Shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment.”
In the 1980s, there were various women development programmes that were brought into action by the state governments in order to facilitate women empowerment, and remove the gender biasness that existed in the society.
One such worker of a Women Development Programme in the state of Rajasthan was Bhanwari Devi. She was known to support and fight for varied issues such as those related to land, water, literacy, health etc. Throughout her journey as a social worker, she used to have entire villages backing her up and supporting her in her causes; until the day she chose to stand up against child marriage.
Even after this, Bhanwari Devi did not give up. She went to the Rajasthan High Court, in order to seek justice. But to her dismay, the Court acquitted her rapists and they were allowed to go free. However, this struggle caught eye of a women’s rights group named Vishaka, who decided to further take this issue to the Supreme Court and not let Bhanwari Devi’s fight be lost in vain. Vishaka filed a writ petition and moved the Supreme Court, followed by which the most-needed guidelines to provide a safe working environment for women came into existence – known as the Vishaka Guidelines.
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Vishaka guidelines provided a set of procedural guidelines laid down by the apex court in cases related to sexual harassment against women at their workplace. This was done keeping in mind the fundamental rights provided under Article 14, 15, 19(3)(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Sexual harassment of any kind, at a workplace, is considered to be a violation against a woman’s right to equality, life and liberty. Such evil had to have certain set of strict measures and regulations provided for. Which is why the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (also known as the POSH Act) came into force, to make sure every working woman has a set of defined rules and regulations guarding her rights. The main objective of this Act was to provide the women protection against sexual harassment at their workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment.
The POSH Act has mentioned the circumstances under which an act may amount to sexual harassment, which are as follows:
Prevention of sexual harassment of working women is a very crucial step to equalize the ratio of men to women, when it comes to the working sectors. The Delhi High Court in Shanta Kumar v. CSIR held that, “undoubtedly, physical contact or advances would constitute sexual harassment provided such physical contact is a part of the sexually determined behaviour…a physical contact which has no undertone of a sexual nature and is not occasioned by the gender of the complainant may not necessarily amount to sexual harassment.”
The Sexual Harassment Act, 2013 further lays down the guidelines for the constitution of committees at every workplace. Every employer, having more than 10 employees of any gender, needs to have an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at every branch of its office, with the aim to provide a safe platform for anyone to complaint against fellow employees of the office their working at. Further, there is constituted a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) at every district level, set up by the government, in order to investigate into complaints related to sexual harassment in
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