EDEN IAS

SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION AND REDRESSAL) (POSH) ACT, 2013

Why in the News Posh act 2013?

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Posh Act, 2013 completed 10 years.

Introduction:

The Act aims to protect women’s right to equality at work, free from sexual harassment, and is compliant with the 1997 Vishaka ruling. In a landmark judgment, Vishaka vs. State of Rajasthan (1997), the Supreme Court of India created legally binding guidelines basing it on the right to equality and dignity accorded under the Indian Constitution as well as by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

How are sexual harassment, the workplace, and an employee defined under the POSH Act 2013?

  • What is sexual harassment at workplace?

Sexual harassment to include unwelcome acts such as physical contact and sexual advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, making sexually colored remarks, showing pornography, and any other unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.

  • Who’s an aggrieved woman?

The definition of an employee is not limited to what the company law says. All female workers, regardless of their employment status—permanent, contractual, ad hoc, daily wage, apprentice, intern, or even hired covertly without the primary employer’s knowledge.

Posh Act 2013.

  • What is a workplace?

The legislation broadens the concept of “workplace” to encompass a wide range of businesses from all industries, as well as non-traditional workplaces (such as  telecommuting) and locations where employees go on business. It is applicable to all Indian governmental and private sector organizations.

Posh Act 2013.

  • Who is an employer?

Posh Act 2013.

What are the responsibilities imposed on employers on Posh Act 2013.?

  • Plan training sessions and awareness campaigns to make staff members aware of the Act’s requirements. The 1997 ruling in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan.
  • Create a yearly report that includes information on the complaints filed and the actions taken.
  • Complaints Committees: A minimum of 50% of women must be represented on all complaints committees.
  • Internal Complaints Committee (ICC): In order to accept and handle reports of sexual harassment, employers with more than 10 employees must set up an ICC in each workplace.
  • The Presiding Officer will be a female employee who has a senior position within the company.
  • The Local Complaints Committee (LCC) is responsible for reviewing complaints from female employees of organizations with less than 10 employees.

Procedure for Filing Complaints:

  • Within three months (extended by an additional three months) from the date of the event, any resentful women may file a written complaint of sexual harassment with the Internal Committee or Local Committee.

 

Penalties:

  • Employers are subject to a fine of up to ₹50,000, which rises for repeated offenses, if they neglect to form an ICC or break any other rule.

Achievements/Outcomes of POSH Act 2013:

  • Increasing Reporting: The Ministry of Women and Child Development released data showing that the number of registered instances rose by 54% between 2014 and 2017.
  • Women Empowerment: The act’s legal protections made the workplace safer and more hospitable for women, enabling them to express their rights.
  • Boost Employer Accountability: The Act gives employers a lot of credit for their involvement. It says that the company has an obligation to provide a safe workplace for its workers.
  • Enhanced Awareness: Women ministry initiatives on the POSH Acts, such as “A Handbook and Training Module,” taught female employees about their legal rights.

Challenges in Implementation of the Posh Act 2013.:

  • Lack of an ICC constitution: The Supreme Court stated that several national sports federations in the nation had not yet established an ICC.
  • Furthermore, the Supreme Court observed significant shortcomings and ambiguity in the internal committee’s implementation of the POSH Act in May 2023.
  • Absence of Monitoring: In 2019, the government informed the Parliament that it does not keep any centralized records of incidents involving harassment of women at work.
  • Inaccessibility: Over 80% of Indian women are employed in the informal economy, where the law is mainly unattainable for them.
  • Underreporting: Need for hard proof, fear of job loss as a professional consequence, etc.
  • Lack of clarity in the legislation regarding how these inquiries should be conducted, women employees’ ignorance of whom to contact in the event that they become the target of harassment, etc.

Way Forward:

  • Union, States, and UTs have received the following directives from the SC:
    • to carry out a time-bound investigation to determine if institutions, bodies, public sector enterprises, government organizations, authorities, etc. have established complaint committees.
    • Post the information about each committee on their websites.
    • To upskill committee members, authorities and employers must frequently provide orientation, workshops, seminars, and awareness programs.
    • Put technology to use: for maintaining case management and confidential reporting, as well as making sure that evidence is safely recorded.

Conclusion:

In order to guarantee that all employees work in harmony and are free from harassment, sexual harassment at work is a highly delicate matter that has to be addressed with the utmost care, tolerance, and understanding. As such, complaints about it must be resolved as soon as possible.

Source: MoW&CD’s Handbook on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace.

The Hindu