Friday, October 11, 2013

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

A Social worker on her way to fulfill her duty, following the path of humanity, saving an infant from getting married at her early age was Bhavridevi- the same woman who was brutally raped and harassed just because of the nature of her work. Popularly known as Vishaka Vs State of Rajasthan[1] is considered as the basic structure of this Act. 1997 saw Vishaka, 1999 witnessed Apparel Export Vs A.K Chopra[2] where harassment was distinguished from an attempt to sexual harassment.

It was them then and it is us now, almost every woman in her daily life is sexually harassed. I’ve been, you have been, weather by physical contact of advances, or a demand or request for sexual favour, making sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non- verbal conduct of sexual nature, and this is exactly how Sec.2 (n) of the Act defines Sexual Harassment. Look at the tyranny of our system it took thirteen years to be drafted; a further three years to be enacted now let’s see how much does the implementation takes. The bill was drafted by the National Commission for Women in 2010, after a lot of discussion from all the strata’s of society and after its passing from both the houses- Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha it finally got the presidents assent on 22 April 2013 and got published in the official gazette taking shape of the much needed act on 23 April.

To summarize the entire act, it aims at providing a safe, secure and enabling environment free from Sexual Harassment at workplace thereby improving women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth. It adopts a three thronged approach by:
-protecting women against Sexual Harassment at Work Place.
-preventing instances of Sexual Harassment at Work Place, and
-providing redressal of complaints of Sexual Harassment at Work Place.

It provides a twin mechanism to redress Sexual Harassment complaints namely the Internal Complaints Committee and the Local Complaints Committee and detailed procedures of the complaint, Conciliation process, Inquiry, relief during pendency of inquiry, Inquiry report, prohibition against publication, duties of employer, District officer and the Government.

Well this was just a bird’s eye view to the bare Act but I being on the verge of becoming a lawyer out of habit could not miss out the loopholes in the law. Few major issues arose to me while studying the law, like the absence of Gender neutrality. Sexual Harassment laws in most countries like Denmark, UK, Italy, Ireland, Germany, etc are gender neutral. I do agree that the women in our country need protective discrimination but looking at the current progressive scenario and the ‘kalyug’ we live in we cannot totally rule out the men from the ambit of the act. And God forbid if something happens then we will have to wait for another thirteen years to have a Sexual Harassment of Men at workplace – blame the movies and some incidents we come across these days.

The Redressal systems ICC and LCC are appropriately added but a few clarifications on certain issues would help in the practicality of its execution. To mention a few is the even number of members of ICC which may create a deadlock of opinion, the liability of the employer if he does not complete the inquiry in ninety days, the reconstitution of ICC after 3 years. There could be a flexible provision relating to the setting up of ICC at every branch, say an organization having more than one office at one or more locations may constitute ICC at headquarters which may cover the other units also by co-opting local members from the branch offices/ units where the complaint may rise.

Another very important is Section 14 which provides for punishment for false and malicious complaint and false evidence. Yes, there have been incidents which makes this provision important but we also cannot overlook the fact that all such incidents mostly take place behind the closed doors and a mere inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof should not attract action against the complainant under this section.

Never the less there has also been a huge positive development because of this Act in our India Penal Code through the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 by the addition of Sections 354 A B C and D providing for deterrent punishment of rigorous Imprisonment which may extend to two years or fine or both.

With great pleasure I would like to inform my fellow female lawyers about a recent historic development by the Honourable Supreme Court in July 2013. Regulations have been framed to protect women lawyers from Sexual Harassment at the hand of male counterparts within the court complex. These regulations are spelling the triumph of a 16-year long campaign by women advocates under which GSICC (Gender Sensitization Internal Complaints Committee) is the redressal mechanism for instances of Sexual Harassment in the Courts.

I conclude by praying that in the future instead of having Anti-Rape and Sexual Harassment Laws we have ‘No-Rape’ and ‘No-Harassment’.

Diksha Idnani is a lawyer-in-making and a meritorious student of Nari Gursahani Law College,a voracious reader, intense researcher and has successfully completed certificate courses of Public speaking, Gender Justice and ADR. She is a Contributor to the coffee table book of Bombay High Court on its completion of 150 yrs. She has interacted and interviewed foreign professors and is the GS since past the past 3 years. Diksha is also the magazine editor and has presented research papers at SIU, She was also shortlisted by MU for a student exchange program to Japan. Diksha is the recipient of trophies,medals and best student award.

[1] AIR 1997 SC 3011
[2] AIR 1999 SC 625


  1. congratulations dear !!!!!!!

  2. Waah keep it up ...! -ak

  3. Gorgeous!! this is such a great project! thanks so much for sharing!
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  4. Yes. Sexual harassment is a very dangerous and most uncomfortable situation for woman at work. We have seen many-many women have been harassed at their work place, and it is the government duty to protect the women by way of issuing a very clear laws and good enforcement of such law.