Recently a survey of women safety at work titled “Creating safe workplaces: prevention and redressal of sexual harassment in media houses in India” is released by the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) and Gender at Work.
Key findings of the survey:
- Women who approached the Internal committee: Over 70% of respondents were not completely satisfied with the outcome.
- Women who faced some kind of sexual harassment at the workplace: Around 36% of respondents reported experiencing sexual harassment at workplace.
- Out of 36% of women who experienced sexual harassment at the workplace, 53% of that did not report it to anyone.
- 47% of women experienced sexual harassment in those organisation which do not have an internal committee or any other mechanism to deal with it.
- A most common type of harassment faced by working women: the most common were sexist comments, unwelcome sexual jokes, embarrassing gestures or body language, attempts to establish unwanted romantic and/or sexual relationships and pestering for dates.
- In the survey unwanted touching, fondling, sexual assault and rape were also documented.
The survey underscores the need to step up awareness-raising and other preventive measures to bring about a change in the work culture in media houses.
The Judgement that changed the course for women in India:
Vishaka Vs State of Rajasthan: On August 13, 1997, the Supreme Court commissioned the Vishaka guidelines that defined sexual harassment and put the onus on the employers to provide a safe working environment for women.
- The Vishaka Guidelines were a set of procedural guidelines for use in India in cases of
- sexual harassment. They were promulgated by the Indian Supreme Court in 1997 and
- were superseded in 2013 by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention,
- Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
- Important provisions of Vishakha guidelines:
- The Vishaka guidelines define as sexual harassment any unwelcome sexually determined
- behaviour (whether directly or by implication). These are:
● Physical contact and advances
● A demand or request for sexual favours
● Sexually coloured remarks
● Showing pornography
● Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.
Sexual Harassment (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal)at workplace 2013
1. It widens the definition of ‘aggrieved woman’ to include all women, irrespective of age and employment status, and it covers clients, customers and domestic workers.
2. It expands ‘workplace’ beyond traditional offices to include all kinds of organisations across sectors, even non-traditional workplaces (for example those that involve telecommuting) and places visited by employees for work.
3. It mandates the constitution of the internal complaint committee (ICC) — and states the action to be taken if an ICC is not formed — and the filing of an audit report of the number of complaints and action taken at the end of the year.
4. It lists the duties of the employer, like organising regular workshops and awareness programmes to educate employees about the Act.
5. If the employer fails to constitute an ICC or does not abide by any other provision, they must pay a fine of up to ₹50,000. If the offender is a repeat offender, the fine gets doubled. The second offence can also lead to cancellation or non-renewal of his licence.