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SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE

By

Riya Nagpal, II year of B.com.,LL.B. (Hons.) from Uils Panjab University,Chandigarh


INTRODUCTION

Bygone are the days when women were idolised sitting at home and doing household chores. With a radical change in society, women play a vital role in the political, social and economic spheres of a nation. Sexual harassment is wrong against women. This incidence can be anywhere, either at the workplace, institutions, buses, etc. It can be referred to as a violation of one’s dignity, bodily integrity and sexual autonomy. Women who are worshipped as a goddess in India are subjected to torture and harassment every 12 minutes in India.[1]

Sexual harassment

Sexual Harassment” is unwelcome behaviour or acts whether directly or indirectly and violence against the victim. It is illegal and immoral to harass any person based on sex. Sexual Harassment means unwelcome and uninvited sexual advances, request for sexual favours, physical or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.[2] The person who makes unwanted actions that are sexual, through any gesture, verbally, physically or in writing makes another person uncomfortable is a harasser.


EXAMPLES

NON-VERBAL

● Staring a person up and down (Elevator eyes )

● Blocking a person's route

PHYSICAL

● Touching the person’s clothes, hair or body parts.

● Kissing, Hugging, Patting, Spanking or stroking

● Pinching, massaging, standing close, cornering or brushing up against another person

VERBAL

● Speaking and sharing sexual jokes or stories

● Spreading rumours or lies about a person’s

● Whistling at someone

● Making sexual comments about a person’s body, clothing or looks

● Catcalls

● Making sexual comments or innuendos

● Unwanted letters ( of sexual nature)

● Unwanted telephone calls or materials of a sexual nature

Indian Constitution On Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment directly violates the fundamental rights of women guaranteed under

Article 14(2)

Article 15(3)

Article 21(4)

Article 19(1) (g)

SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE

Earlier there was no law on sexual harassment and it was interpreted in the Landmark judgement of Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan judgement[3]. In this case, a woman from lower caste named Bhanwari Devi who is employed with the rural development programme of the government of Rajasthan was gang-raped on the account of her efforts to curb the prevalent practice of child marriage.[4] The court recognised and declared the act of sexual harassment to be unlawful under various constitutional provisions and international Conventions. The supreme court emphasised on implementing a well-framed policy wherever employees are more than 50 in the Public or Private sector and complaint committee to investigate the issue at hand. There will be two committees Internal and Local committees each constituting 50% representation of women. The National Commission for Women has the power to intervene if these guidelines are not followed. ‘ SHE BOX’ which stands for ‘Sexual Harassment Electronic Box’ SHE-Box has been introduced to raise complaints of Sexual Harassment at the workplace.[5]

DAMAGES

Before the judgement of Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan[6], the only remedy available was a criminal proceeding, however, now the complainant can proceed with monetary

compensation also.

DEFENCES

● INNOCENCE

● CONSENT

● INSANITY

The three defences available are innocence, consent and insanity.

i) The first defence questions the happening of the incident if the defendant could prove he

was not there at the time of incidence occurred or if no such act was done by him.

ii)The Second defence is if the defendant could prove the act was welcomed.

iii)Lastly if the defendant could prove of insanity at the time of occurrence of the event.

CONSEQUENCES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

The impacts of Sexual Harassment are dreadful and harmful. It disturbed people not only physically but also mentally. The damage caused is immeasurable as it extends to physical, emotional, physiological, mental, societal and economical.

NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

There are many negative impacts on Sexual Harassment. Some of them are:-

● Mental stress

● Sleep Disorders

● Lowered self-esteem

● Betrayed/ Lost

● Trust issues

● Anxiety

● Depression and trauma

● Lack of Concentration

● Develops insecurity

● Numbness

● Develops insecurity

● Numbness

● Issues related to job consequences

● Obstruct work performance

● Fear and Frustration

● Disturbed relations with colleagues

● Insomnia

● Eating disorders

CASES

In case Skousen v. Nidy[7], the court held that sexual harassment was illegal because it diminished a woman’s value and harmed her physically, mentally and economically.


In Howard University v. Best[8], the female professor claimed that the dean of the university made unwanted sexual advances and deliberately created a hostile work environment that had resulted in her termination of employment. The court of appeals observed that this conduct of the dean was violating public policy and therefore upheld the plaintiffs claim.

CONCLUSION

Society is not static; this also reflects in law. Law shall be developing according to the change and the need of society. The principle of law shall not be based on outdated theories but it should adopt new principles, theories and codes. The law needs to gradually develop with time and necessity. Globalisation has led to an increase in the cases of sexual harassment which is not only limited to violation of legal right but also a psychological and social issue. The woman is expected to ‘go along’ with behaviour and conversations charged with sexual innuendo and content, is not a problem unique to India. Although the law was enacted in 2013 there is a lack of clarity on the obligation of employer and employee, the constitution of sexual harassment, remedies, procedure etc. There is an urgent need to look into matters and rights of women.

[1] Dr Indira Sharma < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462781 >accessed on 18 January 2021.

[2] The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace ( Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

[3] Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan (1997) 6 SCC 241.

[4]< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhanwari_Devi> accessed on 20 January 2021.

[5] <http://www.shebox.nic.in/user/about_shebox>accessed on 19 January 2021.

[6] Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan (1997) 6 SCC 241

[7] Skousen v. Nidy [ 1961] Ariz 90

[8] Howard University v. Best [1984] D.C.484