With a proliferation in education and employment opportunities, women across the globe have been actively present at the workplace across every sector and profession. As people are becoming cognizant of their legal rights, cases regarding sexual harassment are increasing because individuals have begun voicing their issues and concerns.
Sexual Harassment was explicitly recognized and acknowledged by the Government of India for the first time in 1997 with reference to the case of Bhanwari Devi. In this decision, the court developed the ‘Vishaka Guidelines’ aimed towards the prevention of sexual harassment of women at work. The need for these guidelines has been very well established with the transitory nature of employment in our country. There has been a significant increase in the proportion of women now entering the workplace and diversifying the working population.
Running on a similar ideology, committees such as the Internal Complaints Committee were constituted to receive complaints from an aggrieved woman, as well as to make recommendations regarding the future course of action. Under the POSH Act (Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013), advisory bodies are being established in every organization to ensure better means of redressal and to cater to the needs of employees at the workplace.
Understanding the POSH Act at Arthan
At Arthan, the emotional wellness of the employees is as imperative as other needs. To gauge a better understanding of the POSH Act, a workshop was conducted by Ms Geetanjali Solanki on February 3, 2020. Ms Solanki has worked very closely on issues of Sexual Harassment and has disseminated knowledge about Gender Sensitization through her workshops.
The employees at Arthan were introduced to the POSH Act as the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, passed on April 23, 2013. The Act covers concepts of ‘quid pro quo harassment’ and ‘hostile work environment’ as forms of sexual harassment if it occurs in connection with an act or behaviour of sexual harassment. It also details out and defines aggrieved women or party, Harassment vs Sexual Harassment, Workplace Discrimination vs Harassment, Prevention of Discrimination or Harassment, Prohibition of Discrimination or Harassment and Redressal of a Situation.
Discrimination vs Harassment
Ms Solanki explained the difference between discrimination and harassment while elucidating further on gender bias/discrimination, workplace harassment, and sexual harassment by highlighting particular words that can be used in a conversation while interacting with fellow employees.
She also demonstrated ways to identify a good and a wrong gesture through the enactment of situations that are common in the workplace, which was followed by an interactive quiz session discussing several real-world cases. She additionally explained the roles and responsibilities of every stakeholder at the workplace to prevent the occurrence of such happenings by understanding and implementing the policy and procedures. The workshop emphasized on creating a culture of awareness and ensuring compliance amongst colleagues.
Ms Solanki also addressed the fact that the POSH Act is applicable for all citizens of India including all organizations, workers, visitors and domestic workers. However, the act does not cover actions that occurred more than 6 months into the past.
Procedural Structure to Follow
The team was briefed about the procedural structure that is supposed to be followed to file a complaint as well as the body of the complaint. It is essential for the complainant to keep an unbiased attitude throughout the procedure and also maintain the confidentiality of the identities of the people that are involved. While stating a situation, it was highlighted that if the allegations are true, disciplinary action in accordance with policy must be taken against the complainant in accordance with company policy.
A lot of emphasis was also given to the fact that impact plays a pivotal role while adjudicating cases regarding sexual harassment. Even though intent and impact seem like two variables that are co-related, the impact of any action or consequence on another employee is prioritized over every other factor when dealing with cases of Sexual Harassment. The workshop was found to be efficacious because an informed mind always helps individuals make informed decisions in the future.