Scope of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act of 2013
The Government of India enacted Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act in 2013 for protection, prevention, and redressal of women against sexual harassment at workplace.The Act defines sexual harassment in line of Vishakha’sjudgement i.e. Vishakha vs. State of Rajasthan. Sexual harassment includes any unwelcome sexually tinted behaviour, whether directly or by implication, such as advances or physical contact, demand or request for sexual favours, making sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography, or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non verbal conduct of sexual nature. Other circumstances or behaviour which may amount to sexual harassment are implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in employment, implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in employment, implied or explicit threat about present or future employment status, creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment, humiliating treatment likely to affect lady employee’s health or safety.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act mandates the employer to take steps and make zero tolerance policies in their respective organisations towards sexual harassment. Incase of failure towards any provision of the act results in penalization with fine , which may also lead to cancellation of business licenses.As per the Act, an agrrived woman in relation to a workplace is a woman of any age, whether employed or not, who alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment. Thus, even if a woman is not an employee, even a woman who is customer or client and is subjected to sexual harassment at a workplace can claim protection under the Act. The Act applies to both organized and unorganized sectors in India. It, inter alia, applies to private and public bodies, government bodies, non-governmental organisations, hospitals, educational institutes, entertainment industry, stadiums used for training individuals and also apply to dwelling place or a house.
In recognition of India’s international obligation to protect human rights, the Act provides minimum legal standard of protection that every employee rightfully deserves. The employer’s organisations have the most important responsibility of eradicating sexual harassment in all forms within their workplace. The Act was indeed need of the hour when it came but there is still a lot which needs to be done in order achieve fruitful objective of the Act.