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  • What is Sexual Harassment at work place?
  • What are the Governing Laws of Sexual Harassment at work place?
  • Where to file such Complaint at workplace?
  • What is the Punishment for such Act?

What is Sexual Harassment at work place?


Sexual harassment refers to the uninvited behaviour of a sexual nature. As per Section 354 (A) of the Indian Penal Code, men pressing uninvited and explicit sexual suggestions, or requesting/demanding favours for sex, or committing physical contact, or presenting pornography against the woman’s wishes, are liable to have committed sexual harassment.

Governing Laws of Sexual Harassment at work place -


  • Indian Penal Code – Section 209, Section 354(A), Section 509
  • The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1987 – harassing someone with publications consisting of ‘indecent representation of women’ is not allowed.
  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

Brief History of policies relating to Sexual harassment in India:


Prior to 1997, the legal provision for addressing complaints related to sexual harassment was Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 which dealt with the ‘criminal assault for outraging a women’s modesty’.

In the 1990’s, Mrs. Bhanwari Devi tried to stop child marriage in accordance with her duties being associated with the Women Development Programme. Certain sections of the society did not take this well and responded with raping her. Eventually Rajasthan High Court allowed the defendants to go free. Then a PIL in context of Bhanwari Devi’s case was filed in the Supreme Court, which led to the formation of Vishaka guidelines, which drew inspiration from the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) . These guidelines were to be used in instances of sexual harassment till the time a legislation came into force. These guideline have now been superseded by a statute.

Some Features of the ‘Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013:

  • On 9th December 2013, this Act came into effect.
  • Requires an ‘Internal Complaints Committee’ to be set up by the employer in every workplace which would look into matters pertaining to complaints of harassment. There is also the functioning of a ‘Local Complaints Committee’ set up by the district officer for organisations that do not have an ‘Internal Complaints Committee’ due to having less than ten workers
  • The idea of a ‘hostile work environment’ (Section 3) & ‘quid pro quo harassment’ with connection to a sexual nature have also been dealt with under the Act.
  • Powers of civil courts have been conferred on the Complaints Committees for purposes of gathering evidence.
  • Government having the power to inspect any workplace w.r.t documents and other records in connection to sexual harassment.
  • Vishaka Guidelines interpreted ‘workplace’ as something that was confined to the traditional office-set up, however, this Act widened the scope of the word ‘workplace’ to include hospitals, educational institutions, any place visited by employee in course of their employment including the transportation as well.

Where to file such Complaint at workplace?


In case of Sexual Harassment workplace complaints are to be made before an ‘Internal Complaints Committee’ to be set up by an employer in every workplace which would look into matters pertaining to complaints of harassment. There is also the functioning of a ‘Local Complaints Committee’ set up by the district officer for organisations that do not have an ‘Internal Complaints Committee’ due to having less than ten workers, for purposes of looking into complaints of sexual harassment at workplaces.

Punishment for Sexual Harassment at Workplace-


Sexual Harassment- Rigorous imprisonment which may extend to 3years or fine or both.

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