“I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.”
- R. Ambedkar
The change I want to see is a start-up environment where everyone, regardless of gender and background, feels welcome and safe; where sexual harassment or discrimination will not impede great talent from producing great impact.
- Christine Tsai
Sexual Harassment at work is something that often faced by people but hardly they talk about it openly. This is usually due to the fear of losing their job, facing mockery at the hands of the society, getting trapped in the never-ending judicial proceedings or due to other unsaid reasons.
The Supreme Court of India, in the Vishaka Guidelines acknowledged Sexual Harassment at the workplace as a human rights violation. Keeping in mind the increase in the number of cases of Sexual Harassment faced by women, there was an urgent need for a forceful law to come into place to protect against such harassment. On 23rd April, 2013, a comprehensive legislation was finally brought into force that deals with the protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace by enacting ‘The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act, 2013’.
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) is seeking amendments to the ‘Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013’, after loopholes prompted its chief, Swati Maliwal, to write to the Centre and the Delhi government. Observation of cases, such as those filed against TERI ex-boss Dr RK Pachauri and a St. Stephen’s College professor, has led the DCW to believe that the Central Act is severely flawed. As a result, the commission says, women employers are not receiving justice and are ending up being further victimised.
The National Commission for Women (NWC) will soon write to the Centre seeking changes in the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act. One of the changes it wants is that the definition of ‘sexual harassment’ be expanded to include ‘gender-based cyber rimes with sexual connotations’ committed against women employees at their workplace. A list of suggestions has been made by Rekha Sharma, chairperson, NCW, who was in the city recently to speak at a conference called ‘Know your POSH Ecosystem’.
CHIEF JUSTICE RANJAN GOGOI’S CASE: Ranjan Gogoi’s case put the spotlight on the laws against sexual harassment in India. In the current case where the ex-staffer has accused the CJI of harassment, a three-member committee was constituted with the second most senior judge of the Supreme Court and two women judges. As per the POSH Act, the statement by the defendant and the complainant had to be recorded and transcripts given to both parties and the complainant have allowed to have a support-person accompanying her during the inquiry. Finally, a copy of report has been given to both the parties.
Statement of accused as well complainant were not recorded; transcripts of both the parties were not given to each other. Even support person with complainant in inquiry process was not allowed. Complainant in this case refuse to participate anymore in the inquiry as she felt it was unfair. The Supreme Court carried on without her anyway and declared her allegations to be without substance. The court has refused to give her a copy of the report about her own case where they came to this conclusion. She also thus has no avenue available to contest the committee’s finding. All of this violates the POSH Act at the very least, and the concept of natural justice at its most elementary level.
The Indian National Bar Association, a non-profit organization, put question “Whether Internal Complaint Committee dealt fairly with Complaints”? To 6,047 survey participants in various cities – including Gurgaon, Delhi, Kolkata and Noida – between April 2016 and October 2016. Around 67% of the respondents replied “NO”