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NCW issues memo on prevention of sexual harassment

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections

 

Source: TH

 

Direction: The article covers the salient features of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

  

Context: The National Commission for Women (NCW) has asked all states to ensure that coaching centres and educational institutes strictly enforce the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

 

The Commission has also asked:

  • To conduct awareness programmes on the Act among all stakeholders in order to ensure that cases of sexual harassment at work are reported responsibly and effectively.
  • To ensure that these coaching centres are registered with the relevant authorities and a background check is conducted on those responsible for running the centres.

  

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013:

 Background:

  • The Vishakha Guidelines were issued by the Supreme Court (in Vishakha and others v. The State of Rajasthan 1997) with the primary goal of creating a framework for workplace sexual misconduct redress and grievance processes.
  • The Act of 2013 was motivated by these guidelines.

  

About the Act of 2013:

Objective: Its goal is to safeguard women’s rights at work and make the workplace a safer place for them. It also serves as a platform for both avoiding and addressing problems.

  

Provisions of the Act:

  • It is applicable to all sectors including organised and unorganised sectors.
  • It defines a workplace as an extended space by covering any place visited by an employee during the course of his or her employment which would include transportation, etc.
  • Internal Complaint Committee (ICC): Any corporation or organisation with more than 10 employees to establish an ICC to hear and address sexual harassment allegations.
  • Local Complaint Committee in each district where there are less than 10 workers.
  • Duties of employer: The employer must disclose the legal repercussions of engaging in sexual harassment-related activities, as well as the composition of the ICC.
  • Penalties: If an employer fails to comply with the regulations, a penalty of Rs. 50000 may be imposed, and the licence may be revoked.

  

Procedure to be followed:

  • An aggrieved female has 3 months (according to the SC, this can be extended) to make a written complaint with the ICC.
  • Before initiating an investigation, the committee can try to resolve the matter through mediation.
  • While directing the investigation (to be completed in 90 days), the Committee has the same authority as a civil court and works as per the Natural justice principles.

  

Loopholes and issues in the law:

  • Not a gender-neutral law.
  • Legislation is very vague in respect of the ICC constitution (includes only personnel from the company itself).
  • Necessary steps against malicious complaints would discourage women from coming forward.

  

Conclusion: A law as revolutionary as Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace will have huge social implications, if public awareness, sensitivity and robust implementation are ensured.

 

National Commission for Women (NCW):
  • It is a statutory body of the Government of India that was founded on January 31, 1992, by the National Commission for Women Act, 1990.
  • Its mandate is to:
    • Review the Constitutional and Legal safeguards for women;
    • Recommend remedial legislative measures;
    • Facilitate redressal of grievances and
    • Advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women.
  • Functions:
    • Investigate and examine all issues concerning the protection provided to women under the Constitution and other legislation.
    • Report on the effectiveness of those safeguards to the Central Government.
    • Make recommendations in such reports for the effective application of those protections.
    • Propose corrective legislative actions to address any flaws in laws.
    • Investigate complaints and take suo moto action in cases involving the denial of women’s rights.

 

Insta Links:

Prevention of sexual harassment or POSH Act

 

Mains Links:

Q. “Though women in post-Independent India have excelled in various fields, the social attitude towards women and the feminist movement has been patriarchal.” Apart from women’s education and women empowerment schemes, what interventions can help change this milieu?” (UPSC 2021)