Sexual harassment faced by women at the workplace

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As stated in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution, “fairness of position and opportunity” must be provided for all of its people; Article 14 of the constitution ensures equality for each individual under the law.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of 2013 was enacted to provide safe working environments for women and to build empowering workplaces that recognize women’s entitlement to a balance of status and opportunity. A successful demonstration will contribute to the recognition of their right to sex equality, life, and freedom, as well as correspondence in working circumstances all over the area.

Introduction

Men used to be the only providers for their families in the past. Globalization has had a significant impact on the position of women all around the world. Regardless, with a greater number of women in India’s conventional labor force, indecent conduct at work is on the rise.

In the Indian workforce, bad conduct at work has resulted in increasingly notable measurements. The issue of sexual harassment is not so much about biological distinctions between men and women as it is about the gender or social roles that men and women are assigned in social and economic life, as well as societal conceptions of male and female sexuality.[1]

Sexual harassment can manifest itself in a variety of ways[2]. It is not restricted to requests for sexual favors made under the fear of losing one’s employment. However, it is not only women who are victims of this malpractice; males are also victims, albeit the incidence is minimal. However, in other circumstances, males have been found to be more prone to sexual harassment at work.

Law on workplace sexual harassment: History and evolution

If we define sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual encounters imposed by superiors on subordinates at work, it has been practiced for at least a century. The term “sexual harassment” was coined in the United States of America, and it has now spread to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan. It became recognized in the general media beginning in 1975.[3]

The evolution of jurisprudence in the domain of sexual harassment at work has worked toward maybe distinguishing the two primary types of sexual harassment[4]

  • Sexual blackmail (quid pro quo harassment) and
  • Hostile environment

Quid pro quo Harassment often happens when a supervisor seeks a sexual favor in exchange for providing an employee with an employment-related advantage, such as a raise, promotion, or good job evaluation. The hostile environment was acknowledged for the first time in the United States of America to sanction harassing behavior that created an intimidating, hostile, and unpleasant working environment but did not necessarily result in economic loss in reprisal for a sexual demand or proposal rejection[5].

A hostile work environment involves discussing sexual behaviors, unnecessary touching, unsightly gestures, and vulgar insulting language.

Gender inequality has long been exacerbated by sexual coercion in the workplace. One of the pillars of India’s constitutional superstructure has been the abolition of gender discrimination. The Supreme Court of India first acknowledged the historic ruling of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, in which the Supreme Court defined many guidelines and granted specific recommendations to the Union of India to create a substantial statute to address workplace sexual harassment.[6]

This case, Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan, is credited with making sexual harassment unlawful in India.[7]

“In 1992, the state of Rajasthan hired a social worker named “Bhanwari Devi” to work in communities to prevent the practice of child and multiple weddings. While she was attempting to prevent a nine-year-old girl’s marriage. In 1992, she was gang-raped in front of her husband by five people because she sought to prevent child marriage.

Since she was a nine-month-old year kid when Bhanwari Devi halted marriage. She notified her family, who refused to report it to the police station, and she was humiliated and driven out. Five men from the family began beating her in the fields and raped her. Bhanwari Devi and her husband were deafeningly quiet.

When she contacted the police to submit a report, the officers first declined to mention the occurrence, instead questioning the victim about her knowledge of rape.

The doctor declined to examine her when she went to the hospital for a medical examination. Bhanwari Devi and her husband were subjected to even more hatred and humiliation at the police station. The police then told Bhanwari Devi to leave her Lehenga as evidence and return to her village. It had been 26 years since she was raped in public.

This was the first time a woman talked frankly about her sexual assault in traditional Rajasthan. The locals considered her an outcast for rape. Based on the circumstances of Bhanwari Devi’s case, many women’s groups from various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) began a campaign. Bhanwari’s struggle for justice Despite everything, she stayed steadfast and fought her cause.

In 1995, the defendants were found not guilty of rape.

