Times have changed now, women no longer sit at home to take care of their children and
clean the house. With utmost endeavours to eliminate gender discrimination and increased
opportunities to women and girls in terms of education and other such facilities they were
deprived of in the olden days, many women are now entering the workforce. Men are not
the only ones who earn for their family, and most of the households these days have
working women. However, some things do not change despite every effort put in place in
the form of legislations and policies, to curb the issues. Workplace is yet another sphere of
male domination, just like marriage, where men exert their power over women. 1 Working
women face various kind of gender based discrimination and sexual harassment at
workplace. Most women, however, do not report these incidents of sexual harassment,
either due to fear of being suspended or apprehension of being disbelieved. Also researches
indicate that reporting of such offences may not appear to put an end to the behavior, for
the fact that the likelihood of subsequent incidents of harassment is 6.5 times more. 2
Sexual Harassment includes any unwelcome sexual behavior, that could offend or
humiliate the other person such as unwelcome sexual advances, sexually coloured remarks,
or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or nonverbal conduct of sexual nature. 3 These
behaviors, if it happens at a workplace or any place related to work during the course of
employment, constitutes sexual harassment at workplace. 4 Men may also experience sexual
harassment, there is no denying of this fact. However, women were known and continue to
be the principal victims and are significantly higher in count. 5 These behaviors, even if it is
a one time act, has the capability of making a woman feel unsafe in her work environment,
and indirectly hampers her participation and empowerment. 6 Such experiences can be
1 Ritu Gupta, Sexual Harassment at Workplace, (LexisNexis, Haryana) (2014).
2 Stacy L. Mallicoat, Women and Crime, 201 (Sage Publications, Inc) (2012).
3 Vishaka vs State of rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241; Apparel Export Promotion Council vs A.K Chopra, (1999)
1 SCC 759.
4 Sexual Harassment at Workplace, Human Rights Commission, (last visited March 11, 2020),
5 Alok Bhasin, Sexual Harassment at work, (1 st ed., Eastern Book Company, Lucknow) (2007).
6 Shah Usman, Sexual Harassment Of Women At Workplace: A Brief Analysis Of The POSH Act, 2013,
Mondaq, (Dec. 19, 2019), https://www.mondaq.com/india/Employment-and-HR/876830/Sexual-Harassment-
In India, the “Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and
Redressal) Act”, 2013 is one of the biggest milestones in the history of addressing such
issues which came into place, after almost 16 years of the Supreme Court guidelines in the
landmark case of Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan. 7 It was framed to ensure that women are
protected at their workplace and to provide an environment that is safe and secure, and free
from all forms of discrimination. In addition, section 354 A was added to the Indian Penal
Code by Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, that relates to the offence of sexual
harassment. 8 India is also a signatory and has ratified the “Convention on Elimination of all
forms of Discrimination Against Women” (CEDAW). Similarly, there are provisions under
the Penal Code that relates to offences against the modesty of a woman. 9 These laws, try to
combat the problems faced by every women in the country, but have things actually
There are various movements initiated by different organizations and feminist groups, like
the #metoo movement that gained so much attention across the globe. As per official data,
registered cases of sexual harassment at workplaces increased from 371 in 2014 to 570 in
2017, India. By July 27, 2018, 2535 cases were registered, and people started using the
social media platforms to voice out their personal stories of harassment. 10 Surveys
conducted show that after the movement, in 2016, 25% of women reported being sexually
coerced, and by 2018, it has declined to 16%. However, the number of reported cases have
increased from 76% in 2016 to 92% in 2018. 11 Similarly, data furnished by around 100
companies have showed 14% increase in sexual harassment complaints in FY19 than its
previous year. 12 These indicate that women are now aware of their rights, to be free from
any kind of harassment, and these movements and laws, in some ways have deterred men
from committing these crimes. However, sexual harassment of women at workplace still
7 (1997) 6 SCC 241
8 Indian Penal Code, § 354 A (1860).
9 Indian Penal Code, § 354B, 354C, 354D (1860).
10 Chaitanya Mallapur & Anmol Alphonso, #MeTooIndia: 54% Rise In Sexual Harassment Reported At
Workplaces Between 2014-17, Indiaspend, (October 15, 2018), https://www.indiaspend.com/metooindia-54-
11 Stefanie K. Johnson, Ksenia Keplinger, Jessica F. Kirk & Liza Barnes, Has Sexual Harassment at Work
Decreased Since #MeToo?, Harvard Business Review, (July 18, 2019), https://hbr.org/2019/07/has-sexual-
12 Rica Battacharya, India Inc reports 14% rise in sexual harassment complaints in FY19 , India Times, (Sep.
happens and women still feel unsafe in the institution that is supposed to provide her
safety. Therefore, as highlighted in the “Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace
(Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act”, 2013, employers and other responsible
persons in the workplace must take up the duty to prevent and provide proper grievance
redressal mechanisms to ensure effective redressal of the complaints.
Sexual harassment of a woman is an outright violation of her rights, guaranteed under the
Constitution, 13 and other international instruments such as the CEDAW and the Beijing
Platform for Action. It is a social challenge that needs a lot of attention, to help women
understand their rights and to ensure that such problems should be addressed with greater
efficiency. 14 Addressing the issue of sexual harassment has a direct relationship with
creating an improved working environment and also in relation to respecting the dignity of
the persons working there. Recognizing and understanding sexual harassment, no matter
what kind, as a serious offence will be the first step that can be taken to combat the
problem. Having laws and policies alone does not solve the problem, awareness about the
availability of the rights under such laws must be conveyed to the public. Sexual
harassment of women at workplace is exploitative and needs much more attention than
what is getting right now.
13 Const. Of India (1949) Art. 14, 15 & 21.
14 Ashta Poonia, Sexual Harassment at Workplace, (last visited March 12, 2020),