Sexual Harrasment - at work place - Seeker's Thoughts

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Sexual Harrasment - at work place

Introduction: - Sexual harassment at the workplace 

Around the globe, women face sexual harassment, atrocities, and cruelties at work. Not only developing countries but in developed countries also women are victims of such disgusting activities. 

What is sexual harassment?
In simple words, sexual harassment at the workplace is an act or a pattern of behavior that compromises with physical, emotional or financial safety and security of a woman worker. If the employer or the co-workers by any action or words or gesture create a hostile environment for a women worker, it amounts to sexual harassment. For example,- forcing an employee to make physical relations or else, the employee would not be promoted. 

Sexual harassment in India at the workplace as defined in 1997  
Sexual harassment at the workplace was not originally conceived as a separate offense in the Indian penal code (IPC). The question got first attention in India in 1997, when in the landmark judgment of Vishakha and another v. state of Rajasthan, the supreme court of India defined sexual harassment at the workplace.
An NGO, called Vishakha, took a case of gangrape in office in Rajasthan to the supreme court challenging the Rajasthan high court verdict. 

The Supreme court after the case noted that there was a lack of legal recourse against sexual harassment at the workplace. and that's how the supreme court defined what would constitute sexual harassment at the workplace and issued guidelines that were to have statutory value until a proper law was enacted by parliament. 

Before the supreme court set the law against sexual harassment at the workplace in order, such cases were dealt with under IPC section 354 (outraging the modesty of women) and section 509 (using word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) .

Notably- A group of activists, under Vishakha, moved the supreme court in 1997. Sexual harassment in the workplace got a definition in India. It took another 16 years for parliament to replace the Vishakha guidelines with a law called, the sexual harassment of women at the workplace (prevention, prohibition, and redressal) Act, 2013. 


Provision on sexual harassment in the Indian constitution 
Activities like sexual harassment clearly violate the fundamental rights of a women to Equality under Article 14(2) and Article 15(3), her right to life under Article 21(4) and her right to practice any profession and carry on any occupation, trade or business (5), which includes a right to safety environment free from sexual harassment. 

Prevention, prohibition and redressal Act 2013 
The sexual harassment Act was finally enacted in the year 2013 for the prevention of sexual harassment against women at the workplace in the whole of India. The main objective of the act was the protection of women, prevention and redressal of sexual harassment complaints. Sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior. 
1- physical contact and advances. 
2- a demand or request for sexual favors. 
3- making sexual colored remarks. 
4- showing pornography. 
5- any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct, and sexual nature. 
In 2013, various changes were made in the way sexual harassment was viewed within the criminal justice system of India. The criminal las amendment Act of 2013, which commenced on April 3, 2013, included section 354A of the Indian penal code, 1860 that defined sexual harassment
The India penal code, 1860 has also defined the term sexual harassment and related offenses and put forth punishments for the same: 

Section 354A- sexual harassment is: unwelcome physical contact and advances, including. Unwanted and explicit sexual activity, a demand or request for sexual favors, showing someone sexual images (pornography) without their consent and making unwelcome sexual remarks punishment: up to three years in prison, and a fine. 

Section 354B – Forcing a woman to undress. ---- punishment from three to seven years in prison, and a fine. 
Section 354C – watching or capturing the image of women without her consent ---- punishment of one to three years in prison and a fine. 
Section 354D – Following a woman and contacting her or trying to contact her despite her saying she does not want any contact. Monitoring a woman using the internet or any other form of electric communication (stalking) ----- punishment up to three years in prison and a fine. 
The same definition is given in the law enacted specifically for sexual harassment of women at workplace (prevention and prohibition and redressal act 2013) 

What can be the preventive step of sexual harassment at the workplace? 

Provisions related to sexual harassment at the workplace should be notified, published and circulated in inappropriate ways. 
Appropriate work conditions should be provided in respect of work, leisure health and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women at workplaces happen. 

Sexual harassment should include- men's rights as they are also vulnerable to harassment. Though there is no doubt that 'women' are often considered more as a sex symbol rather than for their work. 
Overall, the workplace should be - asexual, genderless and work-oriented. 

Complaint mechanism the complaint mechanism should be adequate and secured. A special counselor or other support services, including the maintenance of confidentiality, should be provided by the organizations or governments. So that women feel free to open up. 

A way forward 
Awareness of the rights of female employees in this regard should be created every woman should know about the law and provision regarding sexual harassment.  Employees should be allowed to raise issues of sexual harassment at a worker’s meeting and in other suitable forum and it should be affirmatively discussed in employer-employee meetings. 
There should be a 24*7 helpline for women workers, however, in practicality helplines which are provided are not even working well.
The lethargic attitude of officials and administrators often played a devil as they fail to implement the proper mechanism for every matter. 

To gain gender neutrality, the provision should include men too, as they are often neglected when it comes to sexual harassment. 

Laws should be stringent against sexual harasser in spite of his or her gender.  Not to forget that the problem is sexual harassment in the workplace,  and the problem is genderless. However, women remain the worse victim and that is true as society is such in India and around the world where women seem to be associated with sex, and production of children. 
Women should be encouraged to speak up, as they are taught to be silent and endure since childhood. These social upbringings have a lot to do with the problems of the present day. 

Slowly India is getting little free from patriarchal mindset and women are taking a stand and speaking up about the atrocities they have been facing for so many years. In the wake of #me-too movement Indian women coming up in public revealing the culprit’s name. On the other side, rape cases are rising not because rapes are increasing but because people are getting courageous and filing cases against rape. 

And obviously, they start thinking rationally that rape does not make girl or a woman guilty the one to blame is the rapist. Rapes are happening for hundreds of years it's just they are being addressed by now. The government needs to make more strict laws for women protection in the country and most importantly the government should do more focus on making more law awareness policies among women across the country. 

- Alveera Khan and Namrata Chauhan


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