AIR spotlight summary on “Steps against Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace”.
Women’s emancipation and safety of women is most important for the government and for the entire country. The Department of Personnel and Training has issued circular to all departments that any case of sexual harassment of women, whether in workplace or any where the investigation should be completed within 30 days of lodging the complaint and in no case not more than 90 days. Under CrPC also any criminal charge has to be completed by the investigating agency within 90 days. If it fails the accused automatically gets the bail.
Providing Safety to women
- Women should be safe, secure and their dignity should be assured. Women have come out in large numbers and have started to opt for large number of jobs, so how women feel themselves at office and workplace is a primary concern.
- It goes back to the Vishaka Judgement when the Supreme Court categorically stated about eliminating all forms of discrimination and to ensure safety and security to women. It came with guidelines which stipulated that what is sexual harassment in this country and how to cope with it. On those line in 2013 there was Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace(Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal)
- The provision that the investigation should be completed within 30 days ensures the matter is taken seriously and the women find redress at earlier possible time. Normally all these cases are investigated by the police. The onus is also on respective state governments to see to it that such cases of sexual harassment of women are given priority in the matter of investigation. What we have seen is that police takes its own time to investigate.
- The Supreme Court has said that there should be an internal grievances complaints committee if it is a work place of more than 10 employees. Internally the investigation will be done by this committee and the issue is sorted out within the organisation.
- According to Supreme Court guidelines the employer is made responsible to see that nothing must undermine the dignity of women workers. Basically it is trying to sensitise how both men and women must conduct themselves in a work place.
- Since 1997 ever since the Supreme Court came up with the Vishaka guidelines, the sexual harassment at the workplace and what women has to go through has become the part of the public discourse.
- The circular issued by Department of Personnel and Training says that the ministries and the departments have to keep a watch on the complaints to ensure that the women is not victimised in any manner because of she having filed the complaint. It also says the aggrieved women can approach the secretary or head of the organisation in case she feels that she is victimised because of her complaint.
- This gives the women the sense of fearlessness so that they can complain without subjected to any kind of vendetta. This is part of what Supreme Court had stated in 1997 that gender equality under Article 14, 19 and Right to Life under Article 21, the dignity of women has to be maintained.
Concerns / Challenges
- The problem is of mindset particularly those educated and well trained.
- Much of it depends on the implementation which is worrisome. Some people who are in very influential position are accused and they have got away with it. In India wherever the accused has been influential they have got a free hand. It creates a sense of alienation, disbelief about the law.
- Worldwide many women fell that the law is present but the implementation is weak.
- Women are exploited by the superior in the matter of promotion, emoluments and better prospects in job etc.
Need of the Hour
- There has to be a sense of fear in the mind of the offenders which has to be ensured.
- Elaborate suggestion, punishment and the disciplinary action has to be taken. The Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Women and Child Development should see to it that no matter who is accused should be severely dealt with which would instil a gender sensitive society.
- More than this is the attitudinal change, how we raise the sons in the families, how we make men respect women within the family and within the private spaces will matter. The socialisation process and education all go towards making the man much more sensitive while dealing with women.
- There must also be equal punishment to women who make false charges.
- The law makers must think it over that any complaint of rape should have a time bar and complaints cannot be entertained beyond certain time limit. There are instances where the women approach the police or court with the charges of rape happened three years ago and there can be some motive behind the complaint. So there has to be a time bar within which the compliant should be registered say within 6 months or 1 year.
- There are 100s of private companies where they don’t have any committee to look into the complaints of sexual harassment of women. The government have to look upon these companies and have proper investigation.