Women are an integral part of society. The constitution of India guarantees several rights to them such as Right to live a dignified life under Article 21 and under article 16(2), it is written that “No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect or, any employment or office under the State.” A woman has a right to practice or to carry out any occupation, trade or business under Article 19(1)(g) of the constitution. Nowadays, women are being subjected to a lot of harassment at workplaces.
Sexual harassment at workplace means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual flavors, etc. It is also known as sexual abuse.
Sexual harassment at workplace is a violation of a women’s right to equality, life and liberty. It has various bad effects on a woman’s health. It includes depression, headache and sleeping disorders, causes stress and pain. It is illegal and hinders a woman’s development
Remedies in law
If a woman is sexually harassed at workplace, then she has certain rights which she can enforce
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013
This is an act which seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. It superseded the vishakha guidelines which were laid down by the honorable supreme court in the year 1997 in the case of vishakha vs state of Rajasthan This act was passed by the Lok Sabha on 3rd sept 2012 and by the Rajya Sabha on 26 Feb 2013. This act came into force on 9 Dec 2013. As per this act, it is the duty of every employer to treat sexual harassment of women in its workplace as misconduct and punish it. According to this act, the term “workplace includes organizations, department, office, branch unit etc. in the public and private sector, organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex and any place visited by the employee during employment including the transportation. Even non-traditional workplaces which involve tele-commuting will get covered under this law.”
This act covers all women irrespective of their age and employment status, it also covers domestic workers.
Setting up of committees
In every office, where there are more than 10 employees working, it is the duty of the employer of set up an Internal Complaint committee (ICC). If, however, he fails to set up, he will be fined up to Rs. 50000 for the first offence and subsequently he may lose his license to carry out business. It is also the duty of the government to set up a local complaint committee (LCC) at the district level to hear complaints against incidents of sexual harassment. However, if any incident of sexual harassment happens at any workplace which doesn’t have any ICC, then complaint can be directly lodged at the local complaint committee.
Procedure to be followed
A woman can file a complaint of sexual harassment within 3 months, this time can be extended to another 3 months if gives proper justification as why she was not able to file. The committee after receiving the complaint is required to complete the inquiry within a period of 90 days. On the completion of that inquiry, the report is sent to the district officer and they must act within 60 days.
This act also empowers the ICC and LCC to recommend to the employer, on request of the aggrieved employee, some interim measures like transferring the aggrieved woman to some other workplace or to give her some leave period
This Act, however, also provides for the option of settlement between the aggrieved woman and the respondent, but only on the request of the aggrieved woman.
If a woman wrongfully files a complaint of sexual harassment against any person, then after proper verification of facts by the committee concerned, action will be taken against that woman.