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Evaluation of sexual harassment laws and their efficacy in the workplace

Introduction:

Today’s growing world is facing numerous problems .There are many issues that remain undisguised, unsolved and untouched since times. But, the fact can’t be denied that avoiding a problem is not a solution to it . One must think that when it is bad at present, it will go worse with time .And one such problem is “SEXUAL HARASSMENT”.

Although, it is a very common topic and had been discussed a number of times. But what is the result? Are we free from it? Are we residing in a safe environment?

There are number of such questions and problems which still needed to be answered and solved.

Meaning:

According to Oxford English Dictionary (7th Edition):

The term “SEXUAL” implies sex or physical attraction or contact and

“HARASSMENT” implies Subject to constant pressure or interference.

Legal Definition:

According to sec. 2(n) of the SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF THE WOMEN AT WORKPLACE(Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) ACT”,2013:

Thus, the term implies as an unwelcome conduct against gender equality. It is the molestation of one gender by other or even same gender as a price of any promotion. It is not just an evil, but a chronic psychological disorder which effects number of people.

The perpetrator could be any family member, friends, relatives, colleagues, customers, superiors and even a stranger. It is a type of torture for one who faces it , which can be considered as the hard times which causes mental pressure , sadness, inferiority , insecurity and fear. Not only one who met with it gets affected but all others who are related with that person in one way or other get disturbed and stressed. We cannot understand what one faces and feels at that time. So it is the time when this

evil is need to be discussed and solved .

Who faces it:

It was rightly said by our former Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar lal Nehru that: “You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.”

In most of the cases the victims of such incidents are women . Where our Constitution and law is putting endeavour in promoting and providing equality of status and opportunities to women “,some orthodox still consider a female to be an object of use.

Males too faces sexual harassment at their working places but such incidents are less to be dicovered. The problem here is that incidents and cases of sexual harassments are uncountable but only few of them are reported “,this leads to more opportunities and freedom for culprits, making them shameless and fearless.

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HISTORY:

Sexual harassment at work place is a topic of concern since early 80’s in India.

FORUM AGAINST OPPRESSION OF WOMEN”,1991- Mumbai is an organisation that took militant action for women like nurses( both at public and private hospitals), airhostesses, teachers, students etc.

BAAILANCHO SAAD which means “women’s voice”. It was an organisation of Goa which revolved against the C.M. who harasses her secretary and forced him to resign. The organisation also filed a PIL regarding ammendments in rape laws.

CASES:

• Vishakha V. Stae of Rajasthan

At the time of 1990s, the brutal gang rape which led the whole country in deep shock was of a Rajasthan State Government Employee who was just performing her duty by preventing a child marriage.

And when the victim approached the H.C. of Rajasthan for justice. She was left helpless and empty hands. She doesn’t get justice and upper class and affluent men were allowed to go free. In 1997, S.C. passed a landmark judgment in the case of Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan.

Vishakha was a women rights group that filed a PIL in the honourable court after the judgment of the brutal gang rape of Rajasthan. For the first time the term had been defined by the apex court: The term sexual harrassment has been defined as such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour as-

 Physical contact

 A demand or request for sexual favours

 Sexually coloured remarks

 Showing pornography

Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature for eg. Leering, telling dirty jokes, starring etc

• Mrs. Rupan Deol Bajaj & Anr.(Appellant) v. Kanwar Pal Singh Gill& Anr.(Respondents), 1996 , SC 309

A senior IAS officer, Rupan Bajaj who was slapped by Chief of Police , Punjab. K.P.S. Gill at a dinner party on her posterior part. Trial court convicted him but he was fined 2.5 lakhs in lieu of 3 months rigorous punishment u/s 294 and 509 of Penal Code. Though Supreme Court upheld the decision in 2005.

• Case of Tarun Tejpal :

Tarun Tejpal, the editor of magazine , Tehlka has been accussed of attempting to rape a young female colleague of his office. According to the victim , Tejpal assaulted her in a lift in hotel were at a festival in Goa.

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• Phaneesh Murthy :

One of India’s best known software executives, had to resign from Infosys in 2002 after his secretary accussed him for harrassing her. There was an out of Court settlement done by Infosys of about a sum of $3 millions. Phaneesh Murthy was again in limelight and topic of discussion because of his repeated shamefull act when he was kicked out by an American IT firm in 2013 on sexual harassment charges.

• Gopal Kanda :

A 23 years old air-hostess in 2012 in her suicide note “,charged former Haryana Minister Gopal Kanda of sexually harassing her and forcing her to committ suicide . Her name was Geeta Sharma.

• Ashok Kumar Ganguly :

A former S.C. judge was accussed of harassing a law intern at hotel room .He was stepped down as a head of W.B. Human Right Commissioner 2014.

Earier Laws:

Before 1997, when there was no such proper law for sexual harssment at work place. Women who experienced such harassment filed complaint under sections of IPC i.e.

Sec. 294: Obscene acts and songs- Whoever, to the annoyance of others”,

(a) Does any obscene act in a public place”,or

(b) Sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words in or near any public place”,

Shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which my extend to threenmonths, or with fine, or both.

Sec. 354: Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty- “ Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty”,[shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine].

Sec. 354A: Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment –(1)A man committing any of the following acts-

(i) Physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and eplicit sexual overtures;or

(ii) A demand or request for sexual favours; or

(iii) Showing pornography against the will of a woman; or

(iv) Making sexually coloured remarks”,

Shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment.

(2) Any man who commits the offence specified in clause(i) or clause(ii) or clause(iii) of sub-section (1) shall be punishe with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

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(3) Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (iv) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year “,or with fine or both.

Sec. 509: Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman: Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibit any object, intending, that such word or sound shall be heard “,or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman”,[shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term whch may extend to three years and also with fine].

But after the landmark judgments passed by S.C. in the case of Vishakha v State of Rajashan in which guidelines regarding sexual harrassments were laid down regarding filing of complaints. And it was stated that these guidelines were to be followed untill the legislature passed a law regading it.

POSH ACT:

National Commission for Women were requested by the Government of India to draft a law regarding sexual harassment. A committee to draft a legislation was formed consisting of number of women organisation, Majlis from Mumbai, women lawyers associated with trade unions from Mumbai . The bill to be introduced in the Parliament is known as the Sexual Harassment of Women At the Workplace(Prevention And Redressal) Bill, 2004.

The Act uses the guidelines from the Vishakha case and also Art 19(1)(g) which provides freedom to practise any trade profession or occupation against gender discrimination.

The bill was firstly introdced by the Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath in 2007 and was approved by the Union Cabinet in 2010. The bill met with an ammendment which wa sapproved by the Union Cabinet in May 2012 on the report of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development. Finally the ammende bill was passed by Lok Sabha on 3 September 2012 and by Rajya Sabha on 26 February 2013. After being assented by the President of India the Act was enforced on 23 April 2013 as ACT NO. 14 of 2013

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