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The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013

In India sexual harassment at work environment is one of the most widely recognized violations against women and is likewise observed as illegal encroaching on the central privileges of women. Now and then women speak loudly against such unfairness however as a general rule it is covered with time. The requirement for forestalling such treachery and suitably managing such cases.

The Sexual Harassment Act, 2013 was brought into power. The Act clarifies what all can commensurate to sexual harassment and how work environments should be proactive about guaranteeing that the secure the pride of a lady. The research paper aims as an endeavor to clarify clearly the fringe of the act and how associations to should act upon in ensuring and saving the respect of a woman in India.

Introduction
The harsh reality is when one would read about the cases across India on sexual harassment, he would get stunned, miserable, bewildered, unsettled and will feel vulnerable simultaneously. From legal sectors, to police offices, to regarded judges to emergency clinics to customary workplaces – women's respect has been torn separated explicitly and straightforwardly at work environments in spite of the fact that India has the most reduced proportion of working women in the world. In the event that one needed to delve into insights one would discover, assault in India is one of the most well-known violations against women.[1]

According to ongoing statistics, 93 assaults are announced each and every day in India. And only 27% of the denounced are sentenced. The system for managing lewd behavior was first spelt out in 1997 in the purported Vishakha Guidelines. It was first if there should be an occurrence of Vishakha and Others v. Province of Rajasthan and Others[2], that Supreme Court pronounced inappropriate behavior at working environment to be unlawful.

It was in the decision unexpectedly, inappropriate behavior at working environment perceived as a violation of human rights. The Supreme Court laid out the rules making it obligatory for the business to accommodate a component on sex equality. Sexual harassment is viewed as violation of Article 14, 15, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013

The Act finally came into power after 16 years of struggle. The act aims to protect woman against sexual harassment at work place in India. The act clearly states in few of it’s opening lines:
“Sexual harassment is a woman’s fundamental right to equality.. her right to life and to live with dignity…and right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment.”

The Act makes it compulsory for every office with 10 or more employees to have an internal complain committee for grievance redressal. The Act is not gender neutral. It provides exclusive protection only to women employees. The scope of the Act includes organised as well as unorganized sector, not only for the women working in organizations or but also as domestic help. The definition of workplace includes expanded workplace.

As per the provisions of Section 2(n) of the Act, Sexual harassment includes:

  1. Physical contact or advances
  2. Demand or request for sexual favors
  3. Making sexually colored remarks
  4. Showing pornography
  5. Unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
The definition of workplace states any place visited by the employee coming out of or during the course of employment including transportation provided by the employer for undertaking such journey which initially did not cover women in the armed forces and excluded women agricultural workers, referred as "a gross injustice to agricultural workers who are the single largest female component of work force in the country.” By a CPI (M) MP at Rajyasabha. However, the final bill included the clause "No woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace" (clause 3.1)

Roles and responsibilities of the employer[3]

The roles and responsibilities laid down under the Act have been listed down below:

  1. Section 4 – employer, by order in writing, constitute a Committee called Internal Complaints Committee and including at such places where there are offices or administrative units of the workplace.
  2. Section 11(3) - vests similar powers to the committee as are vested in the civil courts under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 when trying a suit with respect to the following matters:
    1. Summoning or enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath.
    2. Requiring the discovery and production of documents.
  3. Section 19 also talks about the duties of the employer.

Non Compliance of the Act

The employer shall be punishable with a fine which may extend up to Rs. 50,000 when he fails to constitute an Internal Committee or fails to take action under the Act. Offences under this section are non-cognizable. It may lead to cancellation of license required for carrying out business activity or imposition of twice the punishment from that imposed in the first instance when an employer is twice convicted for an offence punishable under this Act[4]. All complaints are to be disposed of within a period of 90 days from the date of intimation, failing which penalty will be imposed on the organization and repeated non-compliance can lead to cancellation of license or registration of the organization.

The lacuna in the Act

The researcher has certain views on the various lacunae identified in the act and suggestions so that the act could be properly implemented in addressing the issues of sexual harassment of women at all kinds of workplaces in the country. One of such lacuna in the act is it’s not so clear words on "prevention" and no such authority to guarantee a proper functioning for monitoring its implementation.[5] These could be recognized as some of the key issues.

Also, the composition of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) seems inappropriate. For an instance, "Options available to the victim, if she is not satisfied with the process of inquiry and report by the ICC is not clearly defined in the act. Monitoring authority and appellate authority must be defined and established, like a nodal agency[6]."One other loophole in the act that could be seen is that it does not protect men. It is based on the premise that only female employees needed to be safeguarded when gender should not be a criteria.

Conclusion
The act was very important considering the rapid increase in the number of crimes against women in the last decade. One cannot predict whether the number of crimes against women will come under a review but one thing that we are, at least, sure of is – it will work to improve awareness about the obligations of employers and rights of employees in case of an offence of sexual harassment at workplace. We can pray with this new law in existence, the large number of offences against the women, which mostly remains silent, will decrease in time to come.

End-Notes:
  1. http://crowdvoice.org/sexual-assault-in-india accessed on 29th October, 2020.
  2. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1031794/ accessed on 29th October, 2020.
  3. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013
  4. The Hindu Parliament passes Bill to prevent sexual harassment at workplace accessed on 30st October, 2020
  5. Chandran, Cynthia (20 June 2012). "Women's Protection Bill needs more teeth". Deccan Chronicle. Accessed on 1st November, 2020.
  6. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/womens-panel-find-lacunae-in-sexual-harassment-of-women-at-workplace-act-1949196 accessed on 30st October, 2020.

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