Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act 2013: Major things to know
The Indian legal landscape changed drastically in 2013 when the Companies act 2013, received a boost when the act was revamped to bring much-needed attention towards the burning issue, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. This is India’s first codified law to which deals with prevention, prohibition and redressal of sexual harassment of women at the workplace. This led to a massive change in the year 2013 in the Indian legal landscape.
What is PoSH law?
A law to prevent and to provide protection against, Sexual Harassment of women at the workplace as well as redressal of complaints of Sexual Harassment.
Sexual Harassment violates the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution and right to practice any profession, which includes a right to a safe environment free from Sexual Harassment. Sexual Harassment at the workplace is a horrific violation of an individual’s rights.
This law makes it illegal to sexually harass women at the workplace. It also talks about various ways in which someone can be sexually harassed and how they can complain about the same.
Some famous cases:
- In 2002, Phaneesh Murthy (Director, Infosys) was accused of Sexual Harassment by his executive secretary.
- In 2012, an employee working at a restaurant at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, filed a case of Sexual Harassment against a senior Air India official.
- In 2013, Tarun Tejpal, a senior journalist & editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine was accused and charged for sexual assault on a young staff member during“Think Fest” – their annual conclave.
- In the year 2013, A.K Ganguly, a judge of the Supreme Court was accused of Sexual Harassment by an intern in New Delhi.
What does “Sexual Harassment” include?
As per the constitution of India, sexual harassment includes any kind of unwelcome sexual behaviour, whether directly or by implication such as;
- Physical contact and advances
- Demand or request for sexual favours
- Making sexually coloured remarks
- Showing pornography, or
- Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature
What does the law mandate?
As per Section 4 of the Act, every company with 10 or more employees must constitute an Internal Committee (IC). This Committee must include:
- A Presiding Officer appointed from Senior Management (must be a woman)
- One external member from amongst non-governmental organizations or a lawyer
- At least two members representing the employees of the organization.
It is essential that at least one-half of the total members so nominated shall be women. All complaints shall be made to this body which must resolve every issue impartially.
All employees of the organization must undergo sensitization training each year, as the entire emphasis of the law is on the prevention of Sexual Harassment.
Irrespective of the intention of the accused or the level of impact, every incident has to be taken seriously and investigated by the IC.
Even a single instance of forwarding an indecent joke or picture on social media platforms can trigger a complaint.
The Act requires employers to conduct education and sensitization programmes and develop policies against Sexual Harassment, among other obligations.
It is not difficult to create an environment which is safe, warm and friendly. It only requires some focus and attention. The most effective weapon against sexual harassment in awareness among the people.
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