Swami Vivekanada said “There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing.” We are living in a country which is witness to innumerable incidents of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a serious issue that has been ignored and treated with complacency. Sexual harassment cases usually have a marked power imbalance between the victim and the accused. Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace is very real, and it happens every day. Sexual Harassment at workplace”, is a widespread issue and an unwanted social atrocity being committed against a woman. There are numerous women who have faced sexual harassment at some point of time. It might have been at her office, on her way to work or during an official trip. Sexual harassment is that illness which has its effect on every corner of the world. Supreme Court’s historic 1997 judgement and the 2013 law against sexual harassment at the work place haven’t done enough to address deeper systemic problems. The Supreme Court of India in 1997 passed the landmark Vishaka judgement, which clearly defined the ambit of sexual harassment in the workplace. It includes that the acts like physical contact and advances; a demand or request for sexual favours; sexually coloured remarks; showing pornography; and any other unwelcome physical verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
Although it is heartening to see women making stupendous progress in almost every sphere of activity, one cannot be oblivious to the fact that they continue to be victims of violence of different hues. Every human being has the right to live with dignity and respect. It is noticed that the prevalence of crimes against women in a certain place depends on a large extent to the social ambience of that place. Efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against women should have high priority by way of implementing various measures. The punishment for battering, molestation, sexual molestation and unlawful threat must be increased. Projects must be launched for a better cooperation between the police, the social services and other relevant parties. Government should come out with much more essence and urgency to check the indecent behaviour against women folks, and the need to chart out stern measures on the part of administrative authorities for curbing down such events. While serious law is the need of the hour, it should also be taken into consideration that law enforcement agencies work efficiently and diligently in that direction. Making crime under Sec 354 a non-bailable will mark a significant accomplishment towards the empowerment of women. The provisions of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 laid under the Act aims to protect the interest of all women employees and fuel the adoption of good governance practices and mandate employers’ to provide a safe working environment to women employees. The sexual harassment Act mandates that all workplaces with more than 10 workers constitute an internal complaints committee for receiving complaints of sexual harassment.
The Act was enacted to ensure a safe working environment for women. It provides for protection to women at their workplace from any form of sexual harassment and for redressal of any complaints they may have launched. Now-a-days the sexual harassment at workplace is an unlawful act which has been spreading like a wildfire for quite a while now. The mammoth truth also remains that more than half the women percentage of our country, till date, are not very clear about the legal mechanism against combating sexual harassment at workplace. There are still countless women in rural India who are unable to report or file complaints against harassment. The low number of women police personnel further aggravates the problem.
(This is the first part of the diary, the remaining part will continue on Sunday.)
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)