PREVENTION OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN

Articles

By Kaviraj Singh

India has borne the brunt of orthodox patriarchy since quite a long time. Women have been tormented under the guise of dignity and ornate veil of honor. If noticed closely, we realize that women have had a fair share of contribution in terms of economic reaps for the family in the agrarian society. However, with the changing times, in the battle with the menaces of the likes of Sati pratha and Child Marriage, their role was reduced to that of being the veiled tapestry of obedienc

After independence, Government of India realized the importance of a nation that exists in absence of gender-based prejudices. Various acts were passed by the legislature, like Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 and Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. And yet, a problem that lingered, and still haunts the pride of our civilized society is that of sexual harassment of women at workplace. It is shameful for a country like ours, which personifies the nation as ‘mother’; that women still fall prey to sexual harassment at workplace in the modern times. If Dr. Krishna Kumari’s report is to be believed, “In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in atrocities against women in India, Every 26 minutes a woman is molested. Every 34 minutes a rape takes place. Every 42 minutes a sexual harassment incident occurs. Every 43 minutes a woman is kidnapped. And every 93 minutes a woman is burn to death for dowry.”

[1]Article 11 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)[2] mandates (‘Shall’) it for all the State Parties to terminate all sorts of discrimination against women in the field of employment. It stipulates provision of social security, equal remuneration and proper maternity benefits. If understood in totality, prevention of sexual harassment is an inalienable part of the dignified employment opportunities so substantiated by the moral and legal ethos of the legislative tools of enforcement.

In fact, Hon’ble Supreme Court, in Vishakha and Ors. V. State of Rajasthan and Ors[3] laid down the principles that need to be adhered to, by the employers. In defining sexual harassment, the apex court has went further to enumerate, that not only physical touch/sexual advances or asking for sexual favors is an offence, but even showing pornography, innuendos and unwelcomed remarks (eve teasing) etc. amounts to sexual harassment.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013 received the assent of the Hon’ble President of India on April 22, 2013. This is a landmark piece of legislature because this is the materialization of the spearheaded efforts, by the three pillars of democracy, to create an environment devoid of such unethical corrosion. It mandates formation of an Internal Complaints Committee[4] by the employer. In fact, half the grievance-seeking members need to be women. In my opinion, it’s a multi-layered decision. At one end, while this provides for women to be more comfortable in sharing their experience; on the other hand, it’s symbol of modern-day feminism where women are seated at the adjudicating bench of dispensation.

To conclude, I would say that times are changing. The kind of zeal that the current generation has to put an end to this menace is electrifying. However, despite the existence of Conventions and Legislations, the peril is still cantering through the society, unhindered, mostly because of the apathy, unawareness and impermeability of the unorganized sector. There needs to be a substantive change in the stringency of application of Law. Companies need to be more vocal in terms of such policies. Proper records should be put forth in the public platform for the stakeholders to analyze. Transparency mechanisms should be in place. There needs to be an opaque veil of secrecy for the whistleblowers, in order to penetrate through the crux of the problem.

[1] Krishna Kumari, Areti, Violence from Cradle to Grave (March 12, 2007) Retrieved from: https://ssrn.com/abstract=970171 on August 15, 2017 at 11.30 a.m.

[2]  Part III, Employment – Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm on August 15, 2017 at 11.48 a.m.

[3] AIR 1997 Supreme Court 3011

[4] S.4, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013

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