- The Supreme Court Bench of India has said there are “serious lapses” and “uncertainty” regarding the implementation of PoSH act 2013.
WHAT IS PoSH ACT ?
- The PoSH Act defines sexual harassment to include unwelcome acts such as physical contact and sexual advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, making sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography, and any other unwelcome physical, verbal or nonverbal conduct of a sexual nature.
- Under the Act, an employee is defined not just in accordance with the company law.
- All women employees, whether employed regularly, temporarily, contractually, on an ad hoc or daily wage basis, as apprentices or interns or even employed without the knowledge of the principal employer, can seek redressal to sexual harassment in the workplace.
- The law expands the definition of ‘workplace’ beyond traditional offices to include all kinds of organisations across sectors, even non traditional workplaces.
- It applies to all public and private sector organisations throughout India.
OBLIGATIONS ON EMPLOYERS :
- The law requires any employer with more than 10 employees to form an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC).
- This committee can be approached by any woman employee to file a formal sexual harassment complaint.
- It has to be headed by a woman, have at least two women employees, another employee, and a third party such as an NGO worker with five years of experience, familiar with the challenges of sexual harassment.
- The Act also mandates every district in the country to create a local committee to receive complaints from women working in firms with less than 10 employees.
- It can receive complaints the informal sector, including domestic workers, homebased workers, voluntary government social workers and so on.
- The employer has to file an annual audit report with the district officer about the number of sexual harassment complaints filed and actions taken at the end of the year.
HURDLES IN ACT IMPLEMENTATION:
- The Supreme Court in its recent judgment called out the lacunae in the constitution of ICCs.
- According to one report 16 out of the 30 national sports federations in the country had not constituted an ICC to date.
- Other concerns is that the Act does not satisfactorily address accountability, not specifying who is in charge of ensuring that workplaces comply with the Act, and who can be held responsible if its provisions are not followed.
- Stakeholders also point out how the law is largely inaccessible to women workers in the informal sector.
- Experts have also noted that in workplaces sexual harassment cases are hugely underreported for a number of reasons.
- The inefficient functioning and the lack of clarity in the law about how to conduct such inquiries have ended up duplicating the access barriers associated with the justice system.
- Most importantly, the power dynamics of organisations and fear of professional repercussions also stand in the way of women for filing complaints.
SYLLABUS: PRELIMS, INDIAN POLITY