From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : POSH Act, 2013
Mains level : Not Much
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has asked all States to ensure strict implementation of the sexual harassment at workplace law (POSH Act, 2013) by coaching centres and educational institutes.
Why in news?
- NCW is concerned over incidents of sexual harassment at coaching centres.
- It seeks to give instructions to all coaching institutes to ensure effective steps are taken for prevention of sexual harassment of female students.
What is the POSH Act?
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed in 2013.
- It defined sexual harassment, lay down the procedures for a complaint and inquiry, and the action to be taken.
- It broadened the Vishaka Guidelines, which were already in place.
What are Vishakha Guidelines?
- The Vishakha guidelines were laid down by the Supreme Court in a judgment in 1997. This was in a case filed by women’s rights groups, one of which was Vishakha.
- In 1992, she had prevented the marriage of a one-year-old girl, leading to the alleged gangrape in an act of revenge.
Guidelines and the law
- The Vishakha guidelines, which were legally binding, defined sexual harassment and imposed three key obligations on institutions :
- The Supreme Court directed that they should establish a Complaints Committee, which would look into matters of sexual harassment of women at the workplace.
The POSH Act broadened these guidelines:
- It mandated that every employer must constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.
- It lay down procedures and defined various aspects of sexual harassment, including the aggrieved victim, who could be a woman “of any age whether employed or not”, who “alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment”.
- This meant that the rights of all women working or visiting any workplace, in any capacity, were protected under the Act.
Definition of Sexual Harassment
Under the 2013 law, sexual harassment includes “any one or more” of the following “unwelcome acts or behaviour” committed directly or by implication:
- Physical contact and advances
- A demand or request for sexual favours
- Sexually coloured remarks
- Showing pornography
- Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
The Ministry of Women & Child Development has published a Handbook on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace with more detailed instances of behaviour that constitutes sexual harassment at the workplace. These include, broadly:
- Sexually suggestive remarks or innuendos; serious or repeated offensive remarks; inappropriate questions or remarks about a person’s sex life
- Display of sexist or offensive pictures, posters, MMS, SMS, WhatsApp, or emails
- Intimidation, threats, blackmail around sexual favours; also, threats, intimidation or retaliation against an employee who speaks up about these
- Unwelcome social invitations with sexual overtones, commonly seen as flirting
- Unwelcome sexual advances.
- The Handbook says “unwelcome behaviour” is experienced when the victim feels bad or powerless; it causes anger/sadness or negative self-esteem.
- It adds unwelcome behaviour is one which is “illegal, demeaning, invading, one-sided and power based”.
Back2Basics: National Commission for Women
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