Sexual Harassment of women/girls at the workplace has been alive for several years, right from the time women were emancipated and stepped out of the safety of their homes and tried to figure alongside men. This wasn’t easily accepted by the males who thought these women were available and free with their favors which they really thought belonged within the four walls of their homes and within the kitchen. The role of girls was essentially considered to be that of a procreator and homemaker. There was a change within the attitude of girls but no such change within the men. At the workplace, there have been no rules or guidelines specified on what constituted harassment and what the ladies could do about it. If a lady was harassed at the workplace, her course of redressal was to lodge a complaint under Section 354of the Indian legal code 1860, which addressed criminal assault of girls to outrage a woman’s modesty, and section 509 that punishes a private for using words, gestures or act intended to insult the modesty of any woman. However, the ladies were hesitant to require such a drastic step because it could backfire on them and that they could lose their jobs and reputation, ours being a male-dominated society.
Vishaka v/s. State of Rajasthan
During the 1990’s Rajasthan government employee, a Dalit woman Bhanwari Devi who tried to stop child marriage, which was a requirement as a part of her job performing on the Women’s Development Program, was gang-raped by the landlords of the Gujjar Community. These landlords were enraged and to show her a lesson that they had raped her. As consistent with them she came from a coffee community and that they were the feudal patriarchs and she or he had no right to try to do anything or speak up against them. The victim Bhanwari Devi didn’t get justice and therefore the landlords went scot-free. A woman’s rights group called Vishaka was enraged by the choice of the court and that they filed a PIL within the Supreme Court of India. This incident revealed and brought the hazards and evils faced by women at the workplace on each day to day basis to the Supreme Courts’ notice.
In 1997, the Supreme Court passed the landmark judgment within the above case and laid down guidelines to be implemented in cases of harassment at the Workplace, which were referred to as the “Vishaka Guidelines”. The Court felt that this was necessary to uphold the rights and dignity of girls and for gender equality and therefore the right to figure with dignity under Articles 14, 15, 19 (1)(G) and 21 of the Constitution and safeguard the interests of girls at the workplace.
These Guidelines for the primary time defined the precise meaning of harassment and what acts constituted harassment. It specified the procedure for the victim and therefore the respondents, the punishment or penalty and therefore the employer’s obligation towards the cause, prevention and redressal.
However, there have been many lacunas within the guidelines. Many employees weren’t included within the employee list and the workplace wasn’t clearly defined. There was ambiguity and lots of organizations didn’t follow the Vishaka guidelines. Considering the importance of girls at the workplace and therefore the effects of harassment, India’s first legislation “Prevention of harassment of girls at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was enacted. (POSH). it had been enacted under the Ministry of girls and Child Development. Harassment created not only an insecure and hostile environment but also affected the woman’s performance at work. It also affected their social and economic process and put them through tons of physical, emotional, and psychological stress. This Act was more specific than the Vishaka Guidelines and stated the precise meaning of harassment, employee, workplace, the role and responsibility of the Employer, the interior Complaints Committee, complaint processes and procedures, penalties and redressal, actions for preventing such cases by holding training and workshops. it had been mandatory for all organizations with 10 or more employees to line up an indoor Complaints Committee. An action might be taken just in case of noncompliance.
Despite the Act being passed, there have been still many cases of harassment and unfortunately, an outsized percentage of these went unreported. Despite the advances in society, many ladies weren’t reporting such cases-
- They weren’t beyond what constituted harassment because the employer wasn’t taking this seriously and there have been no training and updates on exact meanings.
- Even during this day and age, women weren’t confident enough to complain about these issues especially just in case where the harasser was the Boss himself or fairly often a senior, out of fear of losing their job and reputation
- The employers had not formed the interior Complaints Committee or the workers weren’t updated and not conscious of whom to complain to or of the complaint and redressal procedures.
Most companies ensured compliance but overlooked the spirit of the law. The processes were in situ, ICC was found out and training was imparted. However, there was no shift within the attitude of the stakeholders. This caused the #Me Too movement, which had a greater impact than the Act itself. It made the organizations stay up and act to avoid reputational risks and loss in branding.
In 2006, Civil rights activist Tarana Burke used the phrase ‘” ME TOO” to boost awareness on the existence of harassment. She wanted to spread the message to the lady survivors that “You’ve been heard and understood”. However, in 2017 actress Alyssa Milano helped start the present phase of the movement to stress the “magnitude of the problem”. It became a grassroots campaign for ladies of color who experienced sexual assault.
In India, the movement was started in 2018. This on social media became a shout, a semaphore, as all women shared their experiences of being harassed by male coworkers, supervisors, or people they met within the course of their work. the most important advantage of it’s been to bring the difficulty to the fore. it’s not a problem to be discussed in hushed tones. because it is claimed, “what wasn’t heard wasn’t seen”. it’s most vital to voice something, be heard, and only then can it get redressed. Now because of the Me Too era, organizations haven’t any choice but to take a seat up and listen and take quick action. Because if they don’t, there’s a public platform for ladies to make sure they’re heard.
