book-sexual harassment

Sexual Harassment at Workplace

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In 1997 the three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court as presided over by Late Hon’ble Mr. J.S. Verma, Chief Justice of India in his historic judgment Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan, 1997 LLR 991 has categorically made a request in para 11 of the judgment which reads as under:

“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.”

After landmark judgment of the apex court in Vishakha (supra) reported in different Law Reporters which have been digested and incorporated in this book to enable the readers to understand the legal implications of various terms as used in the Act and the Rules.

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More and more women are taking up salaried jobs but old attitudes remain. Institutional process, that should guarantee a safe workplace for women, haven’t caught up yet. It is even more important to appreciate that women at workplaces are more vulnerable to sexual harassment when placed lower in a hierarchical situation, a subordinate, a student, a research scholar or an intern. We must understand that appropriate action in such cases is absolutely essential. Not only does such action send a correct no- nonsense message but it also warns other affronting elements waiting in the wings.

Earlier, the female employees were deterred and dissuaded from reporting their harassment for fear of being stigmatised but now they are rightly locking the horns with the miscreants and nuisance and are largely getting the support from the Courts and well-meaning people. It is still a sad commentary on the attitude of some Managements who try to hush up the matter under the impression that it would bring bad name to their organisations.

Right to life means life with dignity. Gender equality includes protection from sexual harassment and right to work with dignity. A working woman is exposed to various hazardous situations which may lead to any kind of depravity. This may lead to violation of her fundamental rights under articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. It is now gratifying that the Government of India has enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. The President of India has given the assent on 22nd April, 2013 and has been notified on 9th December, 2013 when its Rules were framed by Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Though the number of women in workforce has been rising, there is little or no change in attitudes towards women in the mindset of the community. The risk of women at work, being victims of sexual harassment from superiors or colleagues, is endless. It is offensive and needs controlling. So, all women have good reason to be concerned about sexual conduct at work. Now, with the increased awakening in the Society, the women have gradually mustered courage to face the demon in their den. This is a welcome sign indeed. Every step, taken in this direction, is a definite move towards civilization and the refinement of the Society.

Women constitute about one half of the global population, but at the workplace they are placed at various disadvantageous positions due to gender difference and bias. Keeping in view tradition-bound society, our Constitution has made number of safeguards for protecting the right and status of women and one of such provisions in this direction is bringing the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 into the statute book.