- The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a PIL petition to extend the Vishakha guidelines against sexual harassment in workplace to ashrams, madrasas and Catholic institutions to check the rampant rise in sexual exploitation of women.
2. According to the petition, if Vishakha Guidelines are extended to the religious institutions, it would assist a lot in reducing sexually related crimes against women by gurus or leaders of that particular institution.
3. The petition also said that the government should do a background verification of religious leaders, especially “new upcoming babas” or “heads of those madrasas” and churches.
4. It also sought directions to the Centre to provide adequate measures for women safety at religious places by conducting periodic checks by State women panels.
5. The petition also mentioned recent instances such as cases of priests being accused of sexual abuse in Kerala and of self-styled gurus like Daati Maharaj, Baba Ram Rahim and Asaram Bapu.
6. About Vishakha Guidelines:
- The Vishakha guidelines were introduced by the apex court in 1997 which was evolved into a parliamentary law called the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013.
7. The Vishakha Guidelines:
- It defines the sexual harassment in the workplace as an unwelcome sexual gesture or behaviour, whether directly or indirectly. This includes:
- Sexually coloured remarks
- Physical contact and advances
- Showing pornography
- A demand or request for sexual favours
- Any other unwelcome physical, verbal/non-verbal conduct that is sexual in nature.
8. All employers whether in the public or the private sector, should take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment.
9. Appropriate work conditions should be provided in respect of work, leisure, health and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women and no woman should have reasonable grounds to believe that she is disadvantaged in connection with her employment.
10. Where such conduct amounts to specific offences under the Indian Penal Code or any other law, the employer shall initiate appropriate action in accordance with the law, by making a complaint with the appropriate authority.
11. Victims of sexual harassment should have the option to seek transfer of the perpetrator or their own transfer.
12. These guidelines are applicable to:
- The employer or other responsible persons or other institutions to prevent sexual harassment and to provide procedures for the resolution of complaints;
- Women who either draw a regular salary, receive an honorarium, or work in a voluntary capacity—in the government, private or organised sector come under the purview of these guidelines.