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Essay: Sexual harrassment of women at the workplace

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  • Published: 2 July 2022*
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Introduction

Sexual harassment of women at workplace is a type of violence against women on the basis of their gender. It violates a woman’s self esteem, self-respect and dignity and takes away her basic human as well as Constitutional rights. Sexual Harassment is not a new phenomenon and speedily changing workplace equations have brought this hidden reality to the surface. Sexual Harassment at the workplace has become ubiquitous in every part of the world and India is no exception to the same.

Like any other sex based crime Sexual harassment of the women is about power relationships, domination and control. It is not what most people commonly tend to think like verbal comments, inappropriate touch or sexual assault. It has myriad ways and forms. Moreover its new forms or variables are being introduced every other day in this dynamic technological era. It may include derogatory looks, gestures, indecent proposals, writings or display of sexually graphic pictures, sms or mms, comments about ones dressings, body or behavior and any other unwelcome or objectionable remark or inappropriate conduct.

The ultimate aim of the makers of the Constitution of India was to have a welfare state and an egalitarian society projecting the aims and aspirations of the people of India. The Preamble, Article 14, Article 15, Article 16, Article 19, Article 21, Directive Principles of State Policy and many other Articles have secured social justice for the women thus preventing sexual crimes.

Before ‘The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 came into force, legislation such as Indian penal Code,1860, The Code of Criminal Procedure,1973, The Indian Evidence Act,1872 have provided protection to women. Also various international conventions to which India has been a signatory and has ratified have filled up the gap until 2013.

The recent Sexual Harassment Act has its roots in the ghastly rxxe of a community worker Bhawari Devi in rural Rajasthan. This incident and the humiliation that followed made the apathy of the system evident. Several women’s groups filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court based on which the Vishakha Guidelines were formulated to prohibit the sexual harassment of women at the workplace. Various other judicial pronouncements also paved a way for the formulation of legislation of 2013.

Sexual Harassment is often about inferiority of women. The victim is often confused, embarrassed or scared. She may be clueless about with whom to share with the experience and whom to confide in. Sexual harassment at the workplace may have serious consequences on the physical and mental well-being of the women. It may also degenerate to their gravest form that is rxxe.

There should be proper grievance mechanism at the workplaces to deal with this issue. Also the accused shall be punished without having any regard to their status or position in at the workplace. There should be committees comprising especially of women members to make the victims feel comfortable. Reporting of The incidents should be encouraged and those who dare to speak up must be protected from the wrath of the employers. The employed women cannot be at the whim and fancy of their male employer. The incidents of Sexual Harassment at the workplace are a stigma on our Constitution. If it is not prevented, our constitutional ideals of gender equality and social justice will never be realized.

Rationale

Sexual harassment can have a number of serious consequences for both the victim and his or her co-workers. The effects of sexual harassment vary from person to person and are often dependent on the severity and duration of the harassment. For many victims of sexual harassment, the aftermath may be more damaging than the original harassment. Effects can vary from external effects, such as retaliation, backlash, or victim blaming to internal effects, such as depression, anxiety, or feelings of shame and/or betrayal. Depending on the victim’s experience, these effects can vary from mild to severe.

The rationale behind taking this topic for the dissertation is to throw light on the various aspects of the law relating to sexual harassment thereby helping women to achieve their rights better. Also one of the reasons behind choosing this topic for the dissertation is also to make the employer aware of his liability. Lastly our Constitution has granted us certain fundamental rights and it includes gender equality and social justice. There is a strong relationship between these fundamental rights and the prohibition of sexual harassment at the workplace as sexual harassment is a form of power relationship which treats women inferior.

Scope

Sexual harassment at the workplace results from the misuse of power and not from sexual attraction. The legal scholars and jurists have emphasized that the instant conduct is objectionable as it does not only interfere with the personal life of the victim but also throws a pall on the victims’ abilities.

The victims of sexual harassment may be both men as well as women. This study particularly aims at the sexual harassment of women at the workplace.

The scope of this study is to pave way for the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace and to make women aware of their rights and complaint mechanisms. Many women are ignorant about the laws which protect them from this kind of harassment. Also many employers shrug off their responsibility to help fight sexual harassment at the workplace. This study aims to discuss the constitutional provisions as well as legislation and employers liability in eradicating sexual harassment at the workplace.

