The Act has defined what constitutes sexual harassment under Section 2 (n) and states that any of the following (directly or by implication) shall mean sexual harassment: (1) physical contact and advances; (2) a demand or request for sexual favours; (3) making sexually coloured remarks; (4) showing pornography; (5) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
The Act, under Section 3, has further widened the definition of sexual harassment by providing that any of the following circumstances, related to sexual harassment, may also amount to Sexual Harassment: (1) implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in the victim’s employment; (2) implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in the victim’s employment; (3) implied or explicit threat about the victim’s present or future employment status; (4) interferes with the victim’s work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment for her and (4) humiliating treatment likely to affect the victim’s health or safety.
It may be seen that the definition is very wide, it provides for both direct and implied sexual conduct, what is “implied” sexual behaviour for one person, may not be felt so by another person. So, the implied behaviour depends on the perception of the affected person For example in double meaning talk the sexual innuendo lying submerged may not be understood by all. The definition also provides that harassment may be a verbal or non-verbal conduct. This could be illustrated by a mere statement in a case where the plaintiff requested defendant No. 1 to instruct the attendants to switch off the A. C., but in reply defendant No. 1 said “… come close to me, you will start feeling hot“, can also be construed to be sexual harassment (Albert Davit Limited vs. Anuradha Chowdhury and Ors., (2004) 2 CALLT 421 (HC)).
The absence of any actual physical contact or the attempt to molest the complainants is not conclusive to absolve the accused , as it is, necessary to read between the lines and understand the situation of the complainants. (Dr. S. Thippeswamy Vs. Mangalore University Mangalagangothry, 2011 (4) KCCRSN 403).
8th July 2018 From India, Mumbai
While the POSH Act provides elaborately on dealing with the acts of sexual harassment at workplace as has been reproduced above, I think the organizations need to take robust preventive steps to preempt its occurrence.
Lot of efforts are required in educating effectively on the importance of treating colleagues of opposite gender with dignity, honour and self -respect. Robust awareness training and visual displays which constantly reminds one to behave with responsibility have to be undertaken.
No doubt, treating the offender with appropriate/severe punishment will also act as good brake on the potential persons, who are fortunately very miniscule in numbers.
In my view, just as there are elaborate provisions to deal with post -occurrence situations, similarly and equally well thought out effective preventive arrangements have to be in place.
9th July 2018 From India, Mumbai