India is rapidly progressing in its developmental goals and more women are joining the workforce, resulting in the sexual harassment of women at the workplace is becoming increasingly prevalent in India. Sexual harassment at the workplace is an extension of violence in everyday life and is discriminatory and exploitative, as it affects women’s right to life and livelihood.
These incidences of sexual harassment results in violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India (hereinafter known as “the Constitution”) and also affecting her right to live with dignity as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution. Women all around the world have faced instances of sexual harassment, which may include sexual advances, and another verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature, and the same is required to be dealt with proper care as a safe and secure workplace is, therefore, a woman’s legal right.
In order to curb these acts/ incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, enacted the first codified legislation specifically dealing with the issues of workplace sexual harassment, i.e. “The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013” (hereinafter referred to as the “POSH Act”), which came into effect on December 09, 2013. Subsequently, the government of India also notified the rules under the POSH Act titled “The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Rules, 2013” (hereinafter referred to as the “POSH Rules”). The POSH Act along with POSH Rules, collectively referred to as the “POSH Law”, aims to foster a safe and secure working environment for women by preventing, prohibiting and redressing the instances of sexual harassment at workplaces in India.
Thereafter in 2013 itself, an amendment has been promulgated by way of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 post Nirbhaya rape outrage, which has criminalized the offences such as sexual harassment, stalking, and voyeurism.
The following write-up is deliberating in detail, the evolution of the law on sexual harassment in India, its developments covering various judgments/ case laws, the legislative timeline of enactment of POSH Law in India, and our comprehensive analysis on POSH Law, its salient features & scope, and other legal provisions applicable to the workplace sexual harassment in India.