The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
This Act came into force just to make sure a safe and comfortable environment for the women at the workplace. In the era of modernization women still have to face Sexual harassment at workplace. For a proper work environment and to have work satisfaction without any problem, some rules were made under this Act.
The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act,2013 came into force after the observation of the Supreme Court in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan . This case was a Writ Petition to enforce fundamental rights. It was held that Sexual Harassment at the workplace violates Article14, Article15, Article19(1)(g), and Article 21 of our Constitution. At that time no such Act was made to protect the women’s rights so some guidelines were issued. The guidelines were known as the Vishaka’s Guidelines, which in a way increasing a sense of security in the minds of working women that their honor and dignity will be safe in the place of work. It was made mandatory for all the employers of a workplace to follow the guideline. In pursuance of the guidelines in 2013, the Sexual Harassment Act came into commission.
Sexual Harassment includes unwelcome acts or behavior (directly or implication) those are physical contact, demand or request for sexual favor making sexually colored remarks, showing pornography, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
Prevention of Sexual Harassment at workplace
It is said that no women employee at a workplace shall be subjected to sexual harassment and actions that includes –
- The implied or overt promise of preferential treatment in employment
- The implied or overt threat of detrimental treatment in employment
- The implied or overt threat about the present or future employment status
- Conduct which interferes with work or creates an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment
- Humiliating conduct consulting health and safety problems.
India had already signed and ratified Convention on Elimination of AllForms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), but till then had so much domestic law to support it. So this Act was also an attempt to fulfill the international obligation. In the world full of women empowerment some places restrict a woman to grow. To prohibit sexual harassment at the workplace the act was enacted. The Act makes sure to be followed in private as well as in public places, it covers schools and colleges, and the transportation taken and places visited by employees during the course of employment. The Act also provided for the Redressal mechanism. The Redressal shall range from apologies, withhold promotions, increment, and can even stretch to the termination.
This act provides a constitution of an Internal Complaints Committee, wherever there are more than 10 employees. This helps the worker to file a complaint immediately after any such instant takes place. The committee must contain 2 members who have experience in working for causes relating to women, 1 member from an NGO, and half of the committee must have female members in it. The complaint must be file within 3 months of the commission of the incident and it should be in writing. The whole inquiry must be completed in 90 days after the institution of the complaint. The Delhi High Court in the judgment of Ruchika Singh Chhabra v. M/s Air France Indiaand anr. “Directed that the ICC should be constituted in strict compliance with the requirement under the law”.
It must ensure that the identity of the aggrieved party, respondent, witnesses, reason for the complaint, inquiry, and everything should not be disclosed as per Section 16 of the Act. Under the legal system, an individual making a sexual harassment claim under civil law is required to prove that the sexual behavior occurred and that is constituted sex determination, a violation of dignity, or a health and safety hazard. The respondent often has no burden of proving the charges, the burden of proof imposed on the plaintiff.
Major Concerns of the Act
- Creation of Internal Complaints Committee
- Sensitization of employees
- Capacity building
- Statuary compliance
- Gender equality at the workplace
- Get rid of a hostile environment at the workplace
- To protect fundamental rights under article 14, 15, 19(1) (g) and 21
- For inclusive growth and social development.
The concept of this article does not give an exhaustive picture of provisions of the Act and Rules and are just a broad overview of the Act, and Rules. The provisions contain several loopholes which can be exploited by the harasser in his favor. Clearly, the provisions need more comprehensive to provide a means of justice to those who have been victims and a means of protection for those who could be potential victims. The Act, which should have been highly victim-friendly, poses a problem for the victim at each and every step.Law should be representative of the societal changes, especially in areas such as sexual violence and exploitation. The Government needs to take some measures to make the Act more effective in society.