Context: National Commission for Women (NCW) has issued an advisory to the Chief Secretaries of all the States and Union Territories to ensure the safety of women in coaching or educational institutions.
More on the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013
- National Commission for Women has directed the Chief Secretaries of all the States and Union Territories to assure and to set the seal on strict implications of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
- When someone is sexually harassed in educational Institute, it can undermine their sense of personal dignity and safety, disrupt their education, and interfere with their ability to reach their full potential in life.
- If left unchecked, sexual harassment in educational institute setting has the potential to escalate to violent behaviour, including sexual assault.
- Instructions be given to all coaching institutes to ensure effective steps are taken for prevention of sexual harassment of female students.
- Conduct awareness programmes on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 among all stakeholders in order to ensure that cases of sexual harassment at work are reported responsibly and effectively.
- States and Union Territories to ensure that these coaching centres are registered with the relevant authorities and a background check is conducted on those responsible for running the centres.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 or POSH Act
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, sexual harassment is “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome.”
- About: Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination based on a person’s sex.
- Sexual Harassment Act is applicable to all the sectors including organised and unorganised sectors.
- It defines workplace as an extended space by covering any place visited by an employee during the course of his or her employment which would include transportation provided by an employer for the purpose of travelling to and from the place of work by the employee.
- Sexual harassment at workplaces violates fundamental rights of gender equality and right to life and liberty and the right to work with human dignity guaranteed under the Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution of India.
- Definition: According to Act, Sexual Harassment includes anyone or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by implication):
- Physical contact and advances ; or
- A demand or request for sexual favours ; or
- Making sexually coloured remarks ; or
- Showing pornography ; or
- Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature
- Form of Sexual Harassment
- Verbal: Unwelcome Compliments of Sexual Nature, offensive jokes of sexual nature
- Non-Verbal: Displaying sexually suggestive pictures, calendars or posters, staring, leering, lewd gesture.
- Physical: Sexual advances such as touching, patting, pinching, impeding or blocking, movement or physical interference with normal work or movement
- Important Postulates of Act
- Internal Complaints Committee: Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees. The District Officer is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district, and if required at the block level.
- The Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence.
- The Complaints Committees are required to provide for conciliation before initiating an inquiry, if requested by the complainant.
- Penalties have been prescribed for employers. Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to Rs 50,000. Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.
- It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.
- POSH Act is an extension of Vishakha Guidelines, 1997, introduced by the Supreme Court which had laid down guidelines for dealing with sexual harassment at workplace, pending formal legislation.
National Commission for Women
- The NCW is the statutory body.
- It was established on 31 January 1992 under the provisions of the Indian Constitution as defined in the 1990 National Commission for Women Act.
- It is generally concerned with advising the government on all policy matters affecting women.