As per the survey* conducted by the Indian National Bar Association in 2017, over 38% women claimed to have faced sexual harassment at workplace while 50.7% said that they had been targets of harassment online. A total of 1971 cases of Sexual harassment at workplace were registered in four years i.e. since the enactment of the POSH Act in 2013 till December 2017. There was a steep rise in the % of the cases reported over the span of 3 years i.e. 371 reported in 2014 & 539 in 2017. Out of this, Uttar Pradesh –the country’s most populous state reported the highest number of cases i.e. 141 in 2017 (+42% in 2014), followed by Delhi(13%) & Maharashtra(7%).(*inputs from the website)
These are the figures, the data, the statistics which are collected, surveyed, compiled and presented in a number of journals, magazines, leading newspapers and a lot of websites. People read it, discuss it and then leave it either with the empty cups of tea or at the gossip tables of the offices- An irony itself !!
Have we really wondered despite of proper education, effective intellectual skills, strategic and dynamic leaderships, why women are made to face Sexual Harassment? Why women are still considered as a pleasure material by men? The cases are reported, registered but what about their resolutions? Women are made to raise their voice but what about their protection afterwards?
These are some of the questions which remain unanswered till now, i.e. even after the enactment of POSH Act in 2013. The POSH Act(Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace- Prevention, Protection & Redressal Act 2013) came into existence after 16 years of the Vishakha judgement.
What amounts to Sexual Harassment at Workplace?
As per Sec 2(n) of the POSH Act 2013, Sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication)-
i. Physical contact and advances, or
ii. A demand or request for sexual favours, or
iii. Making sexually coloured remarks, or
iv. Showing pornography, or
v. Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non verbal conduct of sexual nature,
Clause v of this definition covers almost everything with which a women can be harasses sexually in this male dominated society.
An Exhaustive Coverage
The Act protects all women, irrespective of age or employment status, whether in the organized or unorganized sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers and domestic workers as well.
The Ministry of Women & Child Development took a call in 2013 and enacted this act called POSH act and rules for giving a new vision to the lives of working women. But have we achieved the purpose? Have we achieved the objective yet? The statistical figures say “NO”.
As it is generally said that without knowing the worth of the weapon , you cannot use it. Perhaps same is true in this case also. People do know that weapon exists (POSH Act 2013) but how many actually know how to use it? That is the question.
As per the survey conducted by Indian Bar Association in 2017, 70% of the women who had suffered from Sexual Harassment at workplace did not reported because of the fears of the repercussions they will probably face.
RECAP – some of the cases related to Sexual Harassment at Workplace which made headlines in the past includes-
a. Phaneesh Murthy of Infosys in 2002
b. an employee working at a restaurant at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi in 2012
c. Tarun Tejpal (a senior journalist and editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine) case in 2013
d. A supreme court judge case in 2013
e. Doordarshan employee case in 2015
f. All India Radio’s employee case in 2013
g. Greenpeace India employee case in 2015
h. Wipro in 2015
i. RK Pachauri (then director general of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), in 2015
and many more…………… and who is not aware of the recent #METOO movement which has gained traction across India since last one month. Be it the Directors from film industry (Sajid Khan, Subhash Ghai, Rajat Kapoor, Vikas Bahl etc), Top Actors( Nana Patekar, Alok Nath, Piyush Mishra, Zulfi Sayed), Politicians like MJ Akbar, BCCI CEO Rahul Johri, prominent media personalities such as Gautam Adhikari, Vinod Dua, Fahad Shah and many more comedians, admans, content writers, Editors, Consultants including singers like Rahul Dixit, Abhijeet ete etc………. And may include a never ending list.
Unaware of the stringent provisions of law which can be imposed on such men, the women were initially compromising due to their own fears and stigmas which they might entail and men are even getting encouraged because of their so called self prides. But with this movement spread across nation it is expected that women will come out leaving their fears behind and may exercise their rights in line with the supporting laws and regulations.
The protection against Sexual Harassment and the right to work with dignity are universally recognized human rights by international conventions and instruments such as Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
Lets have a look on the followings stringent provisions of various Indian laws including POSH Act 2013 which if opted properly can help women victims to raise her voice against such heinous crimes :
1. Demanding sexual favours despite indication of disinterest is a crime under IPC section 354(A). The accused can either face jail time ranging from 1-3 years or fine or both.
2. Following someone with our without knowledge is stalking and is an offence. The man can face jail term ranging 3-5 years coupled with fine as per Sec 354(D) of Indian Penal Code
3. Watching/ capturing or sharing images of a woman engaging in a private act without her consent is voyeurism and is considered as a punishable offence under Section 354(C ). The man faces jail term ranging from 1-3 years in addition to fine. If the man is convicted the second time, then he faces jail term ranging from 3-7 years along with fine.
4. Singing lewd songs directed at women in public spaces is an offence under IPC section 294. The offenders could be jailed upto 3 months or to be fined, or both.
5. If a woman’s clear refusal to someone’s sexual advances is met by threats to harm her physically or her reputation and property, it is crime under IPC section 503. The man can either be jailed for 2 years or fine or both.
6. A senior colleague demanding sexual favours in exchange for work benefits – promotion or salary hike is an act of sexual harassment as per the inclusive definition given in Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013.
7.Morphing pictures of a woman and sharing them with an intent to harass and defame her is a crime as per Section 499 of Indian Penal Code. The punishment may include jail time upto 2 years or fine or both.
8. Posting any obscene or defamatory material on a public online platform intending to harass a woman is a crime under Section 67 of the IT Act. The accused can face a jail time of 2 years coupled with a fine.
9. Making sexually coloured remarks against a woman in public place is a crime under section 509 of Indian Penal Code. The accused can either face a jail term of 3 years or a fine.
10. If an act of sexual harassment happens inside the transportation facility provided by your workplace, you have the right to complain under POSH Act 2013.
It’s a high time that all of us should realize that Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace results in violation of the fundamental rights of the women to equality under Articles 14 & 15 of the Constitution of India and her right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and right to practice any profession or to carry on an occupation , trade or business which includes a right to a safe environment free from Sexual Harassment. We should appreciate and respect women who are working hard to earn bread and butter for their families. My heart bleeds on realizing that presence of women at work are taken as an opportunity by men for their own pleasure and meeting their needs, satisfying their egos and justifying their positions at the workplaces and in society.
Lets decide among ourselves what do we want? A rising India or a Perverted India?
JAAGO INDIA JAAGO!!!