Background

The law to check sexual harassment at workplace which prescribes strict punishment, including termination of service, for the the guilty and similar penalties in case of a frivolous complaint has come into effect from Monday.

The women and child development (WCD) ministry had come under attack for delay in implementing the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 which was brought in after the outrage over the December 16 gang rxxe case, despite the fact that it had received Presidential assent on April 22, 2013. Before this Act came into force there was no special law for sexual harassment at the workplace. Some legislations like Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code etc dealt with this problem.

After the horrifying gang rxxe of Bhawari Devi Vishakha guidelines were formulated to fill the gap. In the year 2013 the Act came into force. Thus this study will help to study how the laws have evolved.

Hypothesis

Like all other historical manifestations of violence, Sexual Harassment is embedded in the socio economic and political context of power relations. It is produced within class, caste and social relations in which male power dominates. It is a sex based discrimination which is dangerous to the well being of the woman. It imposes less favourable conditions upon them. This research tries to build a link between “Every incident of sexual harassment of women at workplace results in violation of the fundamental rights of women and it is the employer’s liability to protect these fundamental rights”.

Research Methodology

Research is a systematic attempt to push back the bonds of comprehension and seek beyond the horizons of our knowledge, some truth or reality. Since the scope of the study is to establish a link between the fundamental rights and a right against sexual harassment at the workplace. The research Methodology chosen will be doctrinal and will seek to elaborate all aspects and get deep knowledge.

The study material will be collected through library visits , various books, periodicals, articles published etc. The technology like computer Cds etc will also be used to obtain and maintain information. Reliable Internet resources will also be used to a limited extent.

Survey of existing literature

The researcher would like to analyze and survey on the various books available on sexual harassment at the workplace, Indian Constitution and various books on the rights of women and their protection.

Aims and Objectives

The main Aims and Objectives to undertake this research can be listed as follows-

● To outline the relationship between fundamental rights and the right against sexual harassment at the workplace.

● To make women aware that right against sexual harassment at the workplace.

is their fundamental and constitutional right.

● To make women aware of the laws and the policies for sexual harassment at the workplace.

● To highlight the liability of the employer to keep the sexual harassment at the workplace in check as protection of women against the sexual harassment is a constitutional and fundamental right.

● To search solutions for the persisting problem of sexual harassment at the workplace.

● To understand the evolution of laws against sexual harassment at the workplace.

● To study the legal facets in protection of the rights of the women.

● To study the theme of legislations and laws which are enacted to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace

Scope

Sexual harassment at the workplace is a serious and ever increasing problem in India. India already has one of the lowest ratios of working women in the world. It would be disastrous if companies, unclear about sexual harassment, take the easy way out by simply rejecting women in favour of men.

It is the liability of the employer to make use of the constitutional articles and the new legislation to protect women against the sexual harassment at the workplace. Sexual harassment in the workplace is one of the most complicated areas of employment law. It is also one of the areas that has recently received the most press. Sexual harassment in the workplace often goes hand-in-hand with other illegal acts, like gender discrimination.

CHAPTERISATION

The Research project is divided into the following 10 chapters for better understanding. The chapters are further divided into subpoints so that the material collected and the study done can be compartmentalized into chapters and sub-chapters. This chapterisation will be able to give a better idea and a better insight into the project. The chapters are systematically numbered and placed one after the other.

Chapter – I – Introduction

Though the Constitutional Commitments of the Nation to women were translated through various planning processes, legislations, policies and programs over the last six decades, a situational analysis of social and economic status of women does not reflect satisfactory achievements in any of the important human development indicators. This chapter will highlight the vulnerable group and how the sexual harassment at the workplace speaks to power relationships and victimization than it does to sex itself. Also how sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination and subordination.

Chapter – II – Extent and Types of Sexual harassment

This chapter will enumerate the extent of sexual harassment at the workplace specially in India. It will also speak about the types of sexual harassment at the workplace which includes 1) Quid Pro Quo i.e “this for that” which means the employer or the superior at work makes tangible job related consequences such as promises of promotion, higher pay etc. upon obtaining sexual favours from an employee and 2) Hostile Work Environment which means an abusive working environment.

Chapter – III – Analysis of Statistical Data

In this chapter statistical data will be collected from reliable sources. The data will be analyzed and proper conclusions will be arrived at. This chapter will show the numbers and may show the gravity of the problem.

