Posted on: September 4, 2017
KIAMS, Pune organised a Sexual Awareness session conducted by Dr. Miraj Suresh R. Discussing the topic, the session touched on the laws which come within its ambit. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act, 2013 provides protection against sexual harassment. The session was conducted for students, faculty members, and the administrative staff.
The main objective of the session was to explain sexual harassment can happen to anyone irrespective of gender and how the Act ensures that every woman is protected against sexual harassment at workplaces, public or private. Discussing how exploitation comes with power, Dr. Suresh explained that organisations need to be gender neutral in order to avoid sexual harassment. This will contribute to realisation of the right to gender equality, life, and liberty in working conditions everywhere. Dr Suresh shared that the Act also covered 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.
The Act goes much further to include organisations, government departments, offices, branch units, etc. in the public and private sectors, organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complexes, and any place visited by the employee during the course of employment including transportation. Dr. Suresh also explained how non-traditional workplaces which involve tele-commuting and domestic workers will also get covered under this law. As per Sections 4 and 5 of the Act, the Social Welfare Department has directed all government departments, government / private education institutions, private companies / factories, public undertakings, hotels, and banks to constitute the Internal Complaint Committee where the number of employees is more than 10. The Complaint Committee is required to provide for conciliation before initiating an inquiry, if requested by the complainant. The inquiry process under the Act should be confidential and the Act lays down a penalty of INR 5000/- on the person who has breached confidentiality.
The Act requires employers to conduct education and sensitisation programmes and develop policies against sexual harassment, among other obligations. Penalties have been prescribed for employers. Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to INR 50,000/-. The Committee is required to complete the inquiry within 90 days. On completion of the inquiry, the report needs to be sent to the employer or the district officer (as the case may be) mandated to take action on the report within 60 days.
Showing an audio PowerPoint presentation, Dr. Suresh further involved everyone in a Question & Answer module to test their understanding. He also asked students, faculty members, and the administrative staff to share their points of view. Overall it was an engrossing and interactive session: alongside knowledge and awareness, the participants imbibed a deep sense of individual and collective responsibility.
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