Women play an important role in the family. Right from the ancient period, women are facing many types of violence. In 1994, Times of India’s survey report said about the status of working women is that “she looks like a woman, she behaves like a lady, she thinks like a man but she works like a dog”. On top of this our patriarchal society plays the villain. In a society like ours, more often than not, a victim of sexual assault lives under constant fear, at times even within her own family.
It is true that in many of the workplace, though many women are very sincere and hard working, they faced workplace harassment. Many examples are there of workplace harassment. Harassment is not only physical but it may be mental as well as ideological.
Research says that about 40 to 60% of women are facing harassment in their workplace. But seldom does anyone wants to disclose things. There are also many reasons for this. They have the fear of losing their job, disturbances in the family life and many more. Though they are not getting their job satisfaction for their financial need they have to work in that unpleasant atmosphere.
In the year 1997, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India gave a very important verdict against sexual harassment at workplaces. The apex court said that sexual harassment means the violation of human rights of a person and it also creates gender discrimination in the society. In its judgment, the Hon’ble Court clearly mentioned that sexual harassment is a question mark of a woman’s right to life and livelihood. The monumental judgment played a mojor role in the conception of the Visakha guidelines 1997. According to this all employers should have a sexual harassment cell in their respective offices. But in reality it is seen that all rules are within the boundaries of the office only. No implementation of rules as such happens properly in the workplace.
After the historical Visakha judgment, the Government of India passed another act i.e., the “Sexual harassment of women at workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. According to the act, “all offices whether the office is Govt. or private should have an Internal Complain Committee to stop workplace harassment”. But the ground reality is anything else. If we do one survey then we can find that many employers do not know about the act and what are the provisions. According to the Act, sexual harassment includes;
- Physical contact and advances.
- A demand or request of sexual favours.
III. Making sexually colored remarks.
- Showing pornography.
- Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
The Act says, “A local complain committee should be there. The committee must have a woman member with experiences in social sector who will be the president of the committee; another two members should be there among whom one must be a female and one should have knowledge of the law of the land. One member from women and child department should be an ex-officio member”
But the ground reality is something very different. We can see in many places committees are not in place and many committees are not in functioning. If we randomly go to any Govt. offices and asked them about the cell we get a negative answer from them. We can say that these lacunas are also a big problem to implement the act properly.
Some preventive steps
All employers or persons in charge of work place whether in public or private sector should take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment. Without injustice to the generality of this obligation they should take the following steps.
- Express prohibition of sexual harassment as defined above at the work place should be notified, published and circulated in appropriate ways.
- The Rules/Regulations of Government and Public Sector bodies relating to conduct and discipline should include rules/regulations prohibiting sexual harassment and provide for appropriate penalties in such rules against the offender.
- As regards private employers, steps should be taken to include the aforesaid prohibitions in the standing orders under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
- Appropriate work conditions should be provided in respect of work, leisure, health and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women at work places and no employee woman should have reasonable grounds to believe that she is disadvantaged in connection with her employment.
There are many laws and acts for safeguarding women, but in reality, the rise in crimes against women paints quite a clear picture as to the extent to which these laws are implemented and how they are obeyed in the society. Our society is conservative in nature, where, more often than not, we are expected to remain silent though we are constantly facing violence. We know if we open our mouths, we run the risk of losing our jobs, of family members not believing us.
The solution, you ask? For starters, every woman should realize this one thing, if she does not speak up, nobody can help her.
Awareness is necessary for all. The right of a woman in the workplace should be created prominently notifying the guideline. The recent survey on sexual harassment at workplace, conducted by the Indian National Bar Association (INBA) revealed that 38 per cent women had faced sexual harassment at workplace and 70 per cent of victims do not even report the same. It seems that guidelines are only on paper. After all it is the duty of all citizens that we should keep our workplace safety and violence-free zone. Proper understanding and knowledge of act should be ensured and it should be properly taught in all work places to make sure of the safety of women.