Saturday, 28 May 2022

The Sexual Harassment of Women at workplace Act 2013

 The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibit and Redressal) Act, 2013

By: Robin Pandey                                                                       Date: 23/February/ 2022

After 14 years of the Vishaka judgment and many draft Bills on the issue finally this Act came into force with effect from 9th December, 2013 The Act not only symbolizes the India's commitments under CEDAW [Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women] but also reflects culmination of the Apex Court's initiatives, towards a meaningful legislation and safer work place environments for women.  This reflects the constant toil, relentless efforts and workouts by various organizations and public spirited individuals This is a positive step towards recognition of women's basic rights as human rights as included in the Vienna Accord, 1994 and Beijing Women's Conference, 19% This Act is enacted to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The Act seeks to cover all women irrespective of their age or employment status and protect them against sexual harassment at all workplace both in public and private sector whether organized or unorganized. Thus, the objective of the Act is to provide free from all forms o safe, secure and enabling environment to every woman free from all sexual harassment by fixing the responsibility of the employer by lay1ng down a statutory redressal mechanism. The Act is objective, comprehensive and pre It is divided into eight chapters that comprise a total of 30 Sections.

Sexual Harassment Section 2(n)|

 Sexual Harassment" includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by implication) namely: 

(i) physical contact and advances; or 

(ii) a demand or request for sexual favours; or (ii) making sexually coloured remarks; or

 iv) showing pornography: or

 (v) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Prevention of Sexual Harassment |Section 31]

(1) No woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace.

 (2) The following circumstances, among other circumstances, if it occurs or is present in relation to or connected with any act or behaviour of sexual harassment may amount to sexual harassment.

(i)implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment; or implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment or

(ii) implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment or  

(iii) implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment  status; or

 (iv) interferes with her work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment for her; or 

(v) humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety

Sexual harassment at the workplace" is defined in a comprehensive manner, keeping with the definition laid down in the Vishaka judgment broadening it further to cover circumstances of implied or  explicit promise or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment or humiliating treatment,  which  can affect her health or safety. This Section aims at preventing any kind of such behaviour which violates the dignity of working woman. 

Workplace (Section 2(O)

 Furthermore, the Act goes much further in defining the 'workplace' to include organizations, depart1nent, office, branch unit, etc. in the public and private sector, organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex and any place visited by the employee during the course of employment including the transportation. For the first time, the act provides protection to regular/temporary/ad-hoc/daily wage employees, further for remuneration or not and can also include volunteers. This covers domestic workers too.

Redressal Mechanics [Sections 4&6]

The Act under Sections 4 and 6 creates a redressal mechanism in the form or al Complaints Committee (ICC) and Local Complaints Committee (LCC). The Act mandates that the Committee shall complete the inquiry within a time period of 90 days.  On completion of the inquiry, the report will be sent to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be and they are mandated to take action on the report within 60 days. The Act under Section 19 casts a responsibility on every employer to create an environment which is free from sexual harassment.  

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