Author- Sindhu Sivani Varma Bhupatiraju
INTRODUCTION: Sexual Harassment at the workplace was not even a separate offence under IPC until Visakha v/s State of Rajasthan. Before the issue of sexual harassment was dealt under section 509 and 354 IPC. Section 509 defines modesty of women, and 354 states about outraging the modesty of women. After so many years when we finally got an act which talks about sexual harassment at workplace, but still, there is much confusion about what is sexual harassment at workplace and what comes under it and how to deal with the after-effects, well no one knows about it. There are different types of harassment which fall under the category of “sexual harassment at the workplace.” If a co-worker or colleague or a senior authority tries to interact through any of the social media platforms seeking sexual favours, will that amount to sexual harassment at the workplace? Yes, it would undoubtedly amount to harassment. There are times when the harassment is not in verbal communication For example, if A passes some deflating remarks towards B but B can not file a complaint as the remarks are sufficiently not direct evidence, even if B tried to file a complaint against A, Then A can claim that whatever B said is false and is trying to take up the position. We can take the other example where we can say that harassment form is not verbal Say A is staring at B which made B uncomfortable while doing work, If B complained against A, then A can take defence saying that if staring amounts to harassment then everyone should file a complaint against each other for staring. In both, the examples stated above there is no direct or concrete evidence to prove that victims were harassed if the other employees supported the victims then they can be considered as evidence, but if there are no such employees who have seen/ witnessed the above examples then only circumstantial evidence can be given more preference The word workplace in this context has a broad meaning; it does limit itself to the office the employee is working. “Workplace” includes any place visited by the employee arising out of, or during, the course of employment. So, if any client misbehaves, stares or passes some remarks that the situation would also amount to harassment at the workplace. if the victim is the client and the harasser is the employee of the organization then also it would amount to harassment at workplace, the client can only file a complaint against the organization if harasser remains to be the employee of that organization.
Sometimes, people are confused at two instances, whether that would amount to harassment at workplace First Instance, when the victim attends a party thrown by one of the colleagues of the office, in the victims, personal capacity attended the party, where the victim got harassed by the host (colleagues)! The second instance, there was an office party where one of the workers got harassed, will this amount to sexual harassment at the workplace? both the instances amount to sexual harassment at the workplace through both the events happened outside the workplace if we take the first example where the victim got harassed by the colleague at a party hosted by one of the colleagues, as the victim and harasser meet at work daily, this can be treated as sexual harassment at workplace In the second instance where the mishap happened at an office party, this directly amounts to harassment at the workplace; there is no way that a harasser can escape saying this has not taken place in the environment, so this cant is sexual harassment at workplace. There are times when women file false complaints against the employees of the organization. The basic scrupulous idea behind this deed is to get sympathy or false attention. In these cases whenever the complaint is filed the police or POSH (Prevention Of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace) simply charge the women for defamation against the victim employee and the organization for which he is working
Pre-Vishakha: Sexual harassment at the workplace has been one of the major concerns since the time women started coming out of the houses. In the early ’80s, belligerent actions were taken by the FORUM AGAINST OPPRESSION OF WOMEN (FAOW) against the sexual harassment happening with nurses in public and private hospitals by ward boys, hospital staff and patients and their male relatives. Even above all it maters up the sky, the women were not safe, they were sexually assaulted by their colleagues. During that time India was a place where education was not given that much of privilege but women found their way to get educated. An example of this situation is India's first euthanasia case, Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug case(1973). In KEM’s hospital, Mumbai Aruna Shanbaug was a nurse. On the day of the mishappening she had completed her shift and was heading towards the changing room which was present in the basement, while she was changing her clothes the sweeper of the same hospital sexually molested her and chained her around the neck so she would not protest against the molestation, the chain blocked the passage of oxygen to the brain. Cause of the oxygen blockage she ended up in a state of coma.
Later, the sweeper was charged for robbery and murder, the head of the KEM’s hospital stated that rape never happened to Aruna which he stated only to protect his hospital's reputation in the society. After that, the case was closed and nobody gave any attention to her. She is in a coma, spent the rest 43 years of her life in a hospital bed and was finally allowed to die by passive euthanasia. The all time analogy is whenever women start to work and try to be independent, the forlorn male-dominated society always tries to drag them down by molesting, raping and assaulting them. The patriarchal society never wanted women to work. But thankfully today's India is changing where women are getting an equal opportunity as men. Considering the women working ratio which is more, and equally similar to the harassment ratio. Vishakha v/s State Of Rajasthan: This issue, which overturned the tables of the meaning of sexual harassment in the workplace, is the first issue that came out with immediate guidelines in its ruling.
