Author: Shruti Saraf, Student at Jindal Global Law School.
In today’s world, where globalization has altered the concept of job methods, the status of women in all aspects of life has definitely been reconsidered. Since the ages, the role and status of women has changed greatly. All forms of challenges have been tasted by women around the globe. Although as we see the high rise of women on one side of the coin, the other side reveals the hardship and misconduct they suffer. The term ‘consent could clearly describe this struggle. She specifically gives her response to the person with this simple phrase. And knowing the sense of it, we agree, is not that difficult. But with the larger migration of women into India’s mass population, sexual harassment has taken on greater aspects in the workplace. A lot of brutality, neglect, physical assault, verbal abuse that looks heinous and degrading are always faced by women. Sexual abuse remains one of the most vicious topics facing today’s culture.
HISTORY AND ANALYSIS
Till the 1970s, the term has not been developed, but because it is docking in the public forum, the word has spread exponentially. Over the course of time, it took on various connotations and influenced diverse opinions. The case of Vishaka v. Rajasthan State began with the Indian judicial history with sexual assault. The case deals with the violent gangrape of a social worker, Bhanwari Devi, who worked to raise awareness about ending child marriage. The court agreed to take this chance to establish a security structure for this country’s female workforce, an environment where Indian Law has had tremendous loopholes. The Supreme Court has since provided detailed guidance to ensure that this nation’s female workforce is safe from sexual harassment and sexually charged gender inequality in the workplace. Since the Vishaka Decision, there were other rulings that stressed the need for a robust sexual harassment statute. The Workplace Sexual Assault Bill was proposed in 2007 in Parliament. Finally, after 16 years, a bill addressing sexual harassment was passed in India. Therefore, we would naturally expect the bill to be incredibly detailed and free of flaws. Yet that was not the case. Not only did the bill refuse to comply with certain basic clauses, but it also did not consider certain inviolable myths related to sexual abuse. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a type of gender inequality that snatches women’s rights to employment and freedom of life coded under Articles 14, 15 & 21 of the Constitution of India. Sexual abuse is not only unethical behavior in the workplace but is also damaging to the economy. It further decreases the likelihood for women to do so. The fundamental problem with sexual harassment is that it stresses victims’ sexuality over their position as employees and therefore on the basis of their gender, imposes less desirable working conditions on those workers. The meaning and intent of the Vishaka judgement was to tackle this question. The Supreme Court in Vishaka stressed in dealing with the gangrape of Bhanwari Devi that the sexual harassment committed against the victim revealed a significant lapse on the part of the state government to provide the Saathins, i.e., their workers, with a ‘safe working atmosphere.’ Therefore, apart from standard criminal law solutions under sections 354 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code, a substantive law was required to deter and confront the problem of sexual assault at work, by an obligation on the employer and the workers. People demand for sexual favors in the workplaces or some kind of workplace in return for the advantages they would provide; secondly, there are few people who may be identified as opportunists who want to be an attention magnet in the eyes of woman workers and, lastly, the game of influence where a senior or a superior officer can compel her junior officer or colleague to do as he suggests. G. Pushkala v. High Court of Judicature, 2007 is another example similar to the boss misusing its control over the worker. This is a case, where the substance of the protest against the criminal officer is that by using his official status, he demanded the complainant’s sexual favors by passing slips and troubling her at midnight by making telephone calls to her house, startling her modesty, and causing her emotional anguish and suffering.
The Sexual harassment of Women at Work (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013 broadened the workplace definition and included the informal sector, including domestic workers. It is popularly referred to as the POSH Act which offers security for all employees in the public and private sectors, including health, recreation, education or government agencies, and any place visited, including transportation, by an employee during the period of his jobs. Sexual harassment is characterized by the statute as physical touch and advances, or a proposition or request for sexual favors, or sexually flavored comments, or pornography, or any other sexually unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal actions. Sexual assault under the statute constitutes all of these actions, whether overt or implied. Instead of mandating employers to set up commissions in the case of a private corporation or local government authorities in the case of the informal sector, to hear complaints, conduct hearings, and recommend action to be taken against offenders, it offers an alternative to filing a criminal charge with the police. This will vary from a verbal apology to job termination. Under the Indian Criminal Code that deals with sexual harassment or abuse, women can also file police reports. But the complaint panels are supposed to provide fast and successful solutions, unlike a criminal prosecution that could go on for years. Under the POSH Act, each employer is expected at each office with 10 or more workers to constitute an Internal Committee (IC). For establishments in which the IC has not been established because they have less than 10 workers, or where the grievance is against the employer, or for women employed in the informal sector, the District Officer or Collector of the State Government is expected to constitute a Local Committee (LC) in each district and if applicable, at the level of the block. It is also the duty of the government to establish training and instructional manuals, to organize awareness campaigns, to track the enforcement of the legislation, and to preserve statistics on the number of sexual assault lawsuits filed and settled in the workplace.
The woman had to take issue of sexual harassment at work by lodging a complaint under Sec 354 and 509 of the IPC before the Vishakha guidelines came into the frame. Sexual abuse has been a major concern, and it also needs to be given priority and it has been agreed to take action to resolve this topic. Government, employers, workers, women’s associations all talked about ways to prevent this danger from society. As avoidance is the first step in prohibiting or removing any dangerous thing from society, everybody needed to discourage sexual assault. To do this, regulation has to be a mechanism focused on the willingness of the government and organizations to implement plans and policies to eliminate the problem. As everybody knows, sexual assault, which is a kind of abuse against women, is a universal issue. The international community has accepted the freedom from sexual assault as a human right of women in their international conventions and records. All of the legal instruments dealing with this topic have provided for the security of life and liberty, and these tools have been used as a way of avoiding and solving the crisis. There was no statute regulating this matter in India until the Vishakha judgement arrived.
Sexual abuse has become a universal phenomenon that has just evolved over time and with so many stringent regulations and extreme limitations, a vast number of incidents are still to be reported. Sexual abuse is not only physically restricted to people, but it has since extended its spectrum across online channels. Over the past twenty-five to thirty years, the growing use of the internet has acted as a forum for sexual abuse that has, until recently, gone largely unnoticed. Although the internet has presented today’s culture with a number of advantages and rewards, a darker side has dramatically arisen as internet users are exposed on a regular basis to online discrimination, intimidation, data theft, cyber stalking, and cyber bullying. In the past two years, sexual harassment concerns have escalated exponentially and have been highlighted in the Indian media. Every woman must feel protected at work and it is high time for employers to take affirmative action and enforce zero-tolerance measures in their workplaces for sexual harassment in order to make her feel comfortable and protected, and to ensure that the allegation is addressed promptly and confidentially. It is certain that many victims shy away from the attention, the processes, the delay, and the harshness of the criminal justice system, but this alternative mechanism and method is beneficial, but requires a lot of improvement. Such areas of progress are allowing the victims make educated decisions on the multiple resolution avenues, including qualified conciliators, settlement opportunities by cash reimbursement, an inquisitorial approach by the Committee, identifying the accused using terms such as claimant, etc., and not using her real name and in-camera hearings.
 Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241
 Workplace Sexual Assault Bill.
 The Constitution of India, 1949.
 Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241.
 Indian Penal Code, 1860.
 G. Pushkala vs High Court of Judicature, 2007.
 Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
 Indian Penal Code, 1860.
 Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241.