Sexual exploitation of women has existed for ages and cuts across societies, rich and poor. It is only in recent times that modern states have started taking harassment at the workplace seriously, putting in place laws that seek to provide a safer work environment for women. Workplace harassment includes a broad array of offensive, disturbing, upsetting or threatening behaviour. Nevertheless, workplace harassment is an insidious problem — both in its scope and the extent of harm it causes to an individual worker. A hostile work environment exists when a particular employee fears going to work because of the significant level of ongoing harassment. In India, the Supreme Court recognised the need for a law when it laid down the Vishaka Guidelines against sexual harassment at the workplace in 1997. Sixteen years later, Parliament enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Employers should provide a mechanism for addressing such sexual harassment in a confidential and sensitive manner. A well-constructed and well-implemented plan within an organization may stop inappropriate conduct before it creates a serious problem for individual employees.
Vinod C. Dixit
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)