Across the India and elsewhere, the cases of sexual harassment of women at workplace surface more regularly. As per the government, the cases broadly fall under the category of ‘assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty-Section 354 of IPC’, ‘attempt to commit rape -Sec. 376/ 511 of IPC’ and ‘insult to the modesty of women- Sec 509 of IPC’.
The government has time and again underlined that safety and security of women in the country is of utmost priority for it.
There are ample laws already. There is legislation known as “the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013” which aims to provide protection to women against sexual harassment at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints related to it.
The law covers all women, irrespective of their age, employment status or nature of work whether working in public or private, organised or unorganised sector. As the law provides, there is an obligation upon employers of all workplaces, public or private, to provide a safe and secure working environment free from sexual harassment, whereby every employer is mandated to constitute an Internal Committee where the number of employees or workers is more than 10.
Similarly, the appropriate government is authorized to constitute local committee in every district to receive complaints from organizations having less than ten workers or if the complaint is against the employer himself. The Act has enough provisions to deal with various aspects of the matter including penal provisions for those who violate the provisions of the Act including for the employers.
Last year, a survey was conducted by a reputed organization that over 70% of those who had approached an internal committee to report sexual harassment at the workplace were not satisfied with the outcome. The survey also found that 36% of all respondents reported having experienced sexual harassment at the workplaces. Sporadically also, incidents surface wherein a woman employee is not satisfied with the internal committees so set up at government levels.
There is need thus to step up awareness raising and take other preventive measures to bring about a discernible change in the work culture. The committee(s) should also ensure that justice is done and also act in manner that allows a woman employee to speak up freely. Subsequently there should be required action and justice done to her.