Topics Covered: Women related issues.
Tougher law against sexual harassment at work
What to study?
For Prelims: Overview of the law, recommendations by GoM.
For Mains: Need for stringent law.
Context: The Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Home Minister Amit Shah, which was constituted to strengthen the legal framework to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, has finalised its recommendations.
The GoM was constituted first in October 2018 in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement after many women shared their ordeal on social media.
The Women and Child Development Ministry had steered the Sexual Harassment of Women and Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act in 2013, which was applicable to government offices, the private sector, NGOs and the unorganised sector.
Need for stricter provisions:
- The 2013 Act has entrusted the powers of a civil court to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)without specifying if the members need to have a legal background. This was a major lacuna given that the ICC formed an important grievance redressal mechanism under the framework of the act.
- The 2013 act only imposed a fine of ₹50,000 on employers for non-compliance with respect to the constitution of the ICC. This proved to be insufficient in ensuring that the employers constituted the ICC in a time-bound manner.
What next?- Overview of Vishakha guidelines:
The proposed amendments would be largely based on the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997, on which the 2013 Act was based.
It made the employer responsible to prevent or deter acts of sexual harassment at the workplace.
Definition of sexual harassment:
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013 defines sexual harassment: It includes “any one or more” of the following “unwelcome acts or behaviour”committed directly or by implication: Physical contact and advances, Sexually coloured remarks, Showing pornography, A demand or request for sexual favours, Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
Key provisions of the act:
- This Act lays down the procedures for a complaint and inquiry and the action to be taken.
- It mandates that every employer constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.
- It lays down the procedures and defines various aspects of sexual harassment.
- A woman can be of any age, whether employed or not, who “alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment”, that means the rights of all the women working or visiting any workplace, in any capacity, are protected under the Act.
Sources: the Hindu.