Today women in India are showing progress in every field, such as education, globalization. With the rising women's success and participation in the commercial field, offences against them are also increasing day by day.
Sexual harassment is one of the most toxic problems that society is facing today. It is a global phenomenon arising in developed countries as well as in developing countries.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment can be defined as the unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature, either verbal or physical. Sexual harassment at the workplace can be defined as the involuntary behavior of a person, which is sexual. For example:- Eve teasing at the workplace, blowing whistles on a woman against her will, etc.
The latest amendment of 2013 in Criminal Procedure Code incorporated sexual harassment as a separate punishable offence. Section 354A of the code talks about follo points of the sexual harassment offence:
· Physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or
· A demand or request for sexual favors; or
· Making sexually colored remarks; or
· Forcibly showing pornography; or
· Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
To provide a safer environment for women, the Indian government introduced the Sexual Harassment of women at the workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal)Act. Workplace sexual harassment in India was for the very first time recognized by the Supreme Court of India in its landmark judgment of Vishaka v. the State of Rajasthan, wherein the Supreme Court gave certain guidelines and issued directions to the Union of India to introduce an appropriate action to avoid such problems and to give women a safer environment.
Every citizen have a constitutional right to participate in public employment. This right for women is denied in the process of sexual molestation, which forces her to stay away from such employment. Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution allows every citizen to practice any profession, but sexual harassment is a threat. Sexual harassment in the workplace is also a violation of Article 21. Sexual harassment violates the basic motive of the framers of the Constitution that envisage it will secure to all its citizens- "equality of status and opportunity."
Lawson Sexual Harassment in India:
There are no specific laws for restraining sexual harassment at the workplace in India, but there is protection against women's sexual harassment in other legislation like the Indian Penal Code.
Section 294 deals with obscene acts and songs at public places
Section 354 deals with assault or any criminal force which is used against women
Section 376 deals with rape
Section 510 deals with uttering words or making gestures that outrage a women's modesty.
The Vishaka Judgement:
Vishaka and other women filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the State of Rajasthan and Union of India to enforce the basic rights of working women under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The petition was filed after Bhanwari Devi, a welfare worker in Rajasthan was brutally gang-raped for stopping child marriage. The Supreme Court of India created guidelines mandatory for everyone which are as follows-
1. It is the duty of an employer to deliver a sense of security to every woman employee.
2. Strict laws and regulations should be imposed.
3. Any such act done should result in a criminal proceeding, and the wrongdoer should be punished accordingly.
4. The organization should have a setup complaint procedure in order to redress complaints by the victim.
5. There should be a complaint committee headed by a woman, and the 50% members of the committee must be women.
6. It is the organization's duty to aware of the female employees about their rights and information about the new laws or amendments in the existing laws regarding sexual harassment.
7. The employer should take the necessary steps to provide support to the victim.
8. These guidelines are to be followed by the public sector and the private sector as well.
After a few years of the guidelines, a bill was passed by the pressure of women's organization called "the protection against sexual harassment of women bill,2005". Later, it was replaced by "protecting women against sexual harassment at workplace bill,2007.
Hence, this bill was not up to the mark as it treats sexual harassment at the workplace as a civil dispute. A recent amendment in the draft bill states that" if the victim is falsely accusing any person, then she should be held liable for the false claim." This develops a sense of fear in women and will restrain them for filing any complaint.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is very common, and there is a need to develop a positive environment for women to work. There should be proper strategies made by the employers and the organization to protect it is women employees. Awareness-raising activities should be conducted and evaluated to address the practice of sexual harassment in the workplace.
India is rapidly increasing in its advancement and is developing goals, and hence more and more women are joining the work in the commercial sector. The acceptance and recognition of women's safety law in India is an effective step in women's safety. It will protect their right to equal opportunity of work, will provide them work with dignity. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome behavior of other persons either directly or indirectly, physically or verbally. Sexual harassment at the workplace has taken the flame after women joining the commercial sector. Therefore, it is necessary to increase awareness among the employers, employees, and every person working in an organization about the existence of sexual harassment, preventive measures, and legal actions that can be taken in such cases.
Faculty of Law, Integral University, Lucknow