Sexual Harassment Act : Anniversary Update
The Sexual harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“Sexual Harassment Act”), completed its second birth anniversary on 9th December, 2015. The following are the recent updates at the end of 2 years:
The Ministry of Women and Child Development released a Handbook on the Act on the same day to clarify some of the ambiguities in the Act. The Handbook can act like a practical guide for ICC members and employers.
Government initiative to implement Sexual Harassment Act:
Earlier this month, Business Standard reported that on a question on reduction of gender discrimination, Smt. Maneka Gandhi, in an oral reply to a starred question in the Lok Sabha, stated that the government was taking several initiatives to protect women and as a result of the same, she said that the Union Territories and seven states had provided 33% reservation to women in the police force to address the issue of crimes against women. She said that to inculcate the concept of gender equality, the scheme of gender champions is being implemented in schools. She said that ‘One Stop Centres’ for Women affected by violence are being set up in each state of the country and ten such centres have already become functional and receive up to 200 women in a week. She also said that mobile phones will soon have a panic button so that women can seek help in distress and in another effort, to empower women, National Commission for Women has been asked to train the newly elected two lakhs sarpanches in how to administer villages, handle funds, take measures to protect women etc.
The Hindu reported that in a letter to Union Finance and Corporate Affairs minister Arun Jaitley, Maneka Gandhi had requested the Ministry to make it mandatory for companies to reveal whether they have set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) as required under the Sexual Harassment Act. However, Mr Jaitley dismissed it stating that such an additional demand on companies was “undesirable”. According to the National Commission on Women, the complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace have doubled from 249 in 2013 to 526 in 2014.
Complaints under Sexual Harassment Act:
Recently, the Economic Times reported, based on data provided by Mr Arun Jaitley, Minister of Corporate Affairs, that the number of cases of sexual harassment complaints at the top 100 companies listed on the National Stock Exchange (“NSE”) rose more than two-fold to 454 in the last financial year. He said that the data was based on the number of sexual harassment complaints stated in the annual reports of top 100 listed entities on the NSE. In comparison, the number of such cases stood at 63, in financial year 2012-13. He also said that Securities and Exchange Board of India recently asked listed firms to disclose sexual harassment complaints as well as details about their compliance with various social and governance requirements as business responsibility reports are mandatory for top 100-listed entities based on market capitalisation as on March 31, 2012.
Companies and the Sexual Harassment Act:
According to a report titled “Fostering Safe Workplaces” by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Ernst and Young, one in every three Indian companies, or 31%, has not set up ICCs. Of those who have, 40% have not begun training the members in the provisions of the law, 35% are unaware of the penal consequences of not complying with the law and 44% have not circulated information about the law to their employees. According to another report of Ernst and Young, 35% of 120 respondents were unaware of penal consequences of non-compliance with laws and 40% had not trained their ICC members.
The rest is continued in our next post…