Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Management Studies

Understanding and Perception of Working Women towards Sexual Harassment Act

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Management Studies

Understanding and Perception of Working Women towards Sexual Harassment Act

Article excerpt

The beginning of the modem industrial era, consequent of industrial revolution witnessed a tremendous change in the character of work outside the household in order to augment the family income. The women workers constitute an important component of the Indian labour force. They face many problems at workplace like less wages, long hours, discrimination, humiliation, sexual harassment etc. Sexual harassment is a clear form of gender discrimination based on sex. It was the ruling of the Supreme Court (1997) in the famous Vishaka Case that brought the issue to the public consciousness. After the gap of 16 years, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressai) Act was passed in2013.

Background ofthe Act

Sexual harassment at the workplace has remained one of the central concerns of the women's movement in India since the early 80's (Patel, 2002). Several women's groups came forward in support of a new concern about a variety of sexually violent acts against women, including sexual harassment. During the 1990s, the most controversial and brutal gang rape at the work place involved a Rajasthan State Government employee who tried to prevent child marriage as pail of her duties as a worker of the Women Development Programme. The feudal patriarchs who were enraged by her (in their words: "a lowly women from a poor and potter community") decided to teach her a lesson and raped her repeatedly (Samhita, 2001 ). After an extremely humiliating legal battle in the Rajasthan High Court the rape survivor did not get justice and the rapists "educated and upper caste affluent men" were allowed to go free. This enraged a women's rights group called Vishakha that filed public interest litigation in the Supreme Court of India (Combat Law, 2003).

Before 1997, women experiencing Sexual harassment at the workplace had to lodge a complaint under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code that deals with the 'Criminal Assault of women to outrage women's modesty, and Section 509 that punishes an individual for using a 'word', gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman'. These sections left the interpretation of outraging women's modesty to the discretion of the police officer.

In 1997, the Supreme Court passed a landmark judgment in the Vishakha Case laying down guidelines to be followed by establishments in dealing with complaints about sexual harassment. The Court stated that these guidelines were to be implemented until legislation is passed to deal with the issue (Mathew, 2002).

Pursuant to this, the Government of India requested the National commission for women (NCW) to draft the legislation. A number of issues were raised regarding the NCW draft; ultimately, a drafting committee was set up to make a fresh draft, several women's organizations and women lawyers collectively worked on the draft. The bill introduced in Parliament came to be known as the Sexual Harassment of women at the workplace (Prevention and Redressai) Bill, 2004. The bill provided for the prevention and redressai of sexual harassment of women at the workplace, or arising during and in the course of their employment and matters connected thereto, in keeping with the principles equality, freedom, life and liberty as enshrined in the Constitution of India, and as upheld by the Supreme Court in Vishakha Vs. State of Rajasthan (1997(7) SCC.323) and as reflected in the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW) which has been ratified by the Government of India. The cases of sexual harassment decreased from 8.77 percent in 2003 to 6.48 percent in 2004 due to intervention of Government and follow-up action taken to fulfill the direction of the Supreme Court (Manohar, 2006).

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressai) Act has been passed in 2013. It is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. …

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