AUTHORED BY: AAKANSHA LATALA
MANIPAL UNIVERSITY JAIPUR
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender‘ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.” – # ME TOO
Workplace has no gender
The state of women in India has undergone a considerable change since the past there is a lot more development yet to take place. Today women are working in every field but still facing a lot of challenges being women. One of the biggest problems is sexual harassment at workplace. They wouldn’t know if the male employee did it deliberately or it was an accident. Add to it the fear, insecurity and lack of support system at work which forces women to bear everything silently. Action must be taken right away because preventing harassment in the workplace is one of the most pressing compliance training initiatives for all organizations sexual harassment training is mandated by section 19 of the prevention , protection and redressed of sexual harassment of women at workplace act 2013 . In a male dominating workplace , working conditions are often not up to the mark from women perspective for example the toilet arrangements common washroom or toilets for both male and females because office has the majority of male employees , disposal of sanitary pad and urine spilling over the toilet seat , it is unfair and unhygienic . Growing from a women into a mother brings a lot of changes morning sickness , travelling to and fro with her baby belly , avoiding late night meetings as per health may be take a toll ,listening to her boss’s taunts as she constantly applies for checkup leaves , maternity leaves are simply too hard for a pregnant women and it’s not possible to work during pregnancy . And even after maternity break she may have to begin from beginning all over again. Security issues around across industries from B.P.O who travel alone or in a company car post night shifts their employers don’t see it their responsibility to get these women safely to their homes. LGBT women feel like the other at work leading them to choose to stay in closet by not disclosing their sexual orientation this kind of discrimination should be abolished. At the recruitment stage itself, if a male and female competing for the same post and have the same qualification job goes to male many a times reason being the age old thinking that women are less capable than men and women around the world, continue to face wage gap . The me too movement with many local and international alternative names is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault this movement was started by Tirana Burke. In India women no longer to stay silent me too is turning point suggests the burden of shame is finally being shifted away from women in India now women come forward to speak against harassment and assault and at least the elephant in the room is being addressed. It seems that the tidal wave has finally swamped the world’s largest democracy.
Over the years women in our society have been subjected to various injustices and inequality at every stage of life. The face neglect, all kinds of physical and mental abuses, servitude and rejection. Today women across the globe are making attempt to fight back discrimination they face but despite their struggle for equality, recognition and survival does not reach a conclusion.
The beginning of this fight is start with Barware Devi case the facts of the case are she was asocial activist / worker in one of the Rajasthan village , she worked under a social development program at rural level which is about to stop child Marriage in village and this program was initiated by Rajasthan government . She was en- devoured to stop the marriage of Ramadan Guars daughter who was merely one year old, even after her vain – full efforts to stop marriage it happened. In September 1992 she was gang raped by Ankara Gujarat and his five friends in front of her husband. At police station too she was taunted by the women constable for whole of the midnight. In past midnight she was been asked by the policeman to leave her long as the evidence of incident. After that she was
Only left with the bloodstained dhoti of her husband to wrap her body, as a result of which they had to spend their whole night in that police station .The trial court made the discharge of the accused people for not being guilty. The high court in his judgment propounded that it was a case of gang rape which was conducted out of revengeful situation. All these statement and judgment, around women and NGO, to file petition (PIL) in supreme court of India.
Issue raised in the case is whether, the enactment of guidelines mandatory for the sexual harassment of women at workplace. The judgment of the case conveyed by chief justice J.S Vera and Justice B.N Kraal on account of writ petition. Court observed that it hampered the right to life and the right to live a dignified life. The basic requirement was that there should be the availability of safe working environment at workplace.
The court held that women have fundamental rights towards the freedom of sexual harassment at workplace. It also put forward various important guidelines for the employees to follow them and avoid sexual harassment of women at workplace. The main objective of the supreme court was to ensure gender equality among the individuals and also to ensure that there should be no discrimination towards women at the workplace . After this case Supreme Court well – define the term sexual harassment.
