HANDBOOK on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace
Handbook on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace is is prepared by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, GOI.
As enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution of India, “equality of status and opportunity” must be secured for all its citizens; equality of every person under the law is guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution.
A safe workplace is therefore a woman’s legal right. Indeed, the Constitutional doctrine of equality and personal liberty is contained in Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. These articles ensure a person’s right to equal protection under the law, to live a life free from discrimination on any ground and to protection of life and personal liberty. This is further reinforced by the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979 and which is ratified by India. Often described as an international bill of rights for women, it calls for the equality of women and men in terms of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural and civil spheres. It underlines that discrimination and attacks on women’s dignity violate the principle of equality of rights.
Sexual harassment constitutes a gross violation of women's right to equality and dignity. It has its roots in patriarchy and its attendant perception that men are superior to women and that some forms of violence against women are acceptable. One of these is workplace sexual harassment, which views various forms of such harassment, as harmless and trivial. Often, it is excused as 'natural' male behaviour or 'harmless flirtation' which women enjoy. Contrary to these perceptions, it causes serious harm and is also a strong manifestation of sex discrimination at the workplace. Not only is it an infringement of the fundamental rights of a woman, under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution of India “to practice any profession or to carry out any occupation, trade or business”; it erodes equality and puts the dignity and the physical and psychological well-being of workers at risk. This leads to poor productivity and a negative impact on lives and livelihoods. To further compound the matter, deep-rooted socio-cultural behavioural patterns, which create a gender hierarchy, tend to place responsibility on the victim, thereby increasing inequality in the workplace and in the society at large.
Though sexual harassment at the workplace has assumed serious proportions, women do not report the matter to the concerned authorities in most cases due to fear of reprisal from the harasser, losing one’s livelihood, being stigmatized, or losing professional standing and personal reputation.
Across the globe today, workplace sexual harassment is increasingly understood as a violation of women's rights and a form of violence against women. Indeed, the social construct of male privileges in society continues to be used to justify violence against women in the private and public sphere. In essence, sexual harassment is a mirror reflecting male power over women that sustains patriarchal relations. In a society where violence against women, both subtle and direct, is borne out of the patriarchal values, women are forced to conform to traditional gender roles. These patriarchal values and attitudes of both women and men pose the greatest challenge in resolution and prevention of sexual harassment. Workplace sexual harassment, like other forms of violence, is not harmless. It involves serious health, human, economic and social costs, which manifests themselves in the overall development indices of a nation.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was enacted to ensure safe working spaces for women and to build enabling work environments that respect women's right to equality of status and opportunity. An effective implementation of the Act will contribute to the realization of their right to gender equality, life and liberty, equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth.
PURPOSE OF THIS HANDBOOK:
This handbook is meant for all workplaces/institutions/organizations to provide a basic understanding of sexual harassment at places of work. Additionally, it is designed to offer internal Complaints Committee/s and Local Complaints Committee/s (Complaints Committee/s) established under the Act, with simple, user friendly information on sexual harassment; what is expected of Complaints Committee/s to redress a complaint; and what the inquiry process and outcome should include.
WHO IS THIS HANDBOOK FOR:
This handbook informs the end user (an employee/worker) about workplace sexual harassment and their right to an informed complaint process in seeking redress as provided under the Act and Rules framed thereunder.
STRUCTURE OF THE HANDBOOK:
This Handbook has 6 sections, with each containing information for women, male co-workers as well as their employers, on how to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace in the context of the Act.
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