Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue in India, with many
women reporting experiencing harassment at some point in their careers. The
Indian Penal Code and the Constitution of India prohibit sexual harassment in
the workplace, and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention,
Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act) provides a legal framework for
addressing complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace.
It is defined as any unwanted physical, verbal, or nonverbal behavior of a
sexual nature that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment. This can
include physical touching, comments or jokes of a sexual nature, and suggestive
gestures or looks.
The Indian Perspective
In India, sexual harassment in the workplace is covered under the Sexual
Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act,
2013. The Act defines sexual harassment as any unwanted physical, verbal or
non-verbal conduct of sexual nature that includes physical contact and advances,
a demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing
pornography, or any other physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual
The Act applies to all workplaces, including government offices, private sector
companies, and non-governmental organizations. It also covers both men and women
as potential victims and perpetrators of sexual harassment.
Prevalence of Sexual Harassment in India
Sexual harassment is a widespread problem in India. A study conducted by the
Indian National Bar Association found that 82% of women in India have
experienced sexual harassment at their workplace. This is a significant number,
and highlights the need for effective measures to prevent and address sexual
harassment in the workplace.
Despite the laws in place, sexual harassment in the workplace remains a
widespread problem in India, with many women facing barriers to reporting
incidents and seeking justice. Some of the barriers include fear of retaliation,
lack of trust in the complaint mechanism, lack of awareness about the laws and
procedures, and societal pressure to not speak out against harassment.
To tackle this issue, it is crucial to create a culture of zero tolerance
towards sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers should take proactive
steps to prevent harassment, including providing training to employees on the
laws and policies, encouraging a culture of reporting, and ensuring that there
are effective mechanisms in place for addressing complaints.
Additionally, there is a need for more awareness and education on the issue,
both in the workplace and in society at large, to break the silence and shame
associated with sexual harassment and empower women to speak out against it.
Responsibilities of Employers
Under the Act, employers are required to take several steps to prevent and
address sexual harassment in the workplace. These include:
- Appointing an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to investigate
complaints of sexual harassment
- Displaying a notice in the workplace that explains the rights of
employees and the procedure for making a complaint
- Organizing workshops and awareness programs for employees
- Providing a safe working environment for employees
- If an employee complains of sexual harassment, the employer is required
to take immediate action to investigate the complaint and take appropriate
action. This can include disciplinary action against the perpetrator, as
well as providing support and protection to the victim.
Procedure for Making a Complaint
The Act provides a detailed procedure for making a complaint of sexual
harassment. An employee can make a complaint to the ICC, which must be composed
of at least 50% women. The complaint must be made within 3 months of the
incident of sexual harassment, or within 3 months of the last incident in a
series of incidents.
The ICC is required to complete its investigation within 90 days of receiving
the complaint. If the ICC finds that the complaint is valid, it can recommend
disciplinary action against the perpetrator. The perpetrator has the right to
appeal the decision, but the victim is not required to participate in the appeal
Penalties for Non-Compliance
The Act provides for penalties for non-compliance with its provisions. These
- A fine of up to Rs. 50,000 for non-constitution of an ICC.
- A fine of up to Rs. 50,000 for non-compliance with the recommendations
of the ICC/LCC.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue in India, and one that
affects a large number of women. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace
(Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 provides a framework for
addressing this issue, but it is important for employers to take the necessary
steps to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace.
This includes appointing an ICC, providing support and protection to victims,
and taking appropriate disciplinary action against perpetrators. Overall, it is
important for employers to create a safe and respectful work environment for all