Safety of Women at Workplace
This article deals with ‘ Safety of Women at Workplace .’ This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.
In India, women face several challenges regarding safety in the workplace. These challenges include
In 2018, under the #MeToo Campaign, a large number of women came forward to share their old experiences of harassment in the workplace by men in power.
The lack of woman’s safety in the workplace has the following impacts
- Decreased Female Labour Participation Rate: According to NSSO Data, Women’s workforce participation has reduced to 25% (one of the lowest in the world).
- Increased absenteeism and turnover: When women don’t feel safe at a particular workplace, they take excessive leaves and are forced to change jobs regularly, leading to increased absenteeism and higher turnover.
- Impact on Mental Health of Women: The women who suffer from harassment and abuse at the workplace face mental health issues such as depression, anxiety etc.
- Damage to the reputation of country and companies: The reputation of companies and countries who face the allegation of women’s unsafety at work is negatively impacted.
Initiatives taken so far
- Vishakha Guidelines by Supreme Court in 1997.
- Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act based on Vishakha Judgement.
- She Box Portal to enable woman employees to file harassment complaints at the workplace.
Case Study of Bhanwari Devi
Bhanwari Devi was a Saathin in Rajasthan with the job of raising consciousness in her village about child marriage, dowry etc. Men of the dominant caste resented her efforts wrt Child Marriage, and she was brutally gang-raped. NGO named Vishakha filed a Case in Supreme Court culminating in Vishakha Guidelines.
Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2012
Provisions of the Act
- It defines sexual harassment as laid down by Supreme Court in the Vishakha case.
- It puts the legal responsibility on the employer to provide a safe & conducive environment for the woman worker.
- Provision of forming an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) or, in case of an unorganized sector, forming a 5-member Local Complaint Committee under the supervision of the District Collector.
- Those who don’t comply with the act’s provisions will be fined up to Rs 50,000.
Limitations of the Act
- Till 2015, 36% of Indian companies had not constituted ICC.
- Non-inclusion of the armed forces and all paramilitary forces within its purview
- If a complaint is found to be “malicious”, the woman is liable for punishment. It discourages the victims.
- The limited time period of 90 days to file a complaint
- Provide security to only women and not men.
- Punishment for misconduct is as per the service rules of the employer ( if it exists) or else as per the rules of the act. The Act is, however, silent on the situation where employers’ service rule contains less stringent punishment provisions.