People file complaints when they are faced with sexual harassment as it might be really hard for them to cope with their daily activities at work and this might affect their performance. Most of these complaints are not executed properly; this is why the knowledge on how to deal with sexual harassment is important as it questions the rights of not only employees at work but human beings.
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Crimes against women is reported every two minutes in India; violence faced are psychological violence, physical violence, sexual harassment at workplace, financial violence, religious violence in the form of Triple Talaq (though Supreme court has made instant triple talaq invalid) etc. With little awareness transformation can happen, but this requires knowledge of laws, good family and friend circle bond, connecting with women’s rights groups and good workplace culture at workplace.
What is sexual harassment under Indian laws?
Sexual harassment has to do with unwelcome touching or other physical contact without consent. It’s not a sexual harassment when a gymnastics teacher touches his students, which is necessary while teaching about the rudiments of gymnastics. If this teacher touches a student outside and after the class is over and if she/he feels uncomfortable with this act, then it is called sexual harassment.
Also, asking and demanding sex or any other sexual activity is sexual harassment. For instance, if the head of a department or office tells a junior staff to have sex with him to get promoted or to get her unsolicited consent to do so, it also falls under the sexual harassment category.
It is important to know that the Indian Bar Association piloted a survey on sexual harassment in the workplace in 2016; about 6,047 participants (male and female) answered their questionnaire and most of these people came from sectors like the media, education, legal, and medical backgrounds. These participants were also from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and some other major cities.
According to this survey, about 38% of the participants encountered sexual harassment in the workplace. Most of the participants that were victims, especially women, dealt with this act on their own without having to lodge formal complaints to special authorities due to fear, embarrassment, unawareness, etc. About 69% of the victims reported these cases unhindered by the repercussions whatsoever.
Also, according to the survey which was conducted by the Indian Bar Association, it was discovered that the nature of sexual harassment involved touching and physical harassment.
Surprisingly, about 65% the victims’ answers were ‘no’ when asked if the company which they complained to followed the process under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013.
What is The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013?
1. This act makes it illegal to sexually harass women in the workplace. It also states and explains the ways in which an individual can be harassed sexually and how they can complain regarding this type of behavior.
2. Moreover, the Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 is only for women who are sexually harassed at their workplaces. This act is also only for women who are working but it’s not necessary for the woman to be working in the workplace where she was harassed sexually. A workplace can either be an office which may be owned by the government or private individuals.
3. Most people ask questions that if there is no sexual harassment in the office, whether they have to follow the instructions concerning setting up an Internal Complaints Committee? The answer to this is “yes”, even though there are no cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. It is important to set up a committee, that is if the employer employs more than ten employees.
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4. It is important to note that you are not allowed to approach the police and court because of this Act. The Sexual harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 gives you a choice between dealing with the offender within the office or filing a criminal complaint instead of approaching the internal or Local Complaints Committee.
5. What the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 Entails
This is an Act that provides protection against sexual harassment of women at the workplace; it is also for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and any matter connected to it. Sexual harassment results in the violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under the articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution and her rights to life, to live with dignity under article 21 of the Constitution and right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation which includes a right to a safe environment that is free of sexual harassment.
Here are some vital points to consider on how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. How Can You Complain About Sexual Harassment?
1. Only a woman who is a victim of sexual harassment at the workplace is entitled to make complaints under this Act.
2. The affected victim should lay forward her complaints if the organization or office has an Internal Complaints Committee.
3. It is also important that all organizations with more than 10 people have a setup committee against this type of harassment. If the organization has not
4. Setup an Internal Complaints Committee yet, the affected victim should make complaints to the Local Complaints Committee.
5. The affected victim should make complaints within three months of the incident. If there have been more than one incident, the complaint should be made within three months of when the last incident had occurred.
6. This speculated time can be extended by the Internal or Local Committees but this can only be done if these committees find out that the victim was not opportune to make complaints – this time limit cannot be extended more than three months.
7. The complaints should be made in writing; if this cannot be done in writing, the members of the Committee have to assist the affected person in writing the complaints. Someone else can also assist in filing the complaints where the victim is physically challenged, dead or sick. Her relative, close friends, colleagues, etc. can help file a complaint.
What Happens Once a Complaint is Filed?
The affected victim might decide to let the matter settle amicably through ‘conciliation’. This is a process whereby the two parties sit down and agree and payment of money cannot be part of the agreement.
If the victim does not want the matter to settle through conciliation, an inquiry procedure will start immediately. The Internal Committee will have to conclude it within 90 days. This procedure can take place in the office, but if there is no Committee at the workplace, it will take place according to the general law.
If the Committee finds out the accused person is guilty and sexual harassment has taken place, the Committee will recommend some actions to the employer. These activities can be taken as per company’s rule and they include writing an apology and a warning, stopping of promotion or increment, firing the person, and community service.
The Duties of Employers
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1. According to this Act under government offices, an employer is someone who is the head of the department. When it comes to private offices, an employer is someone who oversees the affairs of the offices.
2. The employer needs to set an Internal Complaints Committee to handle cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. The officer-in-charge of this Complaint Committee should be a woman who is a senior person in the workplace.
3. Vital information about this committee should be posted in the area where every employee can access it with ease.
4. Employers are to make sure that the environment is safe for women to work in. The employer should enforce sexual harassment policies and the order that sets up the Internal Complaints committee; this policy should be part of the service rules that govern the workplace.
If we want our companies to function better, we should make sure that the employees working in our offices are taken care of. Apart from the many issues that plague the modern employee, sexual harassment can be a shameful and unfortunate example of unethical exploitation. It is time that we understand the needs of our employees, men or women, and work towards an affable and productive environment in the workplace.