Legal Redressal For Harassment Of Women In The Workplace

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harassment of women
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The #MeToo movement swept the globe a few years ago. The campaign played a significant role in shattering the long-standing taboo of assault and inspiring women all around the world to speak out against unwelcome sexual approaches. This movement was founded on the common experiences of female oppression in patriarchal, male-dominated societies. It gave victims a platform to publicly discuss their experiences, which in turn contributed to raising awareness about sexual harassment, particularly at the workplace.

Gender discrimination and sexual harassment of women at workplaces infringe on their fundamental rights to equality and life, which are protected by Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. Women’s capacity to perform in today’s competitive world is hampered by workplace sexual harassment, which also creates an insecure and unfriendly environment for them.

To address the issue of harassment of women at the workplace, the Ministry of Women and Child Development enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“POSH Act”)

Provisions and Redressal Mechanism under the POSH Act

  1. What is Sexual Harassment?

The act includes a comprehensive and wide-ranging definition of what constitutes sexual harassment. Section 2 of the Act states that any physical contact or advances, a  demand or request for sexual favours, making sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography, or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment.

  1. The Act is applicable to several classes of women as explained below
Harassment Of Women
  1. Reporting a complaint

Within three months of the incident date, an aggrieved woman who wishes to file a complaint must submit a written complaint to an internal complaints committee together with any appropriate supporting documentation. If the wronged lady is physically or mentally incapable of doing so or passes away her legal heir or another specified person may file a complaint in her place.

  1. Internal Complaints Committee

Section 4 of the Act states that each office or branch with ten or more employees must have an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), which is a legal requirement for all employers. If the complainant requests it, the Complaints Committees must provide for mediation before opening an inquiry and have the same authority as civil courts.

  1. Legally Enforceable Obligations of the Employer
  1. Ensure a secure atmosphere for work;
  2. Create an ICC and ensure that complaints of workplace sexual harassment are resolved in a timely way.
  3. Display the criminal penalties for harassment of women in prominent locations at work;
  4. Organise workshops and awareness sessions on a regular basis to educate staff members about the concerns of workplace sexual harassment and its effects;
  5. Consider sexual harassment of women a violation of the company’s regulations and take appropriate action.
  1. Confidentiality

Due to the sensitivity of the issues surrounding sexual harassment, the Act forbids printing or making public the details of a complaint and the inquiry process. Any confidentiality violation will have particular repercussions. Additionally, it is clearly stated in the POSH Act that material relating to workplace sexual harassment is exempt from the 2005 Right to Information Act’s rules.

  1. Penalty for non-compliance

If the POSH Act’s provisions such as the creation of ICC are violated, the employer will be fined INR 50,000. Repeat offenders risk having their fines increased, having their entity deregistered, and/or having their statutory business licenses revoked.

She-Box platform

The Sexual Harassment Electronic Box (also known as “She-Box”) is an initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India to provide a single point of access to every woman, regardless of her employment status, whether she works in the organised or unorganised, private or public sector. Through this platform, any woman experiencing sexual harassment at work may file a complaint.

www.shebox.nic.in. Once a complaint is submitted to the ‘She-Box’, it will be directly sent to the concerned authority having jurisdiction to take action on the matter.

Organizations and workplaces are expected to keep up with developments as India develops as a country, promote safe and secure work environments free from any sort of sexual harassment, and eliminate all forms of discrimination. The defence of women’s human rights is inextricably linked to acknowledging the right to protection against sexual harassment at work. It represents a step toward granting women independence, equal opportunity, and the right to do their jobs with respect.

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