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Source: The post is based on the article “On sexual harassment in the workplace” published in The Hindu on 16th May 2023.
Syllabus: GS – 2: Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections.
Relevance: About issues with the PoSH Act.
News: The Supreme Court Bench of India has said there are “serious lapses” and “uncertainty” regarding the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (PoSH).
How was the PoSH Act formed?
In 1997 as part of the Vishaka judgment, the Supreme Court laid down specific guidelines known as Vishaka guidelines. The guidelines focused on the prevention of sexual harassment of women at the workplace.
After this, the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill was introduced. It was later tabled in Parliament and went through amendments. The amended Bill came into force in 2013, as the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) or PoSh Act.
What is the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Act, 2013?
|Must Read: Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace(prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act, 2013|
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.
The law requires any employer with more than 10 employees to form an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC).
The Act mandates every district in the country to create a local committee to receive complaints from women working in firms with less than 10 employees and from the informal sector.
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.
What are the observations made by the Supreme Court on the PoSH Act?
|Read more: Lack of committees against sexual harassment is disquieting, says SC|
Improper constitution of ICCs: The majority of the ICCs either had an inadequate number of members or lacked a mandatory external member.
Lack of responsibility: The Act does not satisfactorily address accountability. For instance, the Act does not specify who is in charge of ensuring workplace adherence to the Act, and who can be held responsible if its provisions are not followed.
-Law is largely inaccessible to women workers in the informal sector.
-Sexual harassment is hugely underreported for a number of reasons such as the power dynamics of organisations, fear of professional repercussions, etc.