Recently, the J&K Government took some measures to ensure women's safety at the workplace. Accordingly, it has directed all state officers not to call female employees to their residences for purpose of government business nor retain them in offices after working hours. The administrative secretaries, HoDs and DCs have been directed that no women employee be asked to attend the residence of any officer/public authority for purposes of the government business, unless warranted under exceptional circumstances. It also discourages holding back women employees beyond normal working hours or asking them to report on public holidays/off days.
An order was issued by the government to all its official bodies. “It is enjoined upon all the administrative secretaries and heads of the departments/ divisional commissioners/deputy commissioners not to insist upon presence of a lady government employee in the office beyond normal working hours or on public holidays/off days,” the order states, Greater Kashmir reported.
Status of Indian Law on Workplace Harassment
In 1997, the Supreme Court passed a landmark judgment in the Vishaka case, laying down guidelines to be followed by establishments in dealing with complaints about sexual harassment. These guidelines had to be followed until a legislation was officially passed.
Accordingly, sexual harassment was defined as unwelcome sexually determined behavior (whether directly or by implication) as:
a) physical contact and advances;
b) a demand or request for sexual favors;
c) sexually coloured remarks;
d) showing pornography;
e) any other unwelcome physical verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
It was recognised that harassment at workplace is a serious problem which can affect the proportion of working women in the country. A hostile working environment creates unfavourable conditions for work, thus stringent mechanisms to address the issue were required.
Officially in 2013, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was passed. It defined sexual harassment at the workplace and created a mechanism for redressal of complaints. The Act also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges, which often account for defamation. It covers all women, irrespective of their age or employment status and whether in the organized
or unorganized sectors, public or private, and covers clients, customers and domestic workers as well.
In recent years, there has been a steady rise in the number of cases reported under the Act. According to a study conducted by EY and FICCI, there were around 1,000 combined cases reported in 2015 and 2016. However, the figures do not correspond with the actual cases that happen in India. A report in Business Standard revealed that as many as 70% of working women still fail to report their sexual harassment cases. This is partially due to the unavailability of a functional Internal Complaints Committee in most organisations. Additionally, the lax law is filled with loopholes which hamper its effective implementation. Considering women's contribution in our national economy, there is a need for quick reforms which will ensure better safety for working women.
Nimisha Is An Intern With SheThePeople.TV