“The judge cited a number of reasons for acquitting the accused”:

  • Ahead of the village cannot rape Different castes of men cannot gang rape
  • People cannot commit rape between the ages of 60 and 70.
  • A higher caste cannot rape a lower caste lady for purity grounds.[8]
  • She was a true celebrity who battled for her sexual assault.

Women’s culture and class differences

What kind of women are harassed? The simplest answer is all sorts of women. No sociodemographic factor could protect a woman in a sexist culture from sexual harassment and the implied threat of sexual violence.

However, there is evidence that the precise types of sexual harassment differed depending on career and socioeconomic level. All women were vulnerable to at least minor kinds of sexual harassment (verbal provocative remarks, clothing requirements), but physical assault was more widespread and expected of women in low-wage positions.

A review of the types of sexual harassment experienced by early female doctors reveals a pattern of harassment designed to push women out of privileged, male-defined positions. Women’s roles as professionals in the health professions had been deliberately abolished.

The inability of women to talk openly about their experiences has various consequences. It resulted in sexual harassment, as well as other forms of sexual violence such as rape, being significantly underreported. After such instances, women felt remorse rather than fury; and dread, not without cause, gripped them that any “justice” they could receive by reporting the assault would be outweighed by the stigma associated with public identification with sexual difficulties

The primary function of sexual harassment is to maintain patriarchy’s dominance. The use of sexual harassment to force women out of certain occupations might be a fresh twist on an old story. Even in previous communities that acknowledged a “men’s sphere” and a “women’s sphere” as equally vital to communal existence, there is evidence that women were sexually harassed to keep them from straying in other ways.[9]

There are several statutes under which the victim might seek Redressal

Development of laws in India

For the first time, the Supreme Court of India recognized sexual harassment in the workplace as a violation of human rights in 1997. The landmark Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan decision provided a set of rules for the prevention and resolution of sexual harassment allegations by women in the workplace.

The rules hold companies accountable for providing a safe work environment for their female employees, and they contain both preventative and corrective measures.

Furthermore, despite the fact that the Vishaka[13],the verdict was issued about a decade ago, efforts to follow the instructions have been limited. Indeed, many public and private institutions have yet to establish complaints committees or alter service regulations, as required by the law guidelines.

A recent bill on sexual harassment was passed in the year 2010, in which the government specifically stated that certain requirements and guidelines must be followed by all enterprises. The Bill seeks to guarantee a safe working environment for women in both public and private sectors. Private sectors, both organized and disorganized If the proposed Bill is passed, it will safeguard women against sexual harassment in the workplace, whether it is public or private.

Women’s involvement in the labor force will increase as their perception of security at work improves economically empowered and inclusive growth. The Bill includes protections in the event of a false or malicious sexual harassment accusation.

However, the complainant would not be punished if he or she was unable to prove the charge or present acceptable proof. The primary elements of the same include imposing a punishment of Rs.50,000 on the harasser, requiring the committee to include at least 50% women, and for the committee to conclude the inquiry within 190 days.

Sexual Harassment Act for Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Legislation, 2013, is an Indian legislative act aimed at protecting women from sexual harassment at work. On September 3, 2012, the Lok Sabha (India’s lower house of parliament) passed it. On February 26, 2013, the Rajya Sabha (India’s upper house of parliament) passed it. On April 23, 2013, the President gave his approval to the Bill.

The Act went into effect on December 9, 2013.  This statute superseded the Supreme Court of India’s Vishaka Guidelines for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH).

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013 adds Section 354 A to the Indian Penal Code, which defines what constitutes a sexual harassment offense and the punishment for a male who commits such an offense. The penalty is from one to three years in jail and/or a fine. Furthermore, because sexual harassment is a felony, employers are required to report incidents.[14]

Protection under the Indian constitution

The Supreme Court rules and regulations have become the law of the nation under Article 141 of the Indian Constitution. When a person is sexually harassed, his or her basic rights under Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 15(1) (no Discrimination against any citizen on the basis of gender), violation of Article 16 (1) (equal opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment), violation of Article 19(1)g (freedom to engage in any trade, profession, or business), and violation of Article 21 (right to live with dignity).

