Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) | UPSC Notes

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Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal)

Sexual Harassment of Women

  • Every year around 550 cases are registered under Sexual Harassment Act, 2013 
  • Maximum cases come from UP and Delhi — huge disparity among states — 40% from top 2 only | other states <7% each 
  • Recent controversy in Google — walkout of employees — due to opaqueness in the trial of accused. 
  • Supreme Court — silenced for long about the sexual harassment? CJI under the gun for allegedly harassing a junior staff. Sub-judice issue. Huge question over the credibility of CJI and SC as an institution.
Google steps sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013

Replaced the SC guidelines by the SC (CJI JS Verma) in the historic Vishaka Judgement in 1997.

  • Provisions:
    • Defined Sexual Harassment in the workplace as an unwelcome sexual gesture or behaviour, whether directly or indirectly — in the broadest possible way
      1. Sexually coloured remarks — double meaning remarks
      2. Physical contacts
      3. Showing pornography
      4. Demand for sexual favours
  • Guidelines —
    • Legally binding — obligations on institutions (PPR) — Prevention → Prohibition → Redressal
    • All employers in public or private sector should take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment.
    • Every employer constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in any office >10 workers 
    • Appropriate work conditions should be provided in respect to work, leisure, health etc — no hostile environment — disadvantage towards women
    • Centre urged ASSOCHAM and FICCI to ensure effective implementation of the law to prevent sexual harassment at work place — Government need the support of the private sector also.
    • States and UTs — organise workshops and awareness programmes
    • There can be settlement with conciliation — but NO Monetary settlement is allowed. 
    • Strict provision in case the complainant files a False Complaint. 
  • SHe-Box — single window access to every woman — organised or unorganised — facilitate filing up of the complaint
  • Domestic Worker also covered — remuneration whether in cash or kind — directly or throughly, temporary or permanent
  • All the offices hospitals, institutions and work places should have an internal redressal mechanism for complaints related to sexual harassment. Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee —
    • What about enforcement in small enterprises?
  • The Act does NOT cover armed forces members.
  • Glass Ceiling in private organisations

JS Verma Committee, 2013 recommendation for this Act — 

  1. Instead of ICC, form a EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNAL to receive and adjudicate all complaints 
  2. Such a tribunal should be appointed by a collegium headed by Chief Justice of HC 
    • 2 retired judges (1 woman), 2 eminent sociologists and 1 social activist working in this field 
  3. Such s tribunal should NOT function as a Civil Court but may choose its own procedure to deal with each complaint 
  4. The definition of sexual harassment should be made as wide in its scope as possible 
  5. The onus is on employer to ensure no such harassment is done/promoted/supported in any manner in the office. 
  6. Office should be liable to pay compensation to the complainant in case of conviction 
  7. Remove the ‘90-days’ limit on filing the complaint. 

ICC may be ‘counter-productive’ as dealing with such complaints in-house could discourage women from filling complaints. 

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