Centre for tougher law against sexual harassment at work

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News:The Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Home Minister which was constituted to strengthen the legal framework to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace has finalised its recommendations.

Facts:

Background:

  • The Group of Ministers (GoM) was formed in the backdrop of the #MeToo movement.
  • MeToo is a global campaign against sexual harassment and assault where women from all over the world open up and share their stories throwing light on sexual abuse prevalent in our society.

About Sexual Harassment:

  • Sexual harassment is a behaviour with a sexual connotation that is abusive,injurious and unwelcome and makes a person feel offended, humiliated and intimidated.
  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) recognizes sexual harassment at workplace both as an aspect of gender discrimination and as a form of violence against women.

About Sexual Harassment of Women and Workplace Act, 2013:

  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed in 2013.The act broadens the Vishaka guidelines which were already in place.
  • The act aims to prevent and protect women against sexual harassment at workplace and to ensure effective redressal of complaints of sexual harassment.
  • It defines an aggrieved victim as a woman of any age whether employed or not who alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment.
  • The act made the employer responsible to prevent or deter acts of sexual harassment at the workplace.It says that employer must constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.
  • It says that complaint has to be made within 3 months from the date of the incident.For a series of incidents,it has to be made within three months from the date of the last incident.
  • However, this time-frame is not rigid as the ICC can extend the time limit if it is satisfied that the circumstances were such which prevented the woman from filing a complaint in that period.

Additional information:

About Vishakha Guidelines:

  • The guidelines date back to 1997 when the Supreme Court laid them down while passing judgment in a public interest litigation filed by Vishaka and other women’s rights groups.
  • The judgement defined sexual harassment for the first time and imposed three key obligations on institutions namely prohibition,prevention and redressal.
  • The Court also directed institutions to establish a Complaints Committee,which would look into matters of sexual harassment of women at the workplace.