By Sukhmani Kaur
“Sexual harassment” is any form of unwelcome sexual behavior that’s offensive, humiliating, or intimidating. Most important, it’s against the law being sexually harassed affects people in different ways. It can be written, verbal, or physical and can happen in person or online. If someone is sexually harassing you in a way that causes you to feel humiliation, pain, fear, or intimidation, then this can be considered sexual assault.
Both men and women can be the victims of sexual harassment. This is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their workplace. It was passed by Lok Sabha on 3rd September 2012 and by the Rajya Sabha on 26th February 2013. It came into force on 9th December 2013. It extends to the whole of India. It is an established fact every victim of sexual harassment at the workplace, willing to file a report shall do so as per the act. There are some points which are as follows and consist of sexual harassment include :
Touching, grabbing, or making other physical contact with you without your consent.
Making comments to you that have a sexual meaning.
Asking for sexual favors
Leering and staring at you
Displaying rude and offensive material so that you or others can see it
Cracking sexual jokes or comments around or to you , etc
Most of the women in India are under the misconception that the workplace entails only the primary office space they work at. On the contrary “workplace” is an all-encompassing term that includes the actual office, space, work-related trips, calls, texts, chats, or any place or circumstance where the professional relationship subsists. The sexual harassment of women at the workplace ( prevention, prohibition, redressal) act 2013 (act) has introduced and established the concept of an extended workplace.
The sexual harassment women at the workplace (prevention, prohibition, redressal) act 2013 has introduced and established the concept of an extended workplace. An extended workplace basically consists of any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment. This also includes transportation provided by the employer for undertaking such a journey to the workplace.
Sexual harassment results in a violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under the articles. Article 14, right to equality, and Article 15, Right against discrimination based on sex, caste, class of the constitution of India.
The important feature of the act is that it envisages the setting up of an internal complaints Committee at every office of the organization or institution, having more than 10 employees to hear and redress complaints pertaining to sexual harassment. Where the number of employees is less than 10, the act provides for the setting up of the local committee in every district by the district officer. The committee while inquiring into such complaint shall have the same power as vested in a civil court.
Let’s say you are an employee of a reliance. As an employee and a spokesperson of your company, you walk into the office of ABP for an interview. In their office, an employee of ABP touches you inappropriately. Is your employer under the obligation to investigate this incident?
Yes. When an employee complains that he or she is experiencing sexual harassment of any type, the employer relations obligation to thoroughly investigate the charges. The employer can’t decide whether to believe the employee but must take him or her at their word. It is upon the employers to make sure that their employees aren’t subjected to an environment where the applicability of this act is at wide as it can get. This act covers every possible imagine.
The definition of the workplace under this act can be understood into such categories:
Government/ private companies, film industry, sports industry, music industry, hospitals, hotels, railways, fashion industry, airways, retail Industry, domestic workers industry, NGO, trust, defense industry, shops industries, etc are few of of the industries which are protected under the act. This is an all-inclusive list of the industries which are covered under this act. From a woman laborer in the coal mines to an A–list Bollywood actress, this act recognized all of them. Whether it be a woman doctor or a lawyer working in a law firm, all their employers have a binding obligation to provide them with a safe and secure workplace. A reporter who has to travel to almost every nook and corner of the world to ensure that the public is privy to all the essential news, even her employer must make sure that her work is not implicitly affected by a hostile and offensive work environment.
Every woman who works on a farm to a woman working as a chartered accountant, an employee in a hotel or a waitress in a restaurant, or is a woman in the army, it is safe to say that all these women have the right to be protected from sexual harassment, as per this act. Even domestic workers are covered under industry. The act shall cover shopping malls and shops.
Sectors/industries: the sector is a broad classification that consists of different business segments in itself. Essentially, the industries are created by further breaking down sectors into more defined groupings. The sectors can be divided as follows: the agricultural sector, education sector, economic sector, forestry, media and entertainment sector, construction sector, manufacturing sector, transporting sector, etc. An agriculture sector will constitute the likes of fisheries and animal husbandry. Therefore any woman who works in the same shall be protected under the act. The likes of both teachers, students, and other females who are part of schools, colleges, or any other coaching institutions shall be covered under this act as well. A female employee in a packaging company or at a construction site will be protected in both situations. The former being a part of the manufacturing sector and the latter being in the construction sector wherein the employees are liable to provide the women with a safe workplace. In recent times we have seen a spurt of woman employees in sales and communication services. These fall under the service sector. The service sector also comprises beauty salons. More than 50% of employees in the salons are women. Under the act, the woman working in these sectors are also protected.
Other workspaces: cooperative societies, lawyers chamber any government office, shops, etc.
Extended workspaces: sports complex or venue, visit hotels or restaurants where work-related meetings are conducted; work-related phone calls, messages, chats, shops, any place where one visits in relation to work.
Work is never restricted within the four corners of cement and bricks. Almost every profession requires the work to extend out of the office premises. Since the work is unrestricted so is the law. The employer must not be deluded to think that their liability subsides once the employee has left the office premises. The employer's liability consists of and is not limited to every place the woman visits with relation to work, every client she meets, every phone calls she makes etc.
Need for this act :
Protection: against sexual harassment of women at workplace.
Redressal: of complaints of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment at the workplace is highly prevalent in India and there is a need to provide a positive environment to the women workers. Government should make separate laws dealing with this issue. It should also realize that women workers also constitute a part of the working population in India and it’s the duty of the government to provide them security at work. New strategies should be made by employers and managers to protect the organization from this evil. Government and employers should ensure that women should be treated equally and gender discrimination should not take place at the workplace. Effective implementation of the policies can reduce the manifestation and multinational of sexual harassment to the minimum. One organization can alter its approach to handle sexual harassment by viewing another organization's tactic.
Author: Sukhmani Kaur
BA.LLB , semester -4
Asian Law College, Noida