, pronounced preventive, prohibitory and redress measures, and gave
directives towards a legislative mandate to the guidelines proposed.
Sexual Harassment includes many things:
- Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.
- Unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering or pinching.
- Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks or questions.
- Whistling at someone.
- Kissing sounds, howling and smacking lips.
- Touching an employee's clothing, hair or body.
- Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person.
Indian Constitution On Sexual Harassment:
Sexual harassment clearly violates the fundamental rights of a women to Equality
under Article 14 and Article 15, her right to life under Article 21,
and her right to practice any profession and carry on any occupation, trade or
business, which includes a Right to safe environment free from sexual
IPC on Sexual Harassment:
In 2013, substantial changes were made in the way sexual harassment was viewed
within the criminal justice system in India. The Criminal Law Amendment Act of
2013, which commenced on April 3, 2013, included Section 354A of the Indian
Penal Code, 1860 that defined sexual harassment.
The India Penal Code, 1860 has
also defined the term sexual harassment and related offences and put forth
punishments for the same:
- Section 354A - Sexual harassment is: unwelcome physical contact and advances, including unwanted and explicit sexual overtures, a demand or request for sexual favors, showing someone sexual images (pornography) without their consent, and making unwelcome sexual remarks
Punishment: Up to three years in prison, and a fine.
- Section 354B - Forcing a woman to undress.
Punishment: From three to seven years in prison, and a fine.
- Section 354C - Watching or capturing images of a woman without her consent (voyeurism).
Punishment: First conviction - one to three years in prison and a fine. More than conviction
- three to seven years in prison and a fine.
- Section 354D - Following a woman and contacting her or trying to contact her despite her saying she does not want contact. Monitoring a woman using the internet or any other form of electronic communication (stalking).
First conviction- up to three years in prison and a fine. More than
one conviction-up to five years in prison and a fine.
Vishaka And Others V. State of Rajasthan:
In the case of Vishaka and Ors v. State of Rajasthan and Ors, the Hon'ble
Supreme Court has laid down guidelines and norms to be observed to prevent
sexual harassment of working women.
All employers or persons in charge of work place whether in public or private
sector should take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment. Without
chauvinism to the generality of this obligation they should take the following
- Express prohibition of sexual harassment at the work place should be notified,
published and circulated in
- The rules of government and public sector bodies relating to conduct and
discipline should include rules prohibiting sexual harassment and provide
for adequate and appropriate penalties against the offender.
- As regards private employers, steps should be taken to include the
aforesaid prohibitions in the standing orders under the Industrial
Employment (standing orders) Act, 1946.
- Appropriate work conditions should be provided in respect of work,
leisure, health and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile
environment towards women at work places and no employee woman should have
reasonable grounds to believe that she is disadvantaged in connection with
Where such conduct amounts to an offence under the IPC or under any other law,
the employer shall initiate appropriate action in accordance with law by making
complaint with the appropriate authority. In particular, it should ensure that
victims or witnesses are not victimized or discriminated against while dealing
with complaints of sexual harassment.
Where such conduct amounts to misconduct in employment as defined by the
relevant service rules, appropriate disciplinary action should be initiated by
the employer in accordance with those rules.
Whether or not such conduct constitutes an offence under law or a breach of the
service rules, and appropriate complaint mechanism should be created in the
employer's organization for redress of the complaint made by the victim.
Such complaint mechanism should ensure time bound treatment of complaints.
Internal Complaints Committee:
The complaint mechanism should be adequate to provide a complaints committee, a
special counselor or other support service, including the maintenance of
The complaints committee should be headed by a woman and not less than half of
its member should be women. Further, to prevent the possibility of any undue
pressure or influence from senior levels, such complaints committee should
involve a third party, either NGO or other body who is familiar with the issue
of sexual harassment.
Employees should be allowed to raise issues of sexual harassment at a workers'
meeting and in other suitable forum and it should be affirmatively discussed in
Awareness of the rights of female employees in this regard should be created in
particular by prominently notifying the guidelines (and appropriate legislation
when enacted on the subject) in a suitable manner.
Third Party Harassment:
Where sexual harassment occurs as a result of an act or omission by any third
party or outsider, the employer and person in charge will take all steps
necessary and reasonable to assist the affected person in terms of support and
The central/state governments are requested to consider adopting suitable
measures including legislation to ensure that the guidelines laid down by this
order are also observed by the employers in private sector.
These guidelines will not prejudice any rights available under the protection of
human rights act, 1993.
The Sexual Harassment At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal)
The Sexual Harassment Act (Hereby called as an 'Act') was finally enacted in the
year 2013 for the prevention of sexual harassment against women at workplace in
the whole of India. The main objective of the act was protection of Women,
prevention and redressal of sexual harassment complaints. Sexual harassment
includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether
directly or by implication) namely:
- Physical contact and advances; or
- A demand or request for sexual favors; or
- Making sexually colored remarks; or
- Showing pornography; or
- Any other unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of sexual
Post Vishaka Developments
Pursuant to Vishaka Judgement, the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1964,
were amended in 1998 to incorporate R. 3C which prohibits sexual harassment of
working woman. The first case before the Supreme Court after Vishaka in this
respect was the case of Apparel Export Promotion Council Vs. A.K Chopra,
AIR 1999 SC 625.
In this case, the Supreme Court reiterated the law laid down in the Vishaka
Judgment and upheld the dismissal of a Superior Officer of the Delhi based
Apparel Export Promotion Council, who was found guilty of sexually harassing a
subordinate female employee at the workplace. In this Judgment, the Supreme
Court enlarged the definition of sexual harassment by ruling that physical
contact was not essential for it to amount to an act of sexual harassment.
Further the Apex Court in its Judgement in Medha Kotwal Lele & Ors. Vs. Union
of India & Ors,
2013 (1) SCC 297 took cognizance and undertook monitoring of
implementation of the Vishaka Guidelines across the country by directing State
Governments to file affidavits emphasizing on the steps taken by them to
implement the Vishaka Guidelines. Not being satisfied, it directed States to put
in place sufficient mechanisms to ensure effective implementation of the Vishaka
Amendment in Indian Panel Code, Post Nirbhaya Case in 2013
- Section 354A. Sexual harassment
- Section 354B. Forcing a woman to undress
- Section 354C. Watching or capturing images of a woman without her
- Section 354D. Following a woman and contacting her or trying to contact
her despite her saying she does not want contact. Monitoring a woman using
the internet or any other form of electronic communication (stalking).
In this century it is very important to have gender sensitive workplace which
would fulfil the needs of its employees specially the needs of the women. Many
workplaces and not still gender sensitive, many people are still not aware about
workplace harassment. Taking this scenario in mind it is essential to develop
capacities and start a process of individual thinking. Rules norms and laws are
always their but enactment and implementation is necessary and to understand
this awareness is needed.
The Implementation of sexual harassment Act would ensure safe and healthy work
environment for women. Legal enactment for both male and female is needed for
proper development of our society. Women in our Indian society take legal
reporting as the last resort as they do not want any extra challenge to make
their life more vulnerable.
They fear answering the society and also facing the organization and answering
them. Providing a safe working environment for everyone specially women is the
duty of the employer. While companies should seriously think about their
corporate responsibilities, as companies should provide safe harassment free
environment to every women.
This would lead to companies benefit as everyone can work freely. With the march
of civilisation, the impact of social chances and developmental efforts benefit
the women much less than man. Social and religious reformers, enlightened public
authorities, and women's organisations waged battles against the oppressive
position of women through centuries. But still illiteracy, ignorance,
superstition still persists in some parts of the country resulting in
exploitation of the women labourers.