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Safeguarding dignity: Advancing women’s safety at workplaces in India

In recent years, progress on women’s safety in India’s offices has seen many positive changes. This has beenencouraged by new laws aimed at ensuring dignity and respect for women inside their offices. Legal Framework The POSH Act is very effective in protection of women from sexual offences at the place of their work in India, […]

In recent years, progress on women’s safety in India’s offices has seen many positive changes. This has beenencouraged by new laws aimed at ensuring dignity and respect for women inside their offices.

Legal Framework
The POSH Act is very effective in protection of women from sexual offences at the place of their work in India, only requirement being awareness among Women about the law and the protection that it provides.
The POSH Act requires all Employers / Companies with 10 or more employees to form Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs) to handle complaints of sexual harassment and punish the culprits. This Act provides complete details regarding procedures for complaint filing, method of investigation, and redressal. By placing the burdenon employers to address issues of harassment, the Act empowers women to assert their rights without fear of retaliation or stigma or without the hassles of going to Police and go through lengthy legal procedures.

Who all get protected by
this Act?
Any woman who works in an office having 10 or more persons:
• for any work on regular or even if working on temporarybasis, even maids are covered under POSH,
• working for salary or on voluntary basis or otherwise,
• includes a co-worker, a contract worker, probationer, trainee,apprentice or called by any other such name.
• Even visiting women in an office enjoy same protection under this Act.

Challenges faced
Despite such a powerful Act being in force, challenges remain in the effective implementation of the POSH Act. Underreporting of incidents due to fear of consequences, inadequate awareness about legal protections, and varying levels of commitment from employers are significant hurdles. Moreover, the diversity of India’s workforce and the different ways in which a woman faces harassment, make it necessary to havespecific approaches that cater to the specific needs of women from diverse backgrounds.

Progress
However, there have been encouraging developments. Many organizations have embraced the Act’s requirements and have establishedstrong ICCs and are conducting regular awareness programs to educate employees about their rights and responsibilities. This proactive stance not only promotesa culture of zero tolerance towards harassment but also encouragesgender equality and organizational integrity.

The Way Forward: Strengthening Protections and Ensuring Accountability
Likewise, addressing issues such as the vulnerabilities faced by women from marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ individuals and women from lower socio-economic backgrounds, is crucial for ensuring inclusive protection.
In conclusion, while significant improvementshave been made through legislative reforms and awareness initiatives, the fight against sexual offences at the workplace in India requires sustained efforts from all stakeholders. By upholding the principles of dignity, equality and justice, we can create workplaces where every woman can pursue her profession free from the threat of harassment, thereby contributing to a more inclusive and progressive society.

The author is the Practicing Lawyer at Navit Le-Eagle (OPC) P. Ltd.External member of POSH ICC with corporates.Mail your queries on shefali@nle.co.in.

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