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Analysis of Vishakha v/s State of Rajasthan

Case Facts
  • Mrs. Bhanwari Devi, from Bhateri, Rajasthan worked in government of Rajasthan's "women development project," she took up a matter centered on the govt's drive opposing child marriage as part of her work in 1992.
  • Many locals were unknowledgeable of the situation & advocated 'child marriage' despite knowing that it was against law. Meanwhile, Ram Gurjar's family decided to arrange a wedding for His little daughter. Bhanwari made efforts to urge them to cancel the marriage but the efforts went in vain and family proceeded with the wedding.
  • The SDO & DSP went to the wedding and disrupted it on May 5, 1992. Yet, the wedding was completed the very next day. There were no enforcement measures done. locals discovered that police investigations were the result of Bhanwari Devi's endeavors. Bhanwari Devi and her family were ostracized as consequence. She lost her job Aswell.
  • As revenge, four men from Gurjar clan and one another gang-raped Bhanwari Devi and attacked her husband. When they went to lodge a complaint, The police resorted to use foul methods to keep her from lodging a complaint, leading to delays in inquiry. Even her medical was postponed for fifty-two hours so that almost no mention of rape came into the record.
  • For entire midnight, she was ridiculed by women constable at the police station. Following that police officer ordered her to leave her lehnga as "evidence" of the crime and return home. As she had nothing else except her husband's blood-soaked dhoti to drape her body in, they had to stay the entire night at the police station.
  • With lack of evidence and aid of local MLA, In the Verdict, each accused was acquitted. Women's rights groups, on the other hand, opted not to keep silent staging protests voicing their opinions in resistance to the judgement.
  • Later Public interest litigation was submitted by "Vishaka," a women's right group which emphasized on implementation of women's essential rights in the workplace under Article 14, 15, 19, and 21 of Constitution and the urgent need to safeguard them from workplace sexual harassment.

  • What criteria will be necessary to deal with workplace sexual harassment incidents?
  • Is sexual harassment at work a violation of a woman's fundamental rights?
  • Is employer accountable in incidents of sexual misconduct by or against their workers in work environment?

  • Hon'ble SC declared that workplace sexual harassment violated the rights granted by Articles 14, 15, 19(1)(g), and 21 of Constitutional Provisions.
  • Sexual harassment was outlined as uninvited "sexually determined behavior (whether directly or indirectly) such as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual Favours, sexually colored remarks, showing pornography, or any other unwelcome physical, verbal, or nonverbal sexual conduct." court emphasized the absence of appropriate oversight and vulnerabilities that permitted such horrific conduct proliferate.
  • The court understood appropriate legislation was the need of the hour to deal with sexual harassment claims as S.354 and S.354A of IPC cannot be resorted to all sexual harassment claims. case put forward hereby could also not resort to these clauses as well which highlighted this claim.
  • Hon'ble SC drew international treaties to provide a more in-depth examination. "The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women's Article 11(1), (a), and (f), as well as Article 24", were referred.
  • Court specifically said, "Gender equality includes protection from sexual harassment and the ability to work with dignity, which is an internationally recognized basic human right. As a result, this was court's responsibility to cast light on matter, and it was their duty under Article 32 to ensure fundamental rights were protected."
  • Further observation noted that the woman had substantial reasons to think protesting to sexual misconduct would jeopardize their career, or create hostile work atmosphere. According to the court, sexual abuse would not have to be limited to physical contact. Sexual harassment is any action that creates a hostile workplace, such as using lewd comments, verbal harassment, spreading rumors, and so forth.
  • Hon'ble SC established guidelines to prevent workplace sexual harassment, known as "Vishaka Guidelines," that have been recognized as legislation under Article.141 of Constitution to enable the resolution of grievances. This served as the framework for the "Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act."

In Vishaka judgement, Supreme court acknowledged essential principles of equality and freedom. The decision merely provided recommendations to address the matter of sexual harassment at workplace. "The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013" was India's first law aimed at combatting workplace sexual harassment against female employees.

It is critical to highlight that, despite enactment of such extensive regulations to safeguard women, the country remains hazardous for women. As a corollary, even in absence of regulation, everyone bears obligation to ensure women's rights and protection.

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