Women Issues (Sexual Harreshment)



What is sexual harassment at work place ? What should I do if I need help in this regard ?



Sexual harassment is a widespread and everyday occurrence, though seldom recognized as such. Women victims are reluctant to even admit to this because of social stigma and ostracism, fear of reprisals. Men find the issue threatening and uncomfortable and either deny its existence or trivialise it.



Sexual Harassment includes unwelcome sexually determined behaviour such as :



Physical contact and advances;



Demand or request for sexual favours;



Sexually coloured remarks;



Showing pornography;



Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.



Apart from this, reasonable grounds must exist to believe that her objection to such advances would disadvantage her in connection with her employment or work and could result in a hostile work environment at the work place. There ought to be a threat that adverse consequences might be visited if victim does not consent.



After the Vishaka Vs State of Rajasthan Judgement, sexual harassment at work places has many remedies. The basic remedy lieswith the Police as the Indian Penal Code which specifically has provisions to handle sexual harassment as listed below :



IPC Sections 292 294: Obscenity



IPC Section 354: Criminal Force or Assault Intended to Outrage Modesty



IPC Section 375: Rape



IPC Section 509: Word, Gesture or Act Intended to Outrage Modesty



Vishaka requires that the employer must have a Complaints Mechanism with women members as the majority, including a member of an NGO or a similar body familiar with sexual harassment and headed by a woman member. It also requires that employer must give a police complaint where sexual harassment also amounts to an offence.



What are the obligations of the employer with regards to sexual harassment at work places ?



According to the Vishaka Guidelines, the employer has the following obligations:



He/ She needs to create an awareness about sexual harassment in various ways.



He / She needs to constitute a Complaints Mechanism headed by a woman, with majority woman members and a woman from NGO or some similar organization dealing with sexual harassment.



Certain safeguards need to be ensured to the woman approaching the Complaints Mechanism. This includes assistance of a special counselor to the woman, confidentiality, option to seek the transfer of her perpetrator or her own transfer etc.



Initiate disciplinary action against the perpetrators.



Must give a police complaint where such sexual harassment results into an offence.


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