- In 1997, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in Vishaka and Others Vs. State of Rajasthan and Others1(“Vishaka Judgment”) acknowledged the gravity of sexual harassment of the working women at the workplaces and laid down guidelines making it mandatory for employers to prevent the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment.
- The guidelines issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court were treated as law declared by the Hon’ble Supreme Court under Article 141 of the Constitution of India.
- It was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that the guidelines framed by the Supreme Court would be strictly observed in all work places for the prevention and enforcement of the right to gender equality of the working women.
- It was observed by various Courts from time to time in the past that the guidelines and norms framed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Vishaka Judgment have not been followed in workplaces strictly.
- The increasing work participation rate of women made it imperative for enacting a comprehensive legislation focusing on prevention of sexual harassment as well as providing a redressal mechanism.
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 & Rules made therein
- In 2013, after a span of 16 years, India finally enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Act’) for prevention of sexual harassment against women at the workplaces.
- The Central Government vide notification SO 3606 (E) appointed 9 December 2013 as the date on which the provisions of the Act came into force and on the same day, the Central Government made the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 (“Rules”).
Objectives of the Act
- The Act is enacted by the Indian Parliament to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- Sexual harassment is termed as a violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and right to life and to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
- Sexual harassment is also considered a violation of a right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment.