In the era of globalization, modernization, and rationalization, one thing which is most applauded about is women empowerment. International leaders, celebrities, politicians, youth, and even the laymen talk about the blurring gap between men and women and uplifting women, not only socially but politically as well as economically. But the irony is, it is all loose talk in the air, because when the time comes to execute it practically, women are always portrayed as weaklings, needing male support at all times.
The esteemed workplace where she can prove herself itself becomes the place where her wings get clipped. The question which arises is, what stops her in her workplace to work efficiently? What stops her to work freely without fear? The answer is, unfortunately, SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE. Statistics show seven out of ten women are sexually harassed at the workplace. Around ninety percent women are not aware how to deal with the situation or what can be done to stop it or is there any way out? Fortunately, the answer to all these questions is, YES! And the credit for such steps goes to the judiciary as well as the government of India. Now, what is needed is generating awareness among women as well as people regarding prevention of sexual harassment at workplace.
The Supreme court in Vishaka & others versus State of Rajasthan and others laid down guidelines directing that these guidelines would be strictly observed in all workplaces for enforcement of gender equality of women at the workplace.
The facts of the case were, there was a writ petition filed by some social activists with the aim of bringing the attention towards growing incidents of sexual harassment at workplace. It was aimed at preventing sexual harassment at workplace by laying down certain guidelines.
But the immediate cause for filing such petition was the gangrape of a social worker in a village in Rajasthan. It was contended that sexual harassment leads to violation of fundamental rights under Art. 14 (equality before law), Art. 15 (Prohibition of discrimination), and Art 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of a woman. But by laying down necessary directions court had endeavoured to ensure “A safe working environment to women”. The court even directed central as well as state governments to consider the appropriate legislation for the same.
The second step was the Sexual harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) act 2013 [SHW ACT]. The act defines sexual harassment as ANY Unwelcome sexually determined behaviour, and demands, from male employees at the workplace, which includes:
- any physical contacts and advances
- sexually coloured remarks
- showing pornography
- passing lewd comments or gestures
- sexual demands.
It mandates all the employers to constitute an INTERNAL COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE [ICC] at each office or branch with ten or more employees and requires fifty percent should be women. It requires time-bound redressal of complaints which should be confidential. It requires employers to conduct education and sensitization programs and provide a safe working environment.
The other initiative was Justice Verma committee; it recommended Employment Tribunal comprising two retired judges, two sociologists and a social activist to obviate the need of ICC which was not functioning as it was intended.
The latest and the most technically efficient initiative the government has launched is the SHE BOX (sexual harassment electronic box). Recently government launched an online platform, which will enable women employees to file complaints related to sexual harassment at workplace.
This online initiative seeks to ensure effective implementation of SHW act 2013. Once a complaint is submitted to the portal, it will be directly sent to the ICC of the concerned ministry or department.
The SHE BOX will cater effective and immediate and speedier remedy to women facing sexual harassment as well it will help the complainant to monitor the progress of the inquiry.
Currently, the complaint can be filed by central government employees only, which will later be extended to all. Under the vision of digital India program, it will help in achieving the goal of gender equality and women empowerment.
Barack Obama once quoted, “A country’s progress and future depend upon how we treat our women and girls”. Let us ensure that women can live their dreams, by ensuring a safe work environment at the workplace where they can work in par with their male counterparts with no obstacles coming in their way, and appreciation coming their way for achievements.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deeksha Kathayat is currently pursuing BLS LLB (third-year) from Dr. D. Y. Patil College of Law. An enthusiast debater and avid mooter, she’s into occasions where she can express her views on various issues. She believes that we realize the importance of our voice only when we are silenced. An aspiring bureaucrat, she describes herself as Unstoppable, Unconstrained, and Zealous.