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The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2012 is “An Act to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment.”
Sexual harassment results in violation of the fundamental rights of a woman guaranteed under the Constitution of India. These rights include the right to equality, right to life and to live with dignity, and right to practice any profession or carry on an occupation/trade/business which includes a right to safe environment free from sexual harassment.
With reference to the Vishaka Guidelines enumerated by the Supreme Court of India in 1997, the law hopes to redress as well as prevent cases of sexual harassment in all workplaces across India.
1. The law applies to women harassed in the workplace including women working as domestic workers, daily wagers, temporary or permanent, full-time or part-time, as well as volunteers. The women may or may not be employed and can be of any age. The law is only applicable to women and women only.
2. Sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior:
If the following circumstances exist in relation to any behavior, that is, if any act is done under the following circumstances that would also count as sexual harassment:
3. The act of harassment can occur in the workplace and also if a woman is harassed while visiting a place arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation provided by the office, a complaint can be filed under this Act.
4. The Act requires all workplaces to set up Internal Complaints Committees to address the issue of sexual harassment. There will also be a Local Complaints Committee for each District where complaints can be filed.
5. An aggrieved woman can file a complaint within 3 months of the incident (or later if allowed by the committee).
6. The Act provides the option of a settlement between the aggrieved woman and the responded through conciliation but only on the request of the woman. However, money compensation cannot be a basis for the settlement.
7. The inquiry has to be completed within 90 days.
8. In case of malicious complaints or false evidence, the Committee may take action against the woman/person. However, simply not being able to prove an allegation will not mean that it is a false/malicious complaint.
9. The identity of the aggrieved woman, respondent, witnesses as well as other details of the complaint cannot be published or disclosed to the public/media.
10. The Act also hopes to prevent such incidents by placing a duty on employers to hold regular workshops/awareness programmes as well as, display the consequences of harassment in the workplace. Every employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment to all employees.
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