Better access to education and employment has enabled more women to join the workforce in comparison with earlier decades. Demand for gender diversity as a compliance and one of the prerequisites for off shore collaborations has given a push to gender equality and inclusion at workspaces. However, we are still far from achieving gender equality for quite a few reasons, such as –
1) Need of sensitization in men –The societal and mental conditioning done over the year’s makes it difficult for men and women to work as peers and even more challenging if the woman is at a higher post and authority.
2) Lack of exposure and confidence – Women too need to learn to deal with men at work, voice their opinions (or difference in opinions) firmly and confidently without being intimidated.
It is of utmost importance that if societal betterment is to be achieved, 50% of the society i.e. women be equally included and nourished at the workspaces. With half the society lagging behind, developed society can hardly be envisaged and built.
Further to that, statistics about sexual harassment cases at workspace are alarming! Do you know? –
That up to 7 out of 10 women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
That 1 in 3 women (ages 18-34) has been Sexually Harassed in the workspace. And,
That 90% of workplace harassment Is NEVER officially reported.
Sexual Harassment at Workspace across various work streams is one of the important factors behind less number of women at workspace and even lesser at the leadership cadre. Such harassments are usually not reported as the women are fearful about various possible repercussions such as damage to their image, personal and professional lives, and loss of self-respect.
P0SH Act 2013
Until the mid-1990s the concept of sexual harassment at workplace was not recognized by Indian Courts as such. There were, however, some notable exceptions. In Rupan Deol Bajaj vs. Kanwar Pal Singh Gill (1995) the Court recognized sexual harassment as a crime falling squarely under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, by interpreting ?outraging the modesty of a woman? to include outraging the dignity of a woman. Later in 1997, in its landmark judgment in Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan and Ors case, Supreme Court for the first time defined sexual harassment at workplace.
In India, prior to the enactment of the 2013 Act, the only civil statute which could be used to address sexual harassment at workplace to a limited extent, was the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1987 (IRWA). The IRWA works to hold companies liable for the harassment of women through the use of books, photographs, painting, films, pamphlets, packages etc. containing indecent representation of women. Thus far, IRWA has not been used to penalize behavior constituting sexual harassment whereby the women are involuntarily forced to view such materials at the workplace.
The enactment of the POSH 2013 Act is, therefore, a long overdue intervention by Parliament in the area of Civil law. This resulted in the mandate which has Preventive Approach, more People Orientation, and broadened definition of sexual harassment, inclusion of various sectors- Unorganized to organized and most importantly, decentralization through formation of Internal Commitee
POSH is applicable to all enterprises private or public, big and small. There are serious penal liability for non- compliance of the act. The Ministry of Women and Child Development, by a Notification dated December 9, 2013 passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 which became effective from December 9, 2013. The Ministry also made the rules with regard to the same effective from the same date. These rules are called the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013.
How does Opash help in implementing the key provisions of POSH Act?
Opash provides end to end guidance to companies to implement POSH by
• Helping in formulation of PoSH policy and fine tuning it/customizing it according to the requirement
• Conducting awareness programs for employees and employers
• Constituting and formulating Internal Committee (IC)
• Management of complaints
• Case Investigation
• Documentation and reporting
Slowly but surely, Opash is reaching out to various for profit and not-for-profit organization to spread awareness about POSH Act’13. We are also enabling the internal complaint committees (ICs) through elaborate trainings on how such cases must be handled and concluded.
In parallel to this, Opash got associated with Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India and United Nations Women (India), & HRHelpdesk (Delhi) for a nationwide project called Mahila Bol. Current statistics from government records show that the cases of sexual harassment of women at workplace is 0.002%, however preliminary surveys show this figure to be much higher, almost up to 67%. The Mahila Bol survey was an attempt to understand the reason for such a huge disparity in the reporting of sexual harassment cases of women at workplace and to encourage women to share their workplace experiences and challenges without any apprehensions or fear of being probed. The survey covered women across sectors and hierarchy level across India. Maharashtra bit for this nationwide survey was conducted by Opash and we are very proud to have contributed to the project substantially.
All in all, Opash is and will continue to be operating towards spreading awareness about Prevention of Sexual Harassment at work, one step at a time!
Project Manager & POSH Trainer