Vichada case guidelines key features
It is mentioned that it is the duty of employer or other responsible person in work place or other institution to prevent the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedure for the resolution.
It also provided with the range to behavior that would termed as sexual harassment, which includes such unwelcome sexual determined behavior as –
- Physical contact and advances,
- A demand or request for sexual favors,
- Sexually cultured remarks,
- Showing pornography,
- Any other unwelcomed physical, verbal or non – verbal conduct of sexual nature.
- It is also provided with complaints mechanism by stating that –
- All workplace should have an appropriate complaints mechanism with a complaints committee, special counselor or other support service.
- Women must head the complaints committee and no less than half its member should be women.
- The committee should include an NGO / individual familiar with the issue of sexual harassment.
- The complaint procedure must be time – bound.
- Confidentiality must be maintained.
- Complaint /witness should not experience victimization / discrimination during the process.
The aim of my research paper is to suggest measures to empower women and provide protection against exploitation they face at workplace. To create an awareness in our society. In a country like India women were given the position as goddess – Lama , Dura but today the situation is not the same .Work undertaken by women in every field is grossly underestimated and subject to gender based discrimination .If we want to upheld the position of women in the true since , there is a crying need of the elimination of male dominance in the society , country and at workplace and it , can be made only when all factors such as self – worth of women , their right to control their own lives , their ability to bring about social change , are addressed .The winds of change have begun to blow . Hence it is need of the hour to consider the suggestion provided that would make the laws more comprehensive and effective.
The research methodology adopted for this paper is doctrinal, statues and secondary sources of information like case laws, books, articles, websites, newspaper etc.
# Me too movement and safety of women
Tirana Burke started the me too movement she is an African American civil rights activist from the Bronx New york . The hash tags are used by the people to categorize content and track topics on twitter, Facebook, integral and printers. Hash tags helps people to find posts and tweets according to their interest. Because of the movement a number of women in India and have called out influential men, actors, standup comedians, senior journalists, for alleged sexual harassment.
In India the me too movement demand a fair system of justice and the burden of shame is shifted away from women. The me too movement is work as catalyst which encourages the women to come out and loud they shatter the misogynist mindset and society’s beliefs which is against the women. The single biggest outcome of the movement is registration of Mr. Akbar who the minister of external affairs 16 women come on a record alleging him for sexual harassment .
The time magazine name the silence breaker as the 2017 person of the year honoring not only one individual but all of the women involved. TIME acknowledges the efforts and courage of women like Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd. And with the passage of time it goes beyond the hashtag it starts of a larger conversation and now people started to listen. The issues of women flooded social media overnight with their stories which expressing humiliation , pain and helplessness of the victims of harassment.
The unspoken issues of women are now getting a platform where they can raise their voice which reaches out around the globe and it becomes the talk of the town. Women are now in a zero tolerance zone and they break their silence the women no longer feel ashamed and they don’t have a fear of being judged by the others. They openly speak about sexual harassment on social media which gradually creates a consciousness in the society. Meanwhile this movement also raise a question on existing laws we have in our country and the safety of women at workplace and It also points out the flaws in justice system . The me too movement which comes out of blue leaves the entire country and the world awestruck.
Laws regarding the issues
When a women become a mother during that period of time her body goes under various biological changes but it’s not an easy process because working women manage their personal and professional life at the same time which involves hardship and hindrance . Pregnancy considered as career killer or breaker because of motherhood many women leave their pursing goals or career in the middle because of non – corporation of their families and the lack of maternity leave.
The maternity benefit amendment bill 2016
The maternity benefit amendment bill 2016 which is an amendment to the maternity act 1961 was passed in raja sabra in 2016 later in look sabra in March 2017. The amendment increased the maternity leave from 12 weeks to 24 weeks the amendment set a milestone and empowered the women at workplace.
