Gone are the days when Woman had to be confined within the four walls of their homes. Modern day socio-economic needs of the family have also forced the woman to come out of the safety of their homes and work to supplement the income of the family. The growth of higher education has also contributed to it. With the growth in woman employment the incidents of their sexual harassment have also increased alarmingly.
In most of the cases such incidents are not brought to limelight either because of the fact that most of the work places are male dominated and the victim finds herself isolated and aloof, or because she is ignorant of her rights or redressal forum.
What constitutes sexual harassment at work place-
In the case of Vishakha and Ors vs. State of Rajasthan (AIR 1997 S. C. 3011), the Honorable Supreme Court has laid down guidelines and norms to be observed to prevent sexual harassment of working women.
As defined in this judgment, sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behavior (whether directly or implication) as:-
a) Physical contact and advances;
b) A demand or request for sexual favours;
c) Sexually coloured remarks;
d) Showing pornography in any form
e) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
Duty of the employer to prevent sexual harassment
It shall be the duty of the employer and other persons in responsible position at work places or other institutions to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment by taking all steps required.
Preventive steps to be taken by employers for harassment on women
Under the directions every organization, be it a government, semi government, or private, is required to ensure that:–
(a) Express prohibition of sexual harassment at the work place is notified in appropriate ways.
(b) The Rules &Regulations of Government and Public Sector bodies relating to conduct and discipline should include rules & regulations prohibiting sexual harassment and provide for appropriate penalties in such rules against the offender.
(c) As regards private employers, steps should be taken to include the aforesaid prohibitions in the standing orders.
(d) Appropriate work conditions should be provided in respect of work, leisure, health and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women at work places.
Actions against bullying at workplace
Where act complained against amounts to a specific offence under the Indian Penal Code or under any other law, the employer shall initiate appropriate action in accordance with law by making a complaint with the appropriate authority.
Additionally where such conduct amounts to misconduct in employment as defined by the relevant service rules, appropriate disciplinary action should be taken by the employer in accordance with the rules.
The complaint mechanism
An appropriate complaint mechanism should be created in the organization for the redressal of the complaint made by the victim. Such complaint mechanism should ensure time bound treatment of complaint. This mechanism should provide a complaints Committee, a special counselor or other support service, including the maintenance of confidentiality. Further, the Complaints Committee should be headed by a woman and not less than half of its member should be women
These guidelines issued by the Supreme Court ensure the protection of working women at work places. Most of the organizations have incorporated these guidelines in their rules. Now all that is to be done is simply to spread the awareness of these rules among the masses so that the working women feel safe.
Post by- Rajeev Bhatjiwale