March is celebrated as the Women’s History Month and while we have always celebrated the strong, brave, intelligent and above all, kind women at Amrutam, we are taking another important step in creating safe spaces for women.
Amrutam is working on curating a PoSH Policy and in doing so, we are also educating our community about their rights as working professionals.
What is PoSH?
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act and Rules, 2013 or the PoSH Act mandates every Employer to “provide a safe working environment at the workplace which shall include safety from the persons coming into contact at the workplace”.
Vishaka Judgment is a historical case that deals with the offence of Sexual Harassment of women at her workplace. This SC judgment defined the ambit of Sexual Harassment as including an uninvited or unwelcome sexual favour or sexual gestures from one gender towards the other gender
In the year 1992, Bhanwari Devi employed with the rural development program of the Government of Rajasthan, was viciously gang-raped because of her efforts to stop the then prevailing practice in support of the government’s campaign against child marriage. With an intent to seek revenge from Bhanwari, five men attacked Bhanwari’s husband and brutally raped her. However, due to the great political/social influence of the family of the accused, the rape survivor did not get justice from the courts and the rapists were allowed to go free.
Supporting the cause of working women in India, lawyers and women’s rights activists filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court under the banner of Vishaka. The Supreme Court, considering such grave concern, acknowledged the serious legislative shortcoming and acknowledged workplace sexual harassment as a human rights violation under the Constitution of India.
“Vishaka Guidelines” were stipulated by the Supreme Court of India, in Vishaka and others v State of Rajasthan case in 1997, regarding sexual harassment at the workplace. The court stated that these guidelines were to be implemented until legislation is passed to deal with the issue.
After the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Vishaka & vs State of Rajasthan (1997), the Ministry of Women and Child Development, after several years, passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (PoSH Act).
Simultaneously, the Ministry also formulated the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 (PoSH Rules) effective from the same date to strengthen and streamline the provisions under the PoSH Act.
Types of Sexual Harassment at Workplace
Sexual Harassment does not need not need to be physical in nature. It can be Verbal, Non-verbal, Physical, and even Online.
Verbal Sexual Harassment can include:
- Whistling at someone, making cat calls
- Making kissing sounds, howling, and smacking lips
- Referring to a woman as a doll, babe, honey, item, chammakchhallo or any other sexually colored remarks
- Making sexual jokes or stories
- Making sexual comments or innuendos, telling lies or spreading rumors
- Making sexual comments about a person’s body, person’s clothing, looks
- Repeatedly asking out a person who is not interested
- Asking personal questions about sexual life
- Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history
- Turning work discussions to sexual topics
Non-verbal Sexual Harassment can include:
- Staring at someone
- Elevator Eyes- Looking a person up and down
- Following the person
- Blocking a person’s path
- Displaying sexually suggestive visuals
- Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements
- Making facial expressions such as winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips
- Giving personal/sexually suggestive gifts
Physical Sexual Harassment can include:
- Rubbing/massaging around the neck or shoulders
- Touching the person’s clothing, hair, or body
- Hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking
- Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person
- Standing close or brushing up against another person
Online Sexual Harassment can include:
- Sexualized comments (e.g., on photos)
- Cyber Bullying- Sexualized viral campaigns that pressurize people to participate
- Hateful speech and online threats
- Cyber stalking
- Sexting- sending sexual content (images, emojis, messages)
- Unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors
- ‘Jokes’ of a sexual nature
- Rating peers on attractiveness/sexual activity
- Altering images of a person to make them sexual
What is PoSH Policy?
It requires every company having more than ten employees to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in the prescribed manner to receive and address the complaints of any sort of sexual harassment from women in a time-bound and extremely confidential manner.
An ICC constituted by an organization should have a minimum of 4 (four) members including an external member and at least one-half of the ICC members should be women.
As per POSH Law, an employer is responsible for creating awareness about the Policy, the redressal mechanism, consequences of sexual harassment and to display details of IC members (or order constituting it) in conspicuous places.
A poster to create awareness could be displayed in any place within the workplace (on a notice board / website etc.) usually or frequently seen / visited by employees/ visitors, so that visitors are aware too that you do not tolerate such behaviour.
Organizations must also organize regular training and awareness programs on this Law amongst employees to ensure knowledge/awareness about it. These can be conducted through in-person interactive sessions, interactive webinars, e-learning modules, podcasts, plays etc. and can be of different durations.
We hope you found this article informative. We appreciate your support in building a safe space for our #AmrutamFamily!