• Sexual harrasment

    B.B.A L.L.B (Hons.) IInd Yr.


    Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace : Then and Now

    Before the commencement of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention,
    Prohibition & Redressal) Act, 2013 there was only one section for Sexual Harassment that comes
    under Indian Penal Code, 1980. The Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code says about the Sexual
    harassment and punishment of sexual harassment. Section 354 (1) says that A man commiting
    any of the following act----
    i. physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual
    overtures; or
    ii. a demand or request for sexual favours; or
    iii. showing pornography against the will of a woman; or
    iv. making sexually coloured remarks,
    shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment. Section 354 (2) says that Any man who
    commits the offence specified in clause (i) or clause (ii) or clause (iii) of sub-section (1) shall be
    punished with rigorous punishment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or
    with both. Section 354 (3) says that Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (iv) of
    sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may
    extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

    As increasing numbers of women have joined the labour force over the past 3 decades,
    what has also increased in their vulnerability to unwanted attention to the workplace. Today, the
    problem of sexual harassment in workplaces in acknowledged as a serious issue-as an
    occupational hazard and a violation of human rights. The ILO has called it a violation on the
    fundamental rights of workers, a safety and health hazard, a problem of discrimination, an
    unacceptable working condition and a form of violence, usually against women workers.
    Although both men and women can be subjected to sexual harassment, quantitative and
    qualitative research shows that women are much more likely to be victims and men perpetrators
    in societies globally.

    In M. Kavya v. The Chairman, University Grants Commission, New Delhi,
    (V.Ramasubramanian, J.) said that, the petitioners, who are students of the respondent –
    University, undergoing Post Graduate Courses, respectively in Mass Communication and
    English Literature, have come up with the above writ petition, challenging an order dated
    1.11.2013, by which, they were placed under suspension for the even semester of the academic
    year 2013-2014 and an order of the Appellate Authority, namely the Vice-Chancellor dated
    19.12.2013, by which, their suspension was revoked subject to their submitting an unconditional

    On 30.09.2013, the petitioners herein lodged a complaint with (1) the Vice-Chancellor of
    the University; (2) the Registrar of the University and (3) the Chairperson of the Anti-Ragging
    Cell, complaining that when they were walking towards the Mother Theresa Mess of the
    University, at about 8.00 p.m. on 21.09.2013, two students, studying in the Department of
    Physical Education in the same University passed snide comments about the petitioners, used
    abusive words and threatened to assault them and rape them. According to the said Complaint,
    another co-student of the petitioners, by name ‘M’ was warned by one of those students that if
    the second petitioner herein lodged a complaint, he would stigmatize them as having been
    sexually assaulted. On 1.10.2013, the petitioners got published in The Indian Express, in its
    Edition dated 1.10.2013, in the The Time of India in its Edition dated 1.10.2013 and in The
    Hindu later.
    It appears that immediately, the Chairman of the Anti-Ragging Committee of the
    University constituted on Enquiry committee comprising of about 9 members, some of whom
    were the Deans of various Schools of the University, one was an Assistant Dean and two were
    chief wardens of the Hostel for Boys and Girls. This committee purportedly conducted an
    enquiry with 5 students, namely (1) ‘k’ the first petitioner herein, (2) ‘v’ the second respondent
    herein, (3) ‘Monu’ the boy accompanying the petitioners, (4) ‘Sreejith’, against whom the
    complaint was made, and (5) ‘Aneesh’. The enquiry committee submitted a report subsequently.
    In the report, it is stated that the committee obtained the written statements of only 2 boy
    students, namely ‘Sreejith’ and ‘Aneesh’ but recorded the statements of 7 students, including the
    5 students, who appeared for the enquiry and two others. After taking the statements and

    questioning them, the Committee recorded

    (1) its major observations;

    (2) its recommendations; and suggested disciplinary action.
    Since the said report forms the basis for all the events that subsequently unfolded, it may
    be necessary to extract (1) the major observations of the committee; (2) the recommendations;
    and (3) Suggested disciplinary action. All the extracts were made and passed to the parliament
    but action has not taken yet. Then came the Vishaka case. Though long after the decision of the
    supreme court in Vishaka, the Parliament enacted “The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work
    place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act,2013” came into force.

    In Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K.Chopra, the High Court said that it is
    necessary and expedient for employers in work place as well as other responsible persons or
    institutions to obtain certain guidelines to ensure the prevention of sexual harassment of women.
    a. Duty of the employer or other responsible persons in work places and other institutions.
    b. Sexual harassment includes the unwelcomed behavior directly or indirectly such as:
    i) Physical contact and advances;
    ii) A demand or request for sexual favour;
    iii) Sexually coloured remarks;
    iv) Showing pornography; and
    v) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
    c. Preventive Steps.
    i) Express prohibition of sexual harassment as defined above at workplace should be
    notified, published and circulated in appropriate ways.
    ii) The Rules/Regulations of Government and Public Sector bodies relating to
    conduct and discipline should include rules/regulations prohibiting sexual
    harassment and provide for appropriate penalties in such rules against the
    d. Criminal proceedings.
    e. Disciplinary action.
    f. Complaint mechanism.

    g. Complaints Committee.
    h. Worker’s initiative.
    i. Awareness.
    j. Third party harassment.

    For centuries, the women have been subjected to various form of exploitation, harassment
    and torture both in physical and sexual capacities. Then women entered into paid labour force
    from the narrow confinement of the family, they experienced a new kind of harassment at the
    hands of employers, supervisors and co-workers. Women in the work place experience a wide
    range of sexual conducts, ranging from sexiest comments to non-violent sexual contacts to
    violent sexual impositions. Sexual harassment which has an invisible problem until quite
    recently, has now become a major social problem with the widespread entry of women into
    labour force. After the Nirbhaya v. State of Delhi (Gang rape case) and Lakshmi v. State of Delhi
    (Acid throwing case) the Central Government took many steps for the welfare of the women and
    girl child. Today, almost all working women are vulnerable to sexual harassment irrespective of
    their status, personal characteristics and the types of their employment.

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