The Constitution of India grants equal rights to both women and men. Women have the right to choose any field or profession to work for. But in practice, women are discriminated against both at home and outside the home.
Discrimination mainly takes the form of harassment and violence against women. Furthermore, this harassment can be both mental and physical. Repeated physical harassment takes the form of sexual harassment or sexual violence. Sexual harassment in common places and sexual harassment in the workplace is a very bitter reality faced by working girls and women every day.
However, economic liberalization has provided many job opportunities and options for educated women and, similarly, women have to leave their homes. And these days, women are more career-oriented than ever.
The above changes have brought about a positive change in society in the sense that working women feel financially independent and free. But at the same time, insecurity for women has increased, such as sexual exploitation in the workplace.
What is sexual harassment in the workplace?
In simple terms, it can be understood as unwanted direct or indirect sexual contact, comment, or conduct on behalf of male colleagues against female colleagues in the workplace.
Therefore, sexual harassment in the workplace includes both physical and mental aspects. Although it is difficult to define what constitutes sexual violence in the workplace, the Supreme Court of India has defined it in Rajasthan v. Visakha 1997 as follows:
“Any sexually determined behavior (direct, or under pressure) that involves physical contact or offers, requests or prayers for sexual favors, obscene comments, pornography, or another objectionable physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.”
Therefore, the above definition made it very clear that any type of sexual harassment by a man against an employee would be treated as sexual harassment in the workplace.
Causes of sexual harassment at the workplace
There are many reasons for the sexual harassment of women at the workplace; Some reasons are generally prevalent in society as a whole but some are done exclusively at the workplace. Some of them are explained below:
The common reason behind all forms of oppression or violence against women is the patriarchal structure prevalent in our society where a man always considers himself to be more omnipotent than the woman in every aspect of life. This superiority in itself manifests in practice various types of complex discrimination against women and working women.
Thus, a male employee never wants a female colleague to work with him or her to reach a higher level in the office, and harasses her to make her uncomfortable, degrading, in various ways by a male colleague. Techniques are used and some of them are the main techniques of sexual indecency such as indecent remarks, offensive behavior, dirty photos or videos, or any such indecent behavior, etc.
In addition, the distorted sexual mental instincts of certain people are also one of the leading causes of sexual harassment at the workplace. More and more female employees are being recruited in both the public and private sectors, while some have made it easier for men to engage in such sexually perverse behavior.
Jealousy at the workplace:
Jealousy at the workplace is also the reason for such crimes against women, a male employee does not want his employer to see his female colleague achieving success, promotion, or encouragement. And because of jealousy, he tortures her with perverse sexual behavior. It is also associated with the perceived superiority of men that women can never be better than men.
Contempt and humiliation:
Apart from these reasons, a general contempt for women among men and a sense of humiliation is also a major reason where women are only a medium for men to fulfill their sexual desires. We respect women in our homes, but should not treat other women in this way. Women are no different at the workplace, male colleagues consider them only as a medium to play.
Hate speech and jokes, obscene acts, gossip of sexual nature, etc. are the work done with women at the workplace. Although in our society we claim to respect and worship women in reality various types of crimes against women show that our claims are nothing more than just a lie.
Therefore, there are many and diverse reasons for sexual harassment of women in the workplace, but the most important of all those reasons are usually the deepening of the feeling of superiority among men. The social conditions of the patriarchal system transmit such sentiments in the next generations that lead to crimes such as sexual harassment of women in the workplace.
Legal provisions to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace
In the law books, as of 2013, sexual harassment in the workplace was not a particular crime. Even the Indian Penal Code of 1860 did not have a separate section to treat sexual harassment of women in the workplace as a separate offense. Only sexual harassment and I.P.C. It became a punishable offense under section 354 of the Indian Penal Code. Therefore, to date in cases of sexual harassment in the workplace, a decision is made under this section.
In 1997, at the time of the Visakha case of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court of India identified the flaws and defenses of the IPC and issued a landmark ruling setting out certain guidelines targeting both public and private sector employee organizations. ordered to continue to protect and prevent sexual harassment.
These guidelines obliged employers to protect their female employees from sexual harassment, it should be mandatory to take appropriate action on any complaint in such a case, it was mandated that all organizations should have such To take action on misconduct by the Complaints Committee Headed by a woman, the norms that prohibit sexual harassment must be notified and disseminated, sanctions must also be imposed in cases of infringement of these norms, harassment by third parties to employers Aimed at protecting their employees.
Only this guideline, for the past 19 years, has been drawn up in the context of prohibiting sexual harassment of women in the workplace, and only in 2013, the Parliament of India enacted a special law for such harassment to women. They enforced what they called sexual harassment (prevention, prohibition, and prevention) of women in the workplace.
Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace, Act 2013
The law came into force on December 9, 2013. As its name explains its purpose of prevention, prohibition, and reparation, and in the event of rape, it also serves to provide reparation to the victim.
The law adopts almost all the guidelines set out in the “Visakha case” and also encompasses a number of other provisions, such as it has empowered the civil court grievance committees to collect evidence; If employer
If you do not comply with the provisions of the law, you will have to pay a fine of more than 50,000 rupees, these laws also to unorganized sectors such as day laborers in the contract business or maids or domestic workers working in their fields, etc. . It includes
Therefore, this act is a tactic of working women to combat the risk of sexual harassment in the workplace. It streamlines the guidelines established in the Visakha decision and obliges employers to comply with its provisions by law.
However, the law also has some loopholes, such as that it does not classify sexual harassment as a crime but is considered only as a civil crime, which is the main drawback when the victim wishes to register the act as a crime. Not only is a complaint filed as a crime, but there is also a greater possibility of pressuring the victim to withdraw the complaint by her superior employee.
Therefore, the law can be considered a correct step, but it is not completely loss-free and still needs improvement. Even now, the victim has to find criminal measures under the Indian Penal Code to get full justice. And then the criminal complaint is filed under section 354, which is not a special section on sexual harassment in the workplace, but a general provision.
Therefore, according to the law, both the public and private sectors have been subjected to the legal imperative of protecting female workers from sexual harassment in the workplace, but the problem lies in its implementation and its complexities.
It is still in its infancy and most organizations, except for some large organizations, are not related to the provision, not even the laws that are established for sexual harassment in the workplace and what the sanctions and preventive measures are. it does not even formulate rules that make all these rules and laws public. There is not even an Internal Complaints Committee there.
A recent example, the editor-in-chief of “Tehelka magazine” was suspected of being involved in such misconduct and it came to light after news broke that any complaints under Visakha’s guidelines in his office or at the workplace There were no sexual harassment complaints committee.
Therefore, the only time to come can say that the recently approved Law, Law on Sexual Harassment of Women at Work (Prevention, Prohibition and Prevention), 2013, the crime that is committed only with women, whether or not it will be able to stop and ban it.
It can be said that although we have a special provision to prevent atrocities with women in the workplace, apart from this there are historical guidelines already given by the Supreme Court of India, but this evil should not be controlled until then Until the thinking of men. It can be changed.
As long as men do not respect the basic humanity of women, no law on sexual harassment of women at the workplace will be effective. It is important that the right to equality given to all by the Constitution is not only expressed in words but is also put into practice.