Suggestions for which laws sexual harassment laws can be included

Tort law

Sexual harassment is harmful institutional behavior. Tort law includes both negligent conduct caused by carelessness or inattention and purposeful acts that cause injury. Another trend is vicarious liability. It is also referred to as strict or no-fault liability because it is enforced in the absence of the employer’s fault[15].

Equal opportunity laws

Many nations, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Denmark, use the constitutional guarantee of equality to outlaw gender discrimination at employment. In addition to the accused, the employer is accountable for failing to provide a workplace environment free of discrimination.[16]

Labour law

It has the potential to be utilized to defend against constructive or unjust dismissal based on an objection to or refusal of sexual harassment in laws dealing with employment contracts.[17]

Suggestions and preventive measures

An employer should find a strategy to prevent lewd conduct from occurring, such as raising the matter positively, expressing strong disapproval, devising suitable consequences, informing employees of their rights and how to raise the problem of sexual harassment, and so on.[18]

It is required to set up a grievance panel and which should be headed by a woman. To ensure objectivity, the panel will include a third party from a non-administrative organization or another individual familiar with concerns of obscene conduct. In the event of an offense, the organization should initiate appropriate disciplinary action.

Conclusion

Despite many years of contemplation, lawful action, and assistance, this analysis of knowledge, research, and experience reveals that improper behavior remains a serious and unavoidable concern across all industrial domains and work situations. Sexual harassment hurts the lives, wellness, monetary freedom, and opportunities of many exploited individuals, and costs companies not just in legal fees, but also in lost efficiency, spirit, morality, viability, and talent.

The time for talking about protecting working women from sexual harassment has passed; it is now time to follow the rules that protect working women, which will, finally, provide a good suggestion to establish a safe and vibrant working atmosphere.

Women must be regarded as persons who, in their own right, are equivalent to men. Managers must see women as contributors rather than receivers. Similarly, women must be emphatic and cultivate a sense of self-worth in order to project a sense of stability and respectability.

 

References:

[1] ILO, Action against sexual harassment at work in Asia and the pacific, 2001, p.8

[2]David E. Terpstra, D.E. Employ Response Rights J (1996)

[3]http://misogynit.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/shocking-reality-exposed-indian-men-are-more-vulnerabletosexual-harassment-as-compared-to-women/ published on (September 19, 2010)

[4] Supra n. 2. p. 2

[5] Quebec v. Habach, date of decision 29-3-1992, Canada Human rights tribunal

[6] 1(1997) 6 SCC 241

[7]  Ibid

[8] Geeta Pandey, Bhanwari Devi: The Rape that led to India’s sexual harassment law,

[9] Jstor.org

[10] https://www.forbesindia.com/article/take-one-big-story-of-the-day/rise-in-sexual-harassment-cases-in-indias-top-companies-showsdichotomy/80721/1#:~:text=Data%20showed%20that%20these%20companies%20registered%20759%20cases,gaining%20momentum%2C%20leading%20to%20employee%20activism%20in%20India.

[11] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/678-sexual-harassment-cases-reported-in-2019-20-report/articleshow/81394850.cms

[12] https://www.thestatesman.com/india/sexual-harassment-at-workplace-ncw-data-shows-upward-trend-1502731029.html

[13] (1997) 6 SCC 323

[14]  Nishith Desai Associates, Veena Gopalakrishnan, Ajay Singh Solanki and Vikram Shroff, India’s new labour law – prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace, Lexology, 30 April 2013

[15] Bazley v. Curry (1999) 2 SCR 534

[16] Supra n.32. p. 308

[17] Michael Rubenstein, legal approaches to Sexual harassment in condition, work digest, vol. no 1 1992, p. 52

[18] 429 CFR 1604.II(f)


This article has been authored by Triveni T studying a student at Sastra School of Law, Tanjore.

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