The silent features of the bill
Increase in weeks of leave – the bill increased the leave of women workers from 12 weeks to 24 weeks during their maternity process and they are paid leaves which means women employees will also get the salary by their respective working organization.
Scope of the amended act – the act will apply only to the establishment employing more than 10 and also the women employees have 24 days paid leaves only for the first two child and for the third child the leave are restricted to 12 weeks only .
Crèche facility – the workplace should have more than 50 employees to implement this facility under this amendment. The crèche facility will be provided within a prescribed distance and women can be allowed to visit their children four times a day.
Work from home – the amendment bill also provide the facility for women to work from home during pregnancy and even after the maternity leave as per decided by the employee and the employer in the organization .
Factories act 1948
It came into force on 1 April 1949 to secure or prevent the workers in a factory to provide them proper facilities which includes health, safety, toilets. The act apply to entire country including Jammu and Kashmir and cover manufacturing industries and organization falls under definition of factory as defined in section -2 of this act and apply to the factories belonging to central and state government under section – 116 . Section 19 cleanliness chapter -3 which says that every factory should have sufficient latrine and urinal accommodation for the workers both males and females workers. It should be clean and maintained for this purpose sweepers shall be employed who clean all latrines and urinals.
Sexual harassment at workplace act 2013
In the year 2013 after the spam of 16 years the sexual harassment at workplace (protection prevention and redressed) act 2013 for protection of women at workplace is established. 9 December 2013 it come into force on the same day central government made sexual harassment of women at workplace (protection prevention and redressed ) rules 2013 . The main objective of the act is to address the harassment issues women faced at their workplaces. Sexual harassment is the violation of fundamental rights involve article – 14, 15 and 21 and to empowered the women at workplace or different organization.
Shortcoming in the laws
In maternity act it does not include unorganized sector – In India 118 million women are working in an unorganized sector in India. Constituting 97 present of the total women working in India. The condition of women in unorganized sector is awful because of seasonal nature of employment, heavy physical labor, no fixed wages and lack of job security. They are ill- treated by the middle men and employer they also sexually harass at women at workplace.
But they do not raise their voice because law does not consider important to address the issues of women working in unorganized sector. Most of the women are engaged construction sites, factories etc. They have no cliché facilities and most of the cases there is no one to look after their children .large number of women come from rural areas are migrated to cities or urban areas in search of work and mostly they get employed in unorganized sector because of illiteracy and lack of skills.
Third pregnancy less beneficial – under the amendment women employees get the paid leave benefit for the first two children only and in the case of having three children the paid weeks will be reduced to 12 weeks . Which is not fair at all because women having three children will not get the benefit of paid leaves this kind of provisions puts the women in a situation where she is deprive from her rights .
Enhance discrimination – when the employers have to choose between a male and a female candidate during recruitment process both having same qualification but they may give preference to male candidate because if they choose a women than in future they have to grant the six months leave from work to the female candidate . That’s why it increases the discrimination.
Problematic for women at higher post – the women who is on a higher post in accompany cannot afford to take a continuous long gap of 26 weeks from her work because in her absence the entire work will be disturbed and even all the important meeting with the clients will be postponed because of the following reason . Women who deserve a higher post but still not promoted by the company or organization fearing leave provision.
Work pressure on women – various organization or company during maternity leave give them option to work from home to the women but still when she when she get back to the work after the six months leave the work environment changed and after completing their regular work they may have to work for additional hours to learn the new skills .
Toilets facilities – the factory acts provide the provision of toilets but for every woman in India access of toilet facility it is a very big issue. On the other hand men they can pee anywhere they don’t face such problems. Larger number of women is engaged in different organized and unorganized sector. But still they faced inadequate , poorly maintained , unhygienic toilets or even sometimes workplace has common toilets which are pathetic in condition and sometimes non – existence of toilet facility for women at workplace .