The question is – What actually changed after this Me Too movement. What has been its impact on the luxury Act which was already alive since 2013?
This movement was basically to boost awareness of the prevalence and effect of harassment despite all the laws being in situ. it had been a movement to make a change and end harassment. It provided courage and support to survivors. Many powerful men lost their jobs THOUGH it had been not really about getting men fired.
#Me Too got the organizations awakening to dust the harassment policies out of their bottom drawers and refocusing on training.
The silence was shattered. The movement marked the start of a cry against harassment. All those that finally spoke outdid to urge justice or be heard or in solidarity with other women. It saw women beginning of the closet and emboldened. many ladies have taken the brunt of the patriarchal male behavior for too long where they were considered as playthings and sometimes senior males at that. It made women wary of complaining despite the complaint processes being in situ.
Changes that Have Taken Place as a Results of #Me Too-
- MeToo increased awareness about the prevalence of harassment at work and redress measures available.
- Me Too movement stirred companies into action. There was alertness across corporate India. It jolted them out of their passiveness.
- All companies took note to suits the luxury Act which makes it mandatory for companies with quite 10 employees to line up an indoor Complaint Committee which had not been taken seriously earlier or totally ignored.
- There was renewed specialization in doing sessions with women, getting their feedback on the office situation. Giving training on aspects of harassment and getting feedbacks on any complaints and reassuring them of support.
- Many Companies now feared negative publicity and undertook due diligence of all senior person profiles and encouraged self-reporting.
- This saw a rise in complaints by almost 14-15% in 2018 -2019, because of the movement and increase in support by organizations fearing reputational risks. The NCW saw an increase in complaints from 570 in 2017 to 965 in 2018.
- Organizations realized that if the ladies didn’t get an opportunity or option to complain, they’ll speak call in public, on social media, or attend the police.
- Women were feeling empowered. Companies started doing more and more and ladies employees became more confident.
- Many companies have gone beyond the legal requirements and put gender-neutral policies in situ.
- The new employees also who were normally the targets are emboldened by this movement and upfront asked about the ICC and complaint procedures.
- Earlier various service-oriented industries like advertising, travel, hospitality, even cinema where they were very complacent about the liberal attitude and a few actions and gestures were considered normal saw an attitudinal change.
- It has caused fear within the minds of perpetrators, who will consider before doing something.
- It motivated organizations to unravel harassment issues.
- Many skeletons are beginning of the cabinet, all this is often being taken seriously by ICC and victims are becoming a justice.
- Even the lower-level employees are feeling empowered. Several states have passed laws prohibiting nondisclosure agreements.
- In many counties, more workers have are available in the ambit of “employees”. Many domestic and farmworkers are included.
- Some states have expanded their law to hide independent contractors.
For many, it’s expensive to cause a suit, the employers are providing all assistance to the victims to finish the complaint procedures and if need be to file FIR. Some organizations have found out legal funds to help such victims. YES, the #ME TOO movement has definitely impacted the implementation of the luxury ACT. But why should we await such movements to accelerate the subsequent of laws which are our rights within the first place? we’d like to seek out ways to finish such abuse and uphold the dignity of the ladies.
An excellent thanks to ensure fairness to women and gender equality is to possess more women within the organization at various levels. More the ladies, more will their voice gather strength which can cause strong social policy. The movement of the crowd always prevails. it’s up to us how we stand tall and move forward.
There are numerous associations that help people fighting inappropriate behavior at the workplace by giving them a medium to retaliate using workshops and awareness modules. Yet, the essential point here is, are those workshops or preparing really leaving an impact on the disposition of representatives? Do the workshop modules depict the truth of Sexual Harassment? There are rare kinds of people that aren’t kidding about really making the work environments safer for ladies representatives.
Repercussions for Not Complying with the PoSH Act
The PoSH Act takes a firm stand against non-compliance with its provisions. If an employer fails to either constitute an indoor Committee or discharge any of the opposite duties placed upon them under the act, they shall be punished with a fine which can reach fifty thousand rupees (Rs. 50,000). In the event an employer contravenes the provisions of the PoSH Act a second, they’ll be either fined twice the quantity because of the fine for the primary contravention or face cancellation of their license, permit or registration for carrying on their business or activity.
Who is Included for Benefits under the Act?
The PoSH Act protects women within the workplace from harassment. All women employees no matter whether:
- Who are employed regularly, temporary, unplanned or daily wage basis
- Who are employed directly or through an agent or a contractor.
- Who are employed with or, without the knowledge of the principal employer.
- Who are employed for remuneration or on a voluntary basis.
The above-mentioned are protected under the PoSH Act. The PoSH Act also applies to women contract workers, probationers, trainees, apprentices, and interns.