India gets its first online course on sexual harassment act

The Centre for Social Research in New Delhi has launched an online course on the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act, in partnership with Rainmaker, to help women gain awareness of the law and the options available to those who have been faced with sexual harassment. You can view more details on the same here.

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is free and includes lectures by Dr Ranjana Kumari along with written course material explaining the requirements of the sexual harassment law. The two-week course will not only provide an understanding of the provisions of the law in a lucid manner, it will also help women understand the introduce the mechanisms and procedures instituted by the Act to enable a safe working environment for women.

According to CSR's blog post, "The objective of the online course is to provide individuals of society a well-informed and holistic understanding of all the elements constituting sexual harassment- the act, the prevention and the solutions to combat it."

Dr Ranjana Kumari, Director of Centre for Social Research, said that the course aims to ensure "effective, healthy and productive working environments, every institution/organization/unit, where more than ten people work together, should be responsible for ensuring the compliance of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act.”

Parts of the course will also focus on the complaint process and what procedure should be followed while investigating a complaint. Another part of the course will look at the different outcomes of a complaints redressal procedure.

Representational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

The sexual harassment law was formally passed in 2013 and is known as the "Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013."

As for the definition of sexual harassment, the act draws on the Supreme Court guidelines that were laid out in the landmark Vishaka case. The SC had ruled then that "actions resulting in a violation of one's rights to ‘Gender Equality’ and ‘Life and Liberty’ are in fact a violation of the victim’s fundamental right under Article 19 (1) g," adding that sexual harassment violated women's right to work.

The Act goes further than the Vishaka guidelines and calls for redressal mechanism to be set up in all organisations, government, private, hospitals, even domestic help etc to deal with cases of sexual harassment.

The Act makes it mandatory for all offices with 10 or more employees to have an internal complaints committee to address grievances in a stipulated time or face penalty.

Where defining an act of sexual harassment goes, the Act says that this includes unwelcome acts or behaviour like physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography.

In India, relief for women who highlight instances of sexual harassment isn't always easy. In the Supreme Court itself, two former judges were accused of sexually harassing interns. In the case of Justice Ganguly, the Supreme Court ruled that while there was prima facie evidence against him, the Court could not take any action as he had retired when the alleged incident took place. More recently the victim in the case has refused to depose in front of the police.

In Novemeber 2013, before the law had come into force, Tehelka's editor Tarun Tejpal was accused of sexually assaulting a junior employee at the company's annual fest in Goa. In that case the victim had accused the magazine's management of trying to hush up the case and said that Tejpal's decision to 'recuse' himself as Editor-in-Chief was a not good enough apology or even action. Tejpal now faces charges of attempted rape and is currently out on bail.

Where sexual harassment is concerned, it either often dismissed as the victim trying to create trouble or worse still victims are afraid to report it. Hopefully a course like this will give women more knowledge on deal with sexual harassment in the workplace.


Published Date: Jul 17, 2014 04:26 pm | Updated Date: Jul 17, 2014 04:26 pm

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