Sexual Harassment: Protect Yourself

Sexual harassment

Pending enactment of The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2007, at present in India there are no specific legislative enactments or statutory policies to deal with sexual harassment at workplace. Vishaka’s1 case in 1997 proved to be an initiator for the fight against sexual harassment at workplace. A social worker (saathin), Bhanwari Devi was raped by a group of Thakur’s as she tried to stop a child marriage. She was determined to fight against the malice and get justice.Judgment in this case proved to be a landmark because the Supreme Court here not only defined the term ‘Sexual Harassment’ but also laid guidelines to curb the evil.

Sexual Harassment

Supreme Court has defined Sexual harassment to include such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or implication) as –

•    Physical contact and advances
•    Demand or request for sexual favours
•    Sexually coloured remarks
•    Showing pornography
•    Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature

Till enactment of a domestic legislation, guidelines laid down in Vishaka’s Case are to be treated as law under Article 141 of the Constitution.  The SC while deciding the case interpreted that Article 21 inherently includes right to live and work with human dignity. Also it held that the fundamental duty under Article 51(A) elevated the obligation to renounce practices derogatory to dignity of women.

As a matter of appreciation, these guidelines are not only applicable in offices and industries in public or private sector but also to educational institutions.


Supreme Court framed these guidelines in accordance with the recommendations and conventions of various international organisations like the ILO and the European Communities Commission.

•    Preventive Steps and Awareness

All employers or persons in charge of work place should take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment in the organization –

There should be an express prohibition of sexual harassment at the work place and this prohibition should be notified, published and circulated in appropriate ways.
Appropriate work conditions 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 women have reasonable grounds to believe that she is disadvantaged in connection with her employment should be provided for.

Appropriate disciplinary action should be initiated by the organisation in the event of misconduct in employment as defined in service rules.

•    Complaints Committee

An appropriate complaint mechanism would need to be created for the redress of the compliant made by the concerned employee. The complaint mechanism would need to provide for a special counsellor or Complaints Committee to be headed by a woman and not less than half of its members need to be women. Further, to prevent the possibility of any undue pressure or influence from the senior levels, such Complaints Committee would need to involve a third party which may either be a NGO or other body familiar with the issue of sexual harassment.

The Complaints Committee must make an annual report to the Government about the complaints received and action taken.

•    Employee's Initiative

Employees should be allowed to raise issues related to sexual harassment at employee meetings and at other appropriate forums and also it should be discussed in employer-employee meetings.

Thus for bring down the number of more such incidences in India join efforts are to be made from employer, organization, government authorities and people itself. Most cases are not reported by victims because of various reasons such as family pressures, the manner of the police, the unreasonably long and unjust process and application of law; and the resulting consequences thereof. Therefore it is necessary that strict actions are taken against the responsible person of such act.2





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