Most of the business houses do not have sexual harassment redressal committees as mandated by the Supreme Court under the Vishaka guidelines.
As per the Vishaka guidelines, the employer or other responsible persons at an establishment or institution having more than 10 members should form a sexual harassment redressal committee to prevent cases of sexual harassment and provide mechanisms for the resolution of complaints. However, when Nagpur Today tried to find out whether the top business houses of Nagpur have any such committee for their female employees, the information we get was very disappointing. The female employees of the business house itself told Nagpur Today that “there is definitely a need of committee where they can go for the solution for their problems specially sexual harassment cases but there is no such committee for us”. Nagpur Today visited Hotel Tuli Imperial, Eros Motors, Big Bazar, Central Mall and Westside but found that these business houses are violating the Supreme Court guidelines as they do not have sexual harassment redressal committee for their female employees.
All workplaces should have an appropriate complaints mechanism with a complaints committee, special counselor or other support services. The Vishakha judgment had recommended a Complaints Committee at all workplaces, headed by a woman employee, with not less than half of its members being women. All complaints of sexual harassment by any woman employee would be directed to this committee. This is significant because an immediate supervisor may also be the perpetrator. The committee advises the victim on further course of action and recommends to the management the course of action against the man accused of harassment. The committee should include an NGO/individual familiar with the issue of sexual harassment.
Supreme Court Judgment and guidelines issued in 1997 was to provide for the effective enforcement of the basic human right of gender equality and guarantee against sexual harassment and abuse, more particularly against sexual harassment at work places, the government has issued circulars since 1998, to all the establishment or institution advising them to establish a permanent cell and a committee and to develop guidelines to combat sexual harassment, violence against women.
What is the Vishakha judgment?
The Supreme Court provided the first authoritative decision of ‘sexual harassment’ in India; and confronted with a statutory vacuum, it went creative and proposed the route of ‘judicial legislation’. The Vishakha judgment was an offshoot of a rape case involving a social worker in Rajasthan. It laid down the requirements for employers dealing with complaints of sexual assault and stipulated the formation of committees to dispose of complaints from victims of harassment.
Some general points about the judgment:
Gender equality includes protection from sexual harassment and the right to work with dignity as per our constitution, extra hazard for a working woman compared her male colleague is clear violation of the fundamental rights of Gender Equality & Right to Life and Liberty, safe working environment is fundamental right of a working woman, in no way should working women be discriminated at the workplace against male employees, working with full dignity is the fundamental right of working women, the right to work as an inalienable right of all working women. Anything at work that can place the working woman at disadvantage compared to other male employees in her official career just because she is a woman – can be termed as sexual harassment. Unwelcome sexually determined behavior & demands from males employees at workplace, such as: any physical contacts and advances, sexually colored remarks, showing pornography, passing lewd comments or gestures, sexual demands by any means, any rumors/talk at workplace with sexually colored remarks about a working woman, or spreading rumors about a woman’s sexual relationship with anybody.
… Puja Singh