Chapter – IV – Vishakha Guidelines

Till Vishakha guidelines there was no civil or penal laws in India to protect women from sexual harassment at the workplace. The brutal gangrxxe of Bhawari Devi gave rise to Vishakha Guidelines which filled up the vacuum. This chapter will cover up the historical background behind Vishakha guidelines and important features of the same. Vishakha Guidelines began a new era in the legislations for c

Chapter – V – Judicial pronouncements

The issue of sexual harassment at the workplace is such a complex issues that a simple understanding of it is a tedious and tardy process. Therefore the best way to understand it is to see the trends in the history of the precedents of the Courts. The famous cases of Vishakha, Rupan Deol Bajaj, Shehnaz Mudhbalkhal, Medha Kotwal Lele’s Case will be covered in this chapter. Also recent cases of Tarun Tejpal and Justice AK Ganguly will be studied in detail. This chapter will trace the judicial inclination of the decisions.

Chapter – V I – Legal Framework in India-The Constitution

The Constitution of India gives equal protection to men and women. Gender equality is one of the ideals enshrined in our Constitution. The Constitution has even positively discriminated in favor of women. In this chapter various Articles in the Constitution will be discussed which include Art 14, Art 15, Art. 21 and many other Articles which ensure protection to women. The Constitution is the mother of all Laws and hence all other legislations have emanated from this. Thus this chapter will be important as it will cover how Constitutional ideals and Fundamental Rights enshrined in it have given rise to various laws protecting women.

Chapter – VII – Legal framework in India- Criminal, Labour and other laws

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 has come into force in 2013. Before this various other criminal and other laws protected women from sexual harassment at the workplace.

Thus in this chapter all these other laws which have sourced the formation of the Act of 2013 will be discussed in detail. Also how the Constitution and these other laws have aided the formation of the Act of 2013 will be discussed.

Chapter – VIII – The Liability of the Employer

This is one of the important chapters as it will discuss how the Employer must take care to prevent the occurrences of the incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace in his institution. Also it will depict how the Employer can make use of the laws and the Act of 2013 to ensure that the incidents do not occur and if the incidents occur then how does one tackle with it, legally and otherwise.

The Employer should create a healthy environment at the workplace and the accused should be made subject to the laws irrespective of their positions in the institutions.

Chapter – IX – An Analysis of the Act

In this chapter, The Sexual Harassment of the Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal ) Act,2013 will be discussed in detail. Its objectives , Comp;aint procedures, Inquiry, compensation, Punishments etc, such features will be enumerated. The Act is the most important tool for battling sexual harassment at the workplace. Thus this chapter will show how this Act can be best used to the benefit of the women at the workplace.

This Act is a result of lot of struggle and wait. This Act should be used in such a manner that it will prevent as well as eradicate sexual harassment at the workplace.

Chapter – X – sexual harassment at the workplace- International Scenario

India has been a signatory and has ratified many international conventions which give special rights and protection to the women. Its obligatory on India’s part to ensure that women are protected equally. In this chapter various international conventions like CEDAW etc will be discussed in detail.

Also this chapter will discuss how these international enactments have acted as a source for the legislations in India.

Chapter –X I – Sexual Harassment at the Workplace prevention policies

This Chapter will enumerate how the prevention policies must be formulated and how the policies must be best used to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace.

Chapter – XII – Conclusion

This chapter will contain conclusions drawn upon the findings of the research. The conclusion is the most important part of the research as it sums up the hwole of the research and gives a good insight into it.

The protection of the rights of the women in India has always been upheld by the Indian Constitution and Law makers. Women are given a place of dignity in all the legislations. Since in India women were suppressed since the ancient times, Legislators took special care to involve and protect women in the mainstream world.

The conclusion at this stage can be derived that women in India are protected by Constitutional and Fundamental rights. The other legislations have their source from the constitution. Thus it is a Constitutional mandate to protect women from the sexual harassment at the workplace.

It is the duty and responsibility of the employer to uphold the rights of the women in his or her institution. Also the recent Act of 2013 must be implemented properly.

Chapter – XIII – Suggestions

This chapter will contain the suggestions for the victims as well as the employer. It will also contain suggestion for prevention policies and duties of the employer. The suggestions will include how one can strike the balance between constitutional rights and rights of women.

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