Companies sometime refused female candidate because they do not have toilets facility for the female employees. The workplace which have majority of men they provide larger space for men’s toilet and women issues or hygienic needs are ignore at the workplace . Women often complaint about it to the respective authority but after the lukewarm response they bear the same conditions against their wills or sometimes they also leave their jobs. One lady lawyer in the Supreme Court complaint about dirty, smelly, and overcrowded toilets. There is no soup, Dettol, phenyl, or toilet paper that too much to ask for. The employees in charge of cleaning very often don’t turn up. Women also face this problem where the majority of women at workplace are more.
Women have biologically different from men they go through the mensuration cycle every month and they work for longer hours and if the workplace has no toilet where they will dispose sanitary pads, where they will go to pee. This also affects their health and they start developing health problems and infections. And if the workplace have a common toilets they don’t dustbin to dispose pad and the toilet is spilling all over which is very unhygienic . In rural areas where women work in small scale industries or in agricultural fields they face the same. The participation of women at workplace is constantly decline. One of the major reasons behind this the sanitation and toilet facility of toilets is the need of the hour for women. Women’s hygiene and sanitation is at stake.
The sexual harassment at workplace act 2013 fails to recognized LGBT community – the sexual harassment act 2013 covers only women but it fails to recognized the LGBT (lesbian , gay , bisexual and transgender , ) community because they face the same problem . Indian workplaces received a boost from Supreme Court after decriminalization of homosexuality in India. In this particular judgment court emphasized on the fundamental rights of homosexual individual in India. 8 percent of Indian population out of 104 million people might be LGBT according to the court. However LGBT community don’t get employment because of their sexual orientation and if they get the job they face the discrimination because of their sexual presences or the identity they have . In a conservative society of India people still look up to the LGBT community with social cultural prejudices, regressive norms of society. They traumatized, bullied and cornered the LGBT community there is no acceptance for them in workplace and society as well. They are judged by their sexuality not on the basis of their talent.
The existing laws are fails to acknowledged the problems on ground level the law making bodies legislature , executive and judiciary the three organs of government by implementing their powers should resolve all these issues or loopholes .
A comprehensive law is needed to protect the rights of women workers.
Criminal justice system should be more effective to deal with the cases relating to the exploitation of women at workplace and punishment should be very high in comparison to the degree of exploitation.
Since women workers lack in skills, skill development programmers should be provides to them to enhance their skills regarding their particular jobs and profession.
Mass media and social media should be used to communicate the social messages related to women’s equality and rights.
It is very important to create awareness among women workers about the laws and legal rights they have so they can approach the right authority while implementing their rights in future.
The maternity act should also applicable on the unorganized sector to protect the women the women who worked in unorganized sector.
Lack of clarity regarding the time period of crèche facility and also regarding aspect of availability the time period should be certain and defined .
Government should make mandatory provisions regarding toilets facility at workplace because it is a basic need for every individual.
A separate committee should be formed to assure the proper implementation regarding the provisions.
New amendments should be made in sexual harassment act 2013 for LGBT community and their rights at workplace the policies should be non – discriminatory for each and every employees including LGBT .
To create a friendly environment at workplace the employees at workplace needs to understand the value of diversity inclusion and respect the individual identity the LGBT community have.
Once, a women activist said to a judge in Ahmedabad sexual harassment is like god, it’s everywhere. Over the years women faced discrimination and injustice in every stage of life . To provide better and fair environment for women at workplace the government and the legal institution committed themselves to overcome the problems women faced at workplaces. Many acts and guidelines have been passed to ensure women’s rights and set an example for wrongdoers but still we have a long way to go. Because of social and legal reforms victims come forward without any hesitation and explore the options available to them against the abusers. Present day laws are not sufficient and have a few loopholes which is still needs to be acknowledged. Over the course of time suitable recommendations and suggestions for a better functioning mechanism needs to be implemented. Workplaces should also alter their approach with changing dimensions of law and the needs of the employees. Workplaces have no gender because they appreciate the real talent and hard work of an individual because gender does not define their worth.