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Prevention Of Sexual Harassment Act

A woman has a legal right to a safe workplace. Violation of women's rights to equality and dignity is sexual harassment. Its roots can be found in patriarchy, which is characterised by the belief that males are superior to women and that some types of violence against women are acceptable. One of these is sexual harassment at work, which considers various types of such harassment to be unimportant and harmless.

Any act of sexual harassment against a woman at work constitutes a violation of both her human rights and her constitutional rights. It creates an insecure and hostile work environment, which discourages women's participation in work, thereby adversely affecting their economic empowerment and the goal of inclusive growth.. It is offensive at a very personal level and in a way undermines the right to equal opportunity and equal treatment of women at the workplace.

The laws in India have strived to provide for the protection to women against sexual harassment. Criminal and civil remedies have been made available by such laws. The researcher has studied the different legislations that have been enacted throughout the years.

The Vishakha guidelines have also been discussed in relation to such offences. These guidelines provided for protection when there did not exist any specific legislation against sexual harassment. The researcher has given a critical analysis of the laws in order to understand the requirements based on which the available laws need to be rectified.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Any behaviour which may be physical, psychological, graphical, emotional, verbal, written, electronic, gestures which are offending, etc. is defined as inappropriate by the policy. Any act of the person either intentional or not, should not offend the dignity of the other person. If done so then serious disciplinary action is taken against the person who has performed such an act

Sexual Harassment Includes Many Things:

  • Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault
  • Unwanted pressure for sexual favors.
  • Unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching.
  • Unwanted sexual looks or gestures.
  • Unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature.
  • Unwanted pressure for dates
  • Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions.
  • Referring to an adult as a girl, hunk, doll, babe, or honey
  • Whistling at someone.
  • Cat calls.
  • Sexual comments.
  • Turning work discussions to sexual topics.
  • Sexual innuendos or stories.
  • Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history.

Before POSH ACT,2013: Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan (1997)

'Vishaka Guidelines' were stipulated by the Supreme Court of India, in Vishaka and others v State of Rajasthan case in 1997, regarding sexual harassment at the workplace. The court stated that these guidelines were to be implemented until legislation is passed to deal with the issue.

The Court said that such incidents ( Vishakha Case) of sexual harassment lead to a violation of the elemental rights envisioned in 'Gender Equality' and the 'Right of Life and Liberty'. It is a complete violation of the rights given under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.

After the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Vishaka & vs State of Rajasthan (1997), the Ministry of Women and Child Development, after several years, passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (PoSH Act).

Simultaneously, the Ministry also formulated the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 (PoSH Rules) effective from the same date to strengthen and streamline the provisions under the PoSH Act.

Impact of Harassment at Workplace:

Sexual harassment leads to professional also as a private loss. Professional loss encompasses decreased performance and increased absenteeism which leads to loss of pay. Other impacts include withdrawal of interest in work, separation, feeling of being objectified, missing out on promotional opportunities, being ostracised, and having to look for a new company or place to work.

This ultimately leads to unnecessary career fluctuation. Personal loss due to harassment involves anxiety, mental issues, panic attacks, stress, and headaches. These may lead to victims taking extreme steps such as consuming sleeping pills or attempting suicide. The victims sometimes have to switch to antidepressants to avoid loss of motivation, feeling powerless, losing self confidence, and inability to trust people. These people may end in isolation and withdraw from social gatherings.

Why Company Should Comply With Prevention Of Sexual Harassment Act, 2013?
Besides the legal and financial costs of non-compliance with the POSH Act, an unsafe workplace can lead to general impairment of your employee's psychological well-being and reduce your productivity. Workplaces with a greater number of instances of workplace harassment also suffer from higher employee turnover rates.

Effective compliance with the POSH Act makes workplaces safer, displaces the fears and discomfort of employees, increases employee satisfaction, reduces employee turnover and saves companies from other costs associated with sexual harassment.

What Are The Benefits Of Implementing A POSH Policy?

  • Making awareness among the employees
  • Ensuring a safer workplace.
  • Help to improve the morale of the employees and in return, the employees will feel more committed towards the organisation.
  • It empowers the employees to come forward with their grievances about sexual harassment
  • Ensures confidentiality of the proceedings.
  • Creating a more secure and tension free environment for employees.
  • Scrutinising malicious complaints and taking appropriate actions against such employees.
  • Ensuring legal compliance and avoiding any legal disputes and penalties.
  • Protecting the goodwill of the organisation.
  • Employee retention at the organisation.

