Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 in India

In light of recent incidents of crime against women in India, it is essential that women are aware of their rights and the employers are aware of the law which prevents sexual harassment of women at workplace.

The primary basis of the Act lies in the decision of the Apex Court in the case of Vishakha v. State of Rajasthanwherein the Court ruled that actions resulting in violations of one’s rights to Gender Equality and Life and Liberty are violation of his/her fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution which provides for the right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

The Object of the Act is to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment.

The Act also renders a definition of “sexual harassment” any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour namely- {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 (Section 2 (n)).

One of the essential provisions of the Act is the constitution of the Internal Complaints Committee. The provision mandates the constitution of the Committee by an employer of a workplace.

The Act also lays down the duties of an employer which inter alia includes providing of a safe working environment, display in the office the penal consequences of sexual harassment at workplace, organize awareness programmes, treat sexual harassment as a misconduct under service rules and assist the women in filing a complaint against the culprit.

Under Indian Penal code, section 354-A is inserted under the head Sexual Harassment and prescribes punishment for a term of three years for the same. 

The aforesaid laws and rules indicate that India has robust laws and regulation for protecting the interests of labour at workplace or establishment. However, it is essential that the employee is aware of his/ her rights and duties.

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