Webinar: Awareness Program on Prevention of Sexual Harassment Against Women At Workplace (POSH) Act 2013, 10 July 2020

Organised by: Mahatma Gandhi Labour Institute (MGLI)

Hosted by: Dr Suman Vaishnav (Assistant Professor (Psychology)

Trainer: Prita Jha (Director, Peace & Equality Cell)

Deliverables:

  • Gender equality and sensitivity
  • What is Sexual Harassment
  • What is Internal Committee
  • What are the clauses and penalties

Introduction by Prita Jha summarising purpose of training and objective of the law.

What can we do to ensure gender equality, to empower women.

Background & History

Government worker who was working to prevent child marriage. The community made it about caste that she was from a lower caste, she was raped and her husband murdered. She registered a case. Judgement in 1995, accused was acquitted of the rape charge and case was appealed and is still in the High Court. Women’s groups got involved as she was working in a professional work capacity. In the Supreme Court, a PIL was filed in 1996 to accept issues of sexual harassment against women and the need for protective law. The famous Vishaka judgement was the outcome but implantation of the guidelines given in this judgement largely not enforced and hence POSH ( Prevention ( Prohibition and Redressal ) of Sexual harassment at Workplace Act passed in 2013.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Core constituents of Sexual Harassment:

  • Sexual in nature
  • Unwelcome not consented
  • In the workplace

Rejection – how do we respond to rejection? PLD videos on consent and rejection.

In India, the law only states that men are the perpetrators, unlike US and UK where laws are gender-neutral. This in main is due to power roles are mainly male in the workplace in this country.

Low percentage of women reporting issues at work as there are fears of victimisation, instead they usually leave their job.

Who can make a complaint about Sexual Harassment?

  • “A woman of any age, whether employed or not,” allegation against a respondent. The law does not cover transgenders etc –its continues the binary idea of gender being male or female- the law is not inclusive in this area as yet.
  • Respondent is “anyone against whom an allegation of sexual harassment has been made. “There is no requirement to be an employee and hence no need to prive employment status
  • Workplace – covers all places where an employee attends for work.

Responsibilities of an Employer

  • Ensuring a safe and gender equal workplace.
  • Sexual Harassment Policy
  • Constituting Internal Committee and ensuring notice re ICC in a publicly visible place
  •  Ensuring Workshops / Training and building capacity of ICC and acting on recommendation of ICC in  each case and generally, ensuring penalty in false cases and filing annual report.
  • Sensitising workforce towards gender equality

Outcomes:

  • Talk directly to the person who has committed the sexual harassment towards you to stop the act that is making you uncomfortable where that’s possible- usually not possible in cases of skewed power dynamics  between employer and employee.
  • Conciliation under the law is the choice of the aggrieved woman – legal process in signing an agreement between the two parties
  • Penalties against those who falsify/fabricated cases

Timeframe:

  • 3 months limit to bring forward to the IC

Criminal Offences – should be taken to the Police with the help of the Internal Committee

Internal Committee:

  • Should comprise of 5 members for decision-making purposes – separate layers ie those who first hear the case to those that then conduct the hearing to ensure natural justice.
  • Complaint to be received in writing within 3 months to the IC Presiding Officer
  • Set up a hearing meeting and identify if this is a case of sexual harassment
  •  ICC is a Judicial Authority that should not be biased so that due process can be followed – IC members act as a civil court and have all powers of a civil court to summon witnesses, call for production of relevant documents etc
  • Witness statements allowed
  • Fair and impartial hearing
  • A lawyer cannot be present in the IC hearing

During IC investigation:

  • To offer Transfer / Leave to the aggrieved woman
  • Supervisory Readjustment if complainant is in the same team etc

Outcomes, Findings and Compensation to be recommended by the IC – Employer has to follow the recommendation of IC as per finding and can impose penalty as per the service rules of the institution.

If your institution or workplace would like to arrange a virtual training session with your members/workforce/Internal Committee, please email us at peaceandequalitycell@gmail.com to discuss further options.

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