POSH Act – an attempt to prevent sexual harassment of women at workplace

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Recently, the Femina Miss India Universe 2004 winner and former actress Tanushree Dutta came out publicly and shared about her tribulation that happened a decade ago. She claims to have been sexually harassed while filming a movie by her co-actor. Thanks to her, the most famed #Metoo movement from the west is now gaining momentum in India as well.

It comes as no surprise that women are harassed in every walk of her life. Her workplace is no exception. Here are some laws crafted by our honorable Supreme Court to curb this issue.

In 1997, Vishakha Guidelines, a set of procedural guidelines were formed to use in cases of sexual harassment of women at a workplace in India.

Later, Vishakha Guidelines were replaced by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 [POSH Act].

Sexual Harassment in the workplace as defined in the above Act includes one or more of the following behavior:

  • Sexual remarks both verbal and physical
  • Forcing or appealing for sexual favors
  • Showing pornographic content
  • Unwanted physical contacts and advances
  • Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature

Internal Complaints Committee

Every owner of a workplace having 10 or more employees, is required to constitute an ‘Internal Complaints Committee” to every branch he owns, to investigate such incidents. The committee is required to consist of a Presiding Officer who is supposed be a senior level woman employee.

The committee is required to complete the inquiry and submit a report within 90 days to the employer or District Officer, who in turn are advised to take the required action within the next 60 days.

Punishment

According to the Criminal Law Act, 2013 the perpetrator can be awarded a jail term of 1-5 years, for touching women inappropriately.

Also under the same law, making obscene gestures and saying inappropriate words to outrage a women’s modesty could amount for 3 years jail and fine.

Information Technology Act, 2000 prohibits viewing, capturing and distributing images of women without her knowledge. Violation of the Act can attract 1- 7 years jail term.

Compensation

The victim (woman) is also entitled to in case of mental and physical trauma, loss of opportunities in her career due to harassment and such.

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