Workplace sexual harassment is an important issue that deserves more than the intermittent attention it receives when high-profile cases are in the news. This is particularly true in India where legal protection for victims was lacking in statutory cover until a few years ago. Some progress has been made since then—but there is still a considerable distance to go.
India’s response to workplace sexual harassment rests on two pillars –
Reviewing the 2013 Act –
There is a sharp rise in the number of complaints (since 2013) which indicates that cases that would have been overlooked earlier are now being reported. That, in turn, shows that companies are making some progress when it comes to putting Act-mandated processes and frameworks in place.
Tackling workplace sexual harassment is an ethical imperative; such harassment infringes on an individual’s right to freedom of profession and occupation and undercuts the ideals of a modern democracy. And it is an economic imperative; getting and retaining more women, who are disproportionately targets of harassment, in the workforce has the potential to be a major growth driver. The Act is a beginning—but currently, only that.
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