Sexual harassment is a harsh reality faced by women across the world. Complaints of sexual harassment are on the increase. Researches conducted by various NGO’s in Kerala shows that a good majority of working women are aware of this ‘unwelcome’ behavior of their male colleagues.
Right to a safe Workplace is a woman’s right – says Supreme Court
In 1997 the Supreme Court recognized and addressed Sexual Harassment at workplace as systemic discrimination against women. The judgment created mandatory sexual harassment prevention guidelines for the workplace, applicable all over India. The knowledge and information about it can lead to a workplace free of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment injects the most demeaning sexual stereotypes into the general work environment and always represents an intentional assault on an individual’s innermost privacy.
What is sexual harassment at the workplace?
According to the Supreme Court order, sexual harassment is any unwelcome:
Harassment can take the guise of banter or even take on of the form of unwelcome physical contact.
Basically it is any unwelcome words or actions of sexual nature. Examples:
Who do these Supreme Court guidelines apply to?
All government and private sector organizations, hospitals, universities and the unorganized sector come under the purview of the guidelines. Women, who either draw a regular salary, receive an honorarium, of work in a voluntary capacity will in particular benefit from these guidelines.
All employers or responsible heads of institutions are to institute certain conduct rules and preventive measures to stop sexual harassment. The guidelines direct employers to set up procedures through which women can make their complaints heard.
A complaints committee headed by a woman, and of which at least half the members are women, should be formulated to look into complaints of sexual harassment. To prevent undue pressure from within the organization the committee should include a third party representative from a non-governmental organization (NGO) or any other individual conversant with the issue of sexual harassment. All complaints are to be handled in a confidential manner within a time bound framework. An annual report must be prepared and submitted to the concerned government department.
The guideline mentions preventive steps that should be taken by employer like:
In addition to preventive and remedial measures the court has also stressed the need for awareness raising in the workplace
These Supreme Court guidelines are legally binding and must be enforced.
What are the consequences of sexual harassment?
To the employer / institution:
To the recipient
The most effective way of dealing with sexual harassment in an institution on a long term comprehensive level is to devise and implement a sexual harassment policy, provide training for staff involved in the implementation of such a policy and to ensure that the policy is monitored.
Make our workplace sexual harassment free zones.
The employer should
The Government of Kerala has made it mandatory that all Public Sector Undertakings,
The Government of Kerala has amended Kerala Service Rules to include sexual harassment
at workplace as ‘misconduct’. Industrial Disputes Act is also amended to this effect.