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The Parliament of India enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 in order to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. It was passed by the Lok Sabha on 3 September 2012 and incorporated many of the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development which had thoroughly examined the Bill that had been introduced in the Lok Sabha on 7 December 2010. The Rajya Sabha passed it on 26 February 2013 and the Bill received the assent of the President on 23 April 2013. The Act defines “sexual harassment at the workplace” in a comprehensive manner. It includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by implication) such as: (i) physical contact and advances, and (ii) a demand or request for sexual favours. The following circumstances, among others, may amount to sexual harassment: (i) implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment; (ii) implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment; and (iii) implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status.

According to the Act, an “aggrieved woman” means in relation to a workplace, a woman, of any age whether employed or not, who alleges to have been

subjected to any act of sexual harassment by the respondent. The ‘workplace’ includes any department, organization, etc, which is established, owned, controlled or wholly or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the appropriate government, or local authority, and any private sector organization to name but a few. “Unorganized sector” means an enterprise owned by individuals or self-employed workers and engaged in the production or sale of goods or providing service, where the enterprise employs workers, the number of which is less than ten.

The Act provides for a Smt. Krishna Tirath, MP

The Act also defined ‘domestic worker’ as a woman who is employed to do the household work in any household for remuneration whether in cash or kind, either directly or through any agency on a temporary, permanent, part time or full time basis, but does not include any member of the family of the employer.

redressal mechanism in the form of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and Local Complaints Committee (LCC). All workplaces employing 10 or more workers are mandated under the Act to constitute an ICC. The ICC will be a four member committee under the chairpersonship of a senior female employee and will include two members from amongst the employees preferably committed to the cause of women or has experience in social work/legal knowledge, including a third party member (NGO etc) as well. A complaint of sexual harassment can be filed within a time limit of three months. This may be extended to another three months if the woman can prove that grave circumstances prevented her from doing the same. The Act provides for conciliation, whereby the ICC/ LCC can take steps to settle the matter between the woman and the respondent. However, this option will be used only at the request of the woman. In cases where the allegation

is proven to be true, the committee can recommend action in accordance with the provision of service rules applicable to the respondent or as per the rules which will be prescribed where such service rules do not exist. The committee can also recommend deduction of an appropriate sum from the salary of the respondent or ask respondents to pay the sum.

In cases where the allegation against the respondent has not been proven then the committee can write to the employer/district officer that no action needs to be taken in the matter. The Act casts a responsibility on every employer to create an environment which is free from sexual harassment. Employers are required to organize workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for sensitizing the employees about the provision of this legislation and display notices regarding the constitution of Internal Committee, penal consequences of sexual harassment etc. On 26 February 2013, the Rajya Sabha took up the Bill as passed by the Lok Sabha for consideration. The Minister of State of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Smt. Krishna Tirath, moving the motion for consideration of the Bill, said the main object was to provide safe environment to the women at their workplace, to prevent their sexual harassment and to make them economically empowered so that they could do their work properly. The Bill not only covered those women who worked in the government offices, but also at all workplaces both in public and private sectors, whether organized or unorganized. The Bill cast a responsibility on every employer to create an environment at every workplace that is free from sexual harassment. Dr Nazma A.

The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three | 223

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