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On sexual harassment of women at the workplace


sexual_harassment-300x240Through @genderlogindia’s recent tweet, it has come to notice that The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace
(Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2013 has been approved by the President of India, thus making it a law.

Here is the announcement on the Press Information Bureau website:


“The President of India has given his assent to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2013. It has now been published in the Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part-II, Section-1, dated the 23rd April 2013 as Act No. 14 of 2013.”

As of today, the e-Gazette does not reflect the publication but keep watching this space:

While the announcement and implementation of such an act is very much needed, there are also many other things that need to change in this context.

Consider Rina Mukherji’s case. For 10 long years, this gritty woman has fought a battle in courts and off courts, to finally have a judgement ruled in her favor.

Who is Rina Mukherji and what was her case about? To understand this, please read these:

You can download the full text of the judgement here:

Key points to note:

  • Rina won the case for wrongful termination of services and was reinstated with full back wages.
  • As a result of her case, a sexual harassment complaints committee has been set up at the Delhi and Kolkata offices of The Statesman.
  • No case was filed against Ishan Joshi as a perpetrator of sexual harassment.
  • Instead, The Statesman and Ishan Joshi filed libel suits against Rina Mukherji for having tarnished their reputation and the status of these suits are yet undecided.

If Rina Mukherji, being not only a well-educated woman, but a senior media person, had to go through this nightmarish experience, you can well imagine what women of lesser strata may go through. Take a simple example. Say, an uneducated woman from an underprivileged household, working in a factory as a garment worker, is subjected to sexual  harassment by her supervisor. What does she do? If at all she confides in her co-workers or her spouse, she is advised to “shut up” so that she can continue to keep her job. If at all, she musters up courage and raises her voice against her supervisor, will she find support from the people around her? Or will they deride her for her actions? If at all, despite this, she still goes ahead and walks into a police station to complain, will her supervisor merely wait and watch or will her bribe/threaten his way into silencing her complaints?

Many people harbor the myth that unless a rape or grossly sexual act is committed, it isn’t an offense at all.

“He groped you? That’s it? Why do you want to raise such a stink about that? That’s commonplace!”

“He made passes? Come on, what’s the big deal about that? Take it as a compliment”

“Did he force himself on you? No? He only pawed you a few times? Why do you want to lose your job over that?”

This is the kind of mentality we should be fighting against.

Any act, physical or verbal, if unwelcome by the female, is an offense. It could be groping, pawing, passing sexually offensive remarks,

What we need now and in future:

  • Prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace, no matter how big or small the workplace is.
  • Spreading awareness about prevention and redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace. Many women may be suffering silently without knowing that there is a legal recourse available to them.
  • More support for women who have already suffered sexual harassment at the workplace. If you know any woman who has endured this, encourage her to be vocal about it, to take legal action, and provide her full moral support.
  • More lawyers who are willing to take up and fight for such women, no matter how long it takes.
  • Faster processing of such cases (though seeing the so-called fast-track processing of the Nirbhaya case, this seems a far-fetched dream…it’s now 4 months running and the Dec 16 case still has a long way to go).
  • Financial support for women who have to fight such cases but don’t have the means.

Finally, read up on this link to know more about what constitutes sexual harassment and what effects it can have on victims:

Read up on the Vishaka Guidelines:

And read up on the case of Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co. which eventually inspired a full-length feature film titled “North Country” starring Charlize Theron. This case was the first sexual harassment lawsuit in the United States.

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