Sexual harassment at the workplace is a pervasive issue in India, affecting women across all sectors and industries. Here are some relevant cases and data related to sexual harassment at the workplace in India:
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013: The act was introduced to protect women from sexual harassment at the workplace and to provide a mechanism for redressal of complaints. According to the act, sexual harassment includes any unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. The act mandates all organizations with more than 10 employees to establish an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to receive and address complaints of sexual harassment.
- The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 7,252 cases of sexual harassment in 2018. However, it is believed that many cases of sexual harassment go unreported due to fear of retaliation or victim-blaming.
- In the #MeToo movement that swept India in 2018, several high-profile cases of sexual harassment were reported in the media, leading to the ouster of several powerful men from their positions of authority. One such case was that of MJ Akbar, a former minister in the Indian government, who was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women.
- In 2020, a survey conducted by the Indian Bar Association revealed that 68% of female lawyers in India had experienced sexual harassment at the workplace. The survey also found that many victims did not report the harassment due to the fear of retaliation.
- In 2021, a case of sexual harassment was reported at the workplace of a well-known news organization in India. A female employee accused a senior executive of sexual harassment, leading to his resignation.
- In the case of Vishaka and Others vs. State of Rajasthan (1997), the Supreme Court of India issued guidelines to prevent and address sexual harassment at the workplace. The guidelines were later incorporated into the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
- In 2019, the Ministry of Women and Child Development launched a campaign called “SHe-box” (Sexual Harassment electronic-Box) to provide a platform for women to file complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace. The platform allows women to file complaints anonymously and provides a mechanism for the redressal of complaints.
The Vishakha Guidelines, also known as the Vishakha Judgment, are a set of guidelines issued by the Supreme Court of India in 1997 to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace. Here are some key points about the guidelines:
- The guidelines were issued in response to a petition filed by Bhanwari Devi, a social worker who was gang-raped by upper-caste men when she tried to stop a child marriage in Rajasthan in 1992.
- The guidelines are named after the Vishakha case, which was the name of the organization that Bhanwari Devi worked for.
- The guidelines define sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment.
- The guidelines require all employers, whether in the public or private sector, to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and to provide a mechanism for redressal of complaints.
- The guidelines require employers to set up a Complaints Committee at each office or branch, which should be headed by a woman and should include at least two other members who are committed to the cause of women.
- The guidelines require employers to conduct awareness programs on sexual harassment and to take appropriate disciplinary action against the harasser.
- The guidelines make it mandatory for employers to report sexual harassment cases to the appropriate authorities.
- The guidelines have been instrumental in raising awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace and in providing a framework for redressal of complaints. They have also been the basis for the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which is a more comprehensive legislation on the issue.
|Women Helpline Number (181)||To provide emergency assistance and support to women in distress||24×7 toll-free helpline number; provides counseling, rescue, and referral services|
|National Rural Health Mission||To improve the healthcare infrastructure and services in rural areas||Provides funding for the development of healthcare infrastructure, including maternal and child health services|
|PM Matru Vandana Yojana||To provide financial assistance to pregnant and lactating women for their healthcare needs||Provides a cash incentive of Rs. 5,000 to pregnant and lactating women for the first live birth; aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality|
|Maternity Benefit Act: Amended||To provide maternity benefits to women workers in the organized sector||Increases the paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks; applies to all establishments employing 10 or more employees|
|NFHS 5 on Women||National Family Health Survey to collect data on women’s health and nutrition||Aims to provide updated data on women’s health indicators such as maternal mortality ratio, anemia prevalence, contraceptive use, etc.|
|Janani Suraksha Yojana||To promote institutional deliveries and reduce maternal and neonatal mortality||Provides financial incentives to pregnant women for delivering in a health facility; aims to improve the access and quality of maternal health services|
|PMSMA||Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan aims to provide antenatal care services to pregnant women||Provides free antenatal care services to all pregnant women on the 9th of every month; aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality by ensuring timely detection and management of high-risk pregnancies|
Triple Talaq is an Islamic practice that allowed Muslim men to divorce their wives by saying “talaq” (divorce) three times in a row, either in person, over the phone, or even through social media. The practice was prevalent in India, and many Muslim women had been at the receiving end of this discriminatory practice, which often left them without any financial or social support.
In 2017, the Supreme Court of India declared the practice of instant triple talaq as unconstitutional and struck it down. The court held that the practice violates the fundamental rights of Muslim women, including the right to equality and dignity.
The judgement had several implications:
- It provided relief to Muslim women who were victims of the discriminatory practice. Women who were divorced through instant triple talaq can now seek legal recourse and challenge the divorce in court.
- It strengthened the rights of Muslim women and upheld the principle of gender justice. The judgement recognized that Muslim women have the same rights as men and that no one can be above the law.
- It set a precedent for the future and sent a message that discriminatory practices against women will not be tolerated in India. The judgement paved the way for more reforms and progressive changes in the Muslim personal law.
- The judgement faced criticism from some conservative Muslim groups, who claimed that it was an interference in the Muslim personal law. However, the judgement was welcomed by most women’s rights activists and progressive groups who saw it as a step towards gender equality.
- The judgement has led to the government’s passage of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019, which criminalizes the practice of instant triple talaq and provides for imprisonment and fine for the offense. The law aims to deter men from practicing the discriminatory practice and protect the rights of Muslim women.
The Sabarimala case is a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of India that pertains to the entry of women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The temple had traditionally prohibited the entry of women between the ages of 10 to 50 years, citing the temple’s deity’s celibacy as the reason.
- In 2018, the Supreme Court of India struck down the temple’s ban on women’s entry, holding that the practice is discriminatory and violates the fundamental rights of women. The judgement had several implications:
- It recognized the fundamental rights of women and upheld the principle of gender equality. The judgement emphasized that the right to practice religion cannot be used as a justification to discriminate against women.
- It set a precedent for similar cases in other places of worship where women are denied entry based on their gender.
- The judgement faced criticism from some religious groups who saw it as an attack on their religious practices and beliefs. However, the judgement was welcomed by women’s rights activists and progressive groups who saw it as a step towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.
- The judgement led to widespread protests in Kerala, with many devotees opposing the entry of women into the temple. The state government had to provide security to women who wanted to enter the temple.
- The judgement also led to a review petition being filed in the Supreme Court, which upheld the earlier judgement, but referred the matter to a larger bench to decide on the issue of the scope and interpretation of the freedom of religion under the Indian Constitution.
1. What is workplace harassment?
- Workplace harassment refers to any unwelcome or offensive behavior, actions, or conduct directed towards an employee or group of employees that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment. It can be verbal, physical, psychological, or sexual in nature.
2. What laws or regulations address workplace harassment in India?
- In India, workplace harassment is addressed by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013, commonly known as the POSH Act.
3. What is a Sexual Harassment at Workplace Committee (SHWC)?
- A Sexual Harassment at Workplace Committee (SHWC) is a mandatory internal committee established by organizations to address complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace. It is responsible for conducting inquiries and ensuring compliance with the law.
4. Who are the members of a SHWC?
- A SHWC typically consists of senior employees, including a presiding officer (usually a woman), representatives from various departments, and an external expert, as required by the POSH Act.
5. How reliable is the data on workplace sexual harassment in India?
- The reliability of data may vary depending on the source. Government data and studies conducted by reputable organizations are generally considered reliable. However, underreporting is a common issue, as many victims may hesitate to come forward due to fear or stigma.
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