The sexual harassment of women at workplace act was passed in 2013. This applies to women facing sexual harassment both in a workplace as well as in a dwelling or a house. This also applies for any woman, of any age. Again sexual harassment means:
- physical contact and advances; or
- a demand or request for sexual favours; or
- making sexually coloured remarks; or
- showing pornography; or
- any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
Sexual harassment at workplace includes harassment related to:
- implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment by employer
- Implied or explicit threat of negative treatment by employer, including a threat to the future of her employment
- interfering with her work, creating a hostile environment for her
- Humiliating treatment of the employee that might affect her health or safety.
The Act requires every workplace to have an Internal Complaints Committee. At least half the members of the committee should be women. There should also be a Local Complaints Committee set up by each district officer to take care of complaints from workplaces that do not have Internal Complaints Committee or where the complaint is about the person at the head of the administration of the workplace. (This covers sexual harassment of domestic help in households.)
- A woman can complain to the Internal Complaints Committee, or the Local Complaints Committee, within a period of 3 months from the occurence of the last incident. If the woman is unable to make a complaint because of mental or physical disabilities, a legal guardian can make the complaint in her place.
- The Committeee will try to provide relief to the complainant, in the form of extra leave upto 3 months, or a fine from the aggressor, etc. They may try to settle the matter between the complainant and the aggressor.
- The Committee will conduct an inquiry regarding the matter and report to the administration about their findings.
- If the person is found to be guilty of workplace sexual harassment, then the committee will suggest punishments like deduction from salary, suspension or payment of fine. Usually, each place will have it’s own set of rules for dealing with sexual harassment. This administration has to take action on the suggestions within 60 days of receipt of the report.
- Note that the points that have been included as sexual harassment at workplace adds to the definition of sexual harassment or any form of sexual assault. In case of sexual harassment or sexual assault, the victim has every right to file a criminal case with the police. The objective of this Act is to prevent a hostile environment for a woman, even if it is implicit – this is a very common phenomenon where the actions of the perpetrator does not fall in the usual category of sexual harassment or sexual assault, but is still a form of harassment with the intention of exploiting the person based on gender, and therefore disrupting an effective and fair work environment. This is also to bring in some immediate punishment for the perpetrator, where the court case takes a long time to come to a decision.
- There is an additional clause that if the decision of the administration is not satisfactory, then any person can take the matter to court.
Here are some important things to keep in mind about reporting a case of sexual harassment, about medical aid for a victim, etc.