In order to ensure that employees are following POSH regulations and are treated with dignity and respect by other employees and organisation members, it is imperative that every firm has a POSH policy which must regularly undertake staff awareness and training programmes after implementing the POSH policy.

The committee's constitution might not absolve firms of obligation as the employer; firms must make sure that the committee is operating in accordance with POSH policy and any other applicable organisational regulations. Additionally, firms must make sure the committee has the power and independence necessary to undertake the investigation and effectively carry out its decisions.

In case if firms fail to adhere to the POSH Act, 2013, it will have an adverse impact on the organisation including complicated legal cases and unnecessary costs. Mismanagement of sexual harassment cases will adversely affect the reputation and goodwill of your organization and will have a negative impact on the long-term growth and development.

As per the POSH Act, 2013, if an organisation fails to implement and adhere to the Act, then the firm may be penalised and licence may get cancelled permanently.

Prevention of Sexual Harassment Policy:

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act) was enacted as a comprehensive legislation to provide a safe, secure and enabling environment, free from sexual harassment to every woman.

All employees of the company, including all women at the workplace implement the provisions of the POSH Act and Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 (the Sexual Harassment Laws) is mandate for all size of business. regardless of age, are subject to the corporate POSH Policy.

Additionally, the Policy aims to provide protection to its female employees wherever they go as part of their employment with the Company, including any transportation the Company provides for them to make such a travel.ThePrevention of sexual harassment Act 2013, Policy's goal is to give the company's female employees a safe working environment, including protection from those who may come into contact with them. According to the policy, every employer must establish an internal complaints committee in compliance with the sexual harassment laws to address any sexual harassment claims made by an aggrieved woman.

Objectives:
The policy is directed to ensure zero tolerance towards any behaviour/conduct of a sexual nature by an employee or stakeholder that directly or indirectly harass, disrupts or interfere with another's work performance, or that creates an intimidating, offensive, or hostile environment.

Key objective of the policy include:
  • To raise awareness about sexual harassment in various forms.
  • To evolve a well defined mechanism for prohibition, prevention and redressal of sexual harassment cases.

SHE- BOX:
The Ministry of Women & Child Development had launched Sexual Harassment electronic Box (SHe-Box) to provide single window access to every woman, irrespective of her work status, whether working in the organized or unorganized, private or public sector, to facilitate the registration of complaint related to sexual harassment.

Any woman facing sexual harassment at the workplace can register their complaint through this portal.

Once a complaint is submitted to the 'SHe-Box', it will be directly sent to the concerned authority having jurisdiction to take action into the matter.

ICC (Internal Complaint Committee):

Every company in which there are 10 or more employees must have ICC and all the complaints regarding sexual harassment are dealt with the committee. The ICC should comprise 4 members among them half of the members will necessarily have to be women. If in a company there are less than 10 persons then no need to form a committee and in this case all the complaints go to the local complaints committee which is set up by district officers in every district as per the Act.

The complaints committee is responsible for receiving and investigating every complaint of sexual harassment, submitting findings and recommendation of the inquiry to the employer and coordinating with the employer before implementing any kind of appropriate action. The committee is also responsible to maintain confidentiality throughout the process.

Procedure for dealing with complaints:

The complaint must be filed within three months of the occurrence date, together with any supporting documentation or, if available, the names of any witnesses. If the committee is satisfied with the factors preventing the filing of a complaint within the first three months, it may also extend the deadline by an additional three months.

The complaint may be made in any format, including by phone or email, but each oral communication must be followed by a written message. If a complaint cannot be submitted in writing, the presiding officer or any committee member shall assist the complainant in doing so.

Relief's to victims:

  • Monetary compensation
  • Grant leave for 3 months
  • Transfer the victim to any other department where he/she feels safe to work
References:
  • https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/policies/pages/cms_000534.aspx
  • https://poshatwork.com/importance-of-service-rules-when-dealing-with-posh-act/
  • https://lawrato.com/indian-kanoon/posh-act
  • https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/everyday-explainers/explained-posh-law-against-sexual-harassment-in-india-7825733/
  • www.eepcindia.org%2Fdownload%2FBook-on-Preventing-Sexual-Harassment-at-Workplace150914215511.pdf

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Ishika Agarwal, Uttaranchal University, Law College Dehradun - BBA LLB ( Hons.)
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: SP225175076009-8-0922

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