Anganwadi worker working in a village stopped child marriage from occurring in the matter that disturbed the concerned village Sarpanch. He was told the Angwadi worker that she should not interfere in the village matters, even after this threat the angadi worker continued to resist against child marriages happening in that village. Disturbed by this the village Sarpanch sent his men who brutally molested and raped the anganwadi worker.
The Rajasthan High Court ruled against the victim and released these criminals.
A group of NGOs called Vishakha filed a WRIT (Ar.32) petition in the Supreme Court
The petition was filed to enforce the basic rights of women working under articles 14,19,21 of the Indian Constitution.
The judgment was passed by the honourable Supreme Court in the year 1997, and an Act for sexual harassment came into force in 2013, it took nearly 16 years for an Act to come up This case acted as a milestone for the first time providing proper guidelines and a reasonable approach to sexual harassment cases.
Post Vishakha: #MeToo Movement: The campaign that changed the future of sexual harassment at the workplace, where people from the entertainment industry spoke about the presence of the casting couch, the female actors spoke about the abuse they experienced from the opposite high ranking male faternity which includes influential actors,directors and produces
Origin of Movement: For the first time in 2006, a social activist Tarana Burke used the term (# MeToo) on a social network called Myspace as part of her campaign to promote women of colour who have faced sexual abuse, particularly in impeccable communities.
Way before #Metoo other hashtags we're also used to talk about sexual harassment but out of them only few trended which were #YouOkSis #MyHarveyWeinstein #WhatWereYouWearing In the year 2017 American Actress Milano tweeted using #MeToo, within 24 hours it was retweeted 500,000 times, On Facebook, there were more than 7.4 billion posts shared Soon after these thousands of people and hundreds of celebrities started to speak about their experiences through #MeToo
India: After #MeToo movement shook the Hollywood it slowly started to enter into India The use of the hashtag #MeToo on social media has spread rapidly in India, where sexual harassment is often referred to as `` teasing '', a term that is described as misleading, tame and reduces the seriousness of the crime. In response to #MeToo, there have been attempts to educate Indian women on labour rights and safe reporting, as well as educate men about the scope of the problem.
Some have likened #MeToo to a 2012 social movement that followed violent gang rape in New Delhi that later led to the death of a woman, prompting the Indian government to impose stiffer penalties for rape.#MeToo served as an outrage in India and became an ever defined achievement.To provide a glimpse of the achievement a famous #MeToo story is mentioned below.
#MeTooStory: M J Akbar – Former Union Minister Several female journalists, including Pallavi Jujoy, Priya Ramani, Ghazali Wahhab, Shotaba Ball and Toshiba Patel, have come out with detailed details of alleged sexual misconduct by Akbar when he held senior editorial positions in various media organizations.
M J Akbar has described all allegations against him as false and fabricated. He also accused Priya Ramani of "intentionally, intentionally, intentionally and viciously" by slandering his reputation. Akbar vehemently denied the allegations of rape of Avi Jujuy and said that he was in a consensual relationship with her.
On Thursday, the Editors Syndicate of India, through an official statement, asked MG Akbar to withdraw the defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani. He also filed the largest defamation suit in the Patiala House Court in Delhi against Priya Ramani. The court set October 31,2019 for the next hearing. Meanwhile, 20 journalists went out to support their colleagues and urged the court to listen to their testimonies against Akbar. And this wave of allegations of sexual misconduct brought by several women against him made Akbar resigned from his position as a Union Minister of India.
The #MeToo movement and the reforms brought before has impacted society at .But my views on sexual harassment have not changed. There is no point to have any laws that protect and prevents sexual harassment at the workplace when there is no proper awareness among us. And the most horrendous part is the educated, informed,conscious and knowledgeable people have become the real perpetrators.
Therefore, I want to conclude by saying that we (inclusive of women) have to become more aware while also change our mindset and behaviour. I am not saying that each every man is a harasser, there are only few perpetrators who have successfully defined the whole society as one of them.