This article has been written by Mohini Singla. Mohini is currently a student in Army Institute of Law, Mohali.
The need for Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act was talked about for the first time after the case of Bhanwari Devi. After this case Vishaka guidelines were framed in 1997. These guidelines in 2013 came out as the Act. This Act aims at protecting women from harassed at their workplace. It is beneficial as this act provides for speedy trial as within the company’s internal committees are formed to solve such matter. But with all these benefits comes with loopholes mainly being that this act is not gender neutral. But one major point of this act is that it punishes women who file a wrong case. This helps in reducing fake cases being filed and takes back the extra leverage given to women in usual cases. This act ignores Men as they are also being harassed and there is a need to bring all such cases also under surveillance.
Failure of this Act
1 Even after the passing of the act number of cases have rapidly increased. Government data shows that there were over 300 complaints of sexual harassment last year; the figure has steadily climbed over the last few years from 107 cases in 2011, 147 in 2012 and 249 in 2013. This clearly shows that the cases are increasing at a rapid rate. Law if made and is not successful in threatening the wrongdoers or if it does not reduce the number of cases, it is said to have been never there. The increasing complains are a major problem. But the unreported cases are also a major problem a lot many cases go just like that either by accepting such unwelcome responses or by quitting up of the job. Both the remedies taken up by the victim shows incompetence on the side of law.
2 The Internal committees are not set up in most of the organizations and if they are set up they are not functional. They are not having any person with legal knowledge as such hence they are sometime not capable of deciding the matter. The matter should only be decided by competent authorities and not by anyone in general. Hence selecting anyone for the committee is a failure in itself. Only competent jurists can decide upon such a matter which relates to the modesty of the women. Their protection is given in the hands of a person who does not know what all remedies could be given to the victim except this act. And it reduces the confidence of victim in the court decisions. It leads to constant disturbance in the mind of the victim as if she is in the safe hands or not. It is a crime which could be committed again and again. Hence just by a lenient order may be the crime would be committed again hence it needs a proper check by proper people at proper time in a proper manner.
3 Even though awareness has increased but still number of unreported cases are also increasing. Hence still the Government and the organizations have to take reasonable steps to spread awareness about it amongst all the people. As illiterate women are also working hence to protect them also they should be given knowledge about it. Certain NGO’s have been set up by individuals and sometimes even funded by states sometimes to spread awareness. But still people in far off villages do not know about their rights or remedies which are available to them. Illiterate women sometimes even if they are in cities do not know how to react or where to go in such situations, they are adversely affected. Hence if law is made and people do not know about is in itself a failure. As laws are made for the welfare of the society and if that does not happen it means it is of no use. Even big organizations do not have this internal complain committee in their set up. As it is a new concept and they even take it as a extra unnecessary burden.
1 Tribunals should be set up in spite of internal complaint committee as there will be more of legal people involved to solve matter which is eminent to protection of modesty of women. Setting up of Tribunals will increase the faith of victim to file as a case as internal committee may be biased as if the case is against the owner. As the matter is concerned with a major offence which could take a worst shape afterwards, hence proper check should be there as to stop it at such an initial stage and from taking a worst shape afterwards.
2 The Act should be made gender neutralized as to give equality to all .As this grave injustice is even against men. Men are also sexually harassed at workplace hence they also need due care and Equality before law as Section 14 of Indian constitution provides for is also violated by not giving such right. They even have the right of equal protection under law, even though state can make special provisions for women and children under Article15 clause 3. But still if any injustice is taking place against both genders so the law if made, should be gender neutralized.
3 There should be awareness camps organized by government and organizations to educate women about their rights and about everything from filing of case till remedies in order to give them confidence so that they can raise their voice. They should be properly made and should go to distant villages as this would not only stop sexual harassment of women at workplace but also encourage participation of women in work as they will have a sense of freedom and safety while they work. This would indirectly increase women participation at work places.
4 There should be more legal professionals involved in the internal complaint committee as to assure they have knowledge to decide the case in the right manner. If legal professionals are included in the committee it gives the victim an assurance that she is in safe hands, hence to increase people faith towards law and executive it is necessary to have proper executive body while implementing laws made by the legislature.
5 The compensation should not be according to the salary of the accused but should rather be on the principal of being just and fair as according to how much it actually should have been and not according to the convenience of the accused.
6 Punishment to the accused should be enhanced as the punishment under the statute is not sufficient it should be increased and more stringent punishment should be awarded. Punishment discourages a man to commit further wrong. Hence, stricter penalization of fines along with putting the person behind bars should be included. As it would increase the fear of law in the mind of the wrong doer.
7 There should be free talk as to the matter as it will help in solving the problem up to a greater extend as it will form better relations between employer and employee to refer to the problems faced by them in usual course of business. Seminars, discussions and meetings should be frequently held. As it give confidence to the employees to bring any problem in front of the employer.
8 Sexual harassment awareness training should be there in every organization as to educate them via workshops, seminars, lectures and real life examples they should be taught how to react and where to go in case of any harassment done to them.
9 News television only made it worse. The case became a subject of debate, in which some started to look for inconsistencies in her account. Every “panel discussion” added to her agony. The friend says it took a long time for the woman to be able to write again. “And fighting through depression and suicidal urges was only possible with the support of close friends, family and counsellors.” Hence there should be proper check on them also to protect the victim.
 India: Overview Of The Sexual Harassment Of Women At Workplace.16 April, 2015. http://www.mondaq.com/india/x/348338/employment+litigation+tribunals/Overview+Of+The+Sexual+Harassment+Of+Women+At+Workplace
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