Where should a person from any other gender go if they face sexual harassment?
Do you think the investigation of all PoSH cases should be conducted without any bias against the accused men?
Why a gender-neutral approach in the investigation is necessary to maintain the right to equality given by our constitution?
In the upcoming sections, we will try to find the answers to such questions related to gender equality’s importance and investigate the current situation of gender neutrality in the PoSH law.
Women were always subjected to some or other form of gender-based discrimination in the workplace as. Sexual harassment of women in the workplace is another major issue which stopped women from joining the workforce of the country. To protect women from the harassment and unfair treatment at work, PoSH Act, 2013 (Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act) was introduced. Although the PoSH Act was introduced to give protection to women against sexual harassment, a major question it raised was that is it gender discriminatory in nature. The PoSH Law only gave protection to women and thus other genders have nowhere to go if they face sexual harassment.
Impact of PoSH Act on the Environment of Workplace
It is quite true that women faced gender-based discrimination for a long time and therefore an act was needed to protect their right. The PoSH law seeks to empower women to fight against sexual harassment at workplace. This law has helped many women get justice over the years for sexual harassment they faced in the workplace. However, it has also become a threatening tool for some women to extort money from their organisation’s management. Fake PoSH cases are increasing day-by-day and internal complaints committees are finding it hard to decrease the no. of fake or malicious cases as they lead to innocent men facing humiliation from society.
The constant increase in the malicious PoSH complaint has led some thinkers into believing that PoSH act has failed to serve the purpose of building a free society which adheres to the norms of right to equality. Even Delhi High Court said while dismissing a fake sexual harassment case in 2018 that women can’t be treated as “innocent gullible victims” while investigation.
Most of the experts of the PoSH Act still believe that it is an important law to ensure a safe work environment for women. Provisions for dealing with false cases can be made stricter but it will still be an exaggeration to say that POSH law has failed to bring a positive impact or failed to induce discussion on gender equality’s importance in society. The fact that other genders have nowhere to go for complaints of sexual harassment can’t be used as a tool to demean this PoSH act’s impact on the welfare women at the workplace.
Debates on the Gender Neutrality of the PoSH Act
There have been many debates among the critics of the PoSH law regarding its gender discriminatory nature. As the act provides means of safety to women only, other genders could feel that the Government and judicial system is having a general bias towards women. Add to that the lack of a system for addressing sexual harassment complaints of men and LGBTQ. As of now, there is no system for addressing such cases under the PoSH act and so, it is argued that this breeds more discrimination in the workplace environment. In our opinion, the act could be made more inclusive and should be amended to provide a means of complaints redressal for other genders as well. This will not only make the other people feel secure but also lead to a decrease in general dissatisfaction from the act. The LGBTQ community will also welcome this decision as a system for addressing their complaints will indicate that India as a society is becoming more open to them. So far, the possibility of an amendment in the PoSH act to include redressal of sexual harassment complaints of other genders is still in the discussion stage. We will have to wait and see how it works out in the future.
Has the PoSH Act Created a General bias Against Men?
The discussion of gender equalities’ importance and right to equality brought into light the society’s bias. The society’s bias against the male in such cases was prominent and somehow even the internal complaints committees of the organisations were also working or investigating cases under this social pressure of statements like “A woman can never lie about such things and if she says so…the guy must have done it.” Based on these scenarios, the critics say that the PoSH Act has added to the anti-men bias in the society which sometimes leads to unnecessary shaming of innocent men in case of malicious complaints. The social judgement and the name & shame culture has continued its rise and many innocent males have fallen victim to the humiliation caused by it. Sometimes the humiliation becomes unbearable and people tend to take the extreme decision (Case of suicide by the Genpact Senior Official is an example) under its influence.
What Can be Done?
As we saw in the previous sections, the PoSH act in its current form seems a little bit biased towards women. The act should include norms to address sexual harassment cases related to other genders as well. Meanwhile, the organisations on their level can create their own separate committees to address the complaints of sexual harassment of genders other than women. The further mechanism could be to take help of the police if deemed fit by the investigative team of the company. This would create a deterrent at the organisational level against sexual harassment of other genders. The current situation is, women are still afraid to speak up due to the fear of judgment from the society and men are afraid of false cases of sexual harassment against them that could label them as a sexual offender.
What we can do is to change our approach to address such cases as a society and being less judgemental about it. It could sound like an ideal scenario, but we must be less judgemental about any women filing a complaint and any men facing the charges. We should step away from making a judgement against any complainant or accused before the final resolution of the complaint. Remember the saying
“Until proven guilty, everyone is innocent in the face of law”.
On the other hand, the government and corporates should work to ensure smooth complaint redressal systems so that no woman shies away from filing a complaint if she feels violated. Also, the approach of the investigating team should be non-prejudiced, and they should handle the investigation in a gender-neutral manner to ensure that neither the complainant nor the accused feel any injustice. The organisations should organise PoSH training and PoSH compliance sessions for employees and members of the internal complaints committee. They can take help from a legal firm to ensure proper PoSH training among their employees to reduce workplace sexual harassment cases. The communication among employees to facilitate gender equality in the workplace should be encouraged so that every employee understands gender equality’s importance.