Physical Assault and Harassment of Women
Physical Assault and Harassment of Women:
Gender equality is also a basic human right. It could be effectively safeguarded at work places specifically if at all there are said principles and laws for the enforcement of those principles. The Indian Supreme Court has formulated the guidelines to guarantee the effective implementation of the rights of women against sexual exploitation at work places; in the case Vishaka & others Vs State of Rajasthan; it is observed that:
(i) Each incident of sexual harassment of women at work places results in violation of fundamental rights of “ Gender Equality” and the “Right to life and liberty”.
(ii) It shall be the duty of the employer or the responsible persons in work places or other institutions to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment by taking all steps required.
(iii) All employers or persons in charge of work place should take following steps to prevent steps to prevent sexual harassment.
(a) Express prohibition of sexual harassment a defined at the work place should be notified, published and circulated in appropriate ways;
(b) The rules/regulations of Government and public sector bodies relating to conduct and discipline should include rules/regulations prohibiting sexual harassment and provide for appropriate penalties in such rules against the offender.
(c) As regards private employers steps should be taken to include the aforesaid prohibitions in the standing orders under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act. Appropriate work conditions should be provided in respect of work, leisure, health and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment.
(iv) Where such conduct amounts to a specified offence under the Indian Penal Code or under any other law, the employer shall initiate appropriate action in accordance with laws. It should ensure that victims, or witnesses are not victimized or discriminated against while dealing with complaints of sexual harassment. The victims of sexual harassment should have the option to seek transfer of the perpetrator or their own transfer.
(v) Appropriate disciplinary action should be initiated by the employer if the conduct amounts to misconduct as per relevant conduct rules.
(vi) An appropriate complaint mechanism should be treated in the employer’s organization for redress of the complaint made by the victim. Such complaint mechanism should ensure time bound treatment of complaints.
(vii) It should be adequate to provide, where necessary, a complaints committee, a special counselor or other support service including the maintenance of confidentiality. The committee should be headed by a woman and not less than half of its members should be women. In order to prevent the probability of any undue pressure or influence from senior levels, such complaints committee should involve a third party, either NGO (Non Governmental Organisation) or other body who is familiar with the issue of sexual harassment. The complaints committee must make an annual report to the Government and the action taken by it.
(viii) Employees should be allowed to raise issues of sexual harassment at workmen’s meeting and in other appropriate forum and it should be affirmatively discussed in Employer –Employee Meeting.
(ix) Awareness of the rights of female employees in this regard should be created in particular by prominently notifying guidelines in a suitable manner.
(x) Where sexual harassment occurs as a result of an act or omission by a third party or outsider, the employer and person in charge will take all steps necessary and reasonable to assist the affected persons in terms of support and preventing action.
(xi) The Central / State Governments are requested to consider adopting suitable measures including legislation to ensure that the guidelines are also observed by the employers in the private sector.
The Supreme Court further stated that the ‘above guidelines’ and norms would be strictly observed in all work places for the preservation and enforcement of the right to gender equality of the working women.