Different types of sexual harassment under PoSH (Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act(the SH Act),2013)
What is Sexual Harassment?
The PoSH Act defines ‘SEXUAL HARASSMENT’ in line with the Supreme Court’s definition of ‘sexual harassment’ in the Vishaka Judgment.
As per the PoSH Act, ‘sexual harassment’ includes unwelcome sexually tinted behaviour, whether directly or by implication, and other types of sexual harassment such as
- Physical contact and advances
- Demand or request for sexual favours
- Making sexually coloured remarks
- Showing pornography
- Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature
Types of Sexual harassment at workplace can take various forms. It can involve conduct such as:
- Unwelcome touching, hugging or kissing
- Staring or leering
- Suggestive comments or jokes
- Unwanted or persistent requests to go out
- Intrusive questions about another person’s private life or body
- Deliberately brushing up against someone
- Insults or taunts of a sexual nature
- Sexually explicit pictures, posters, screen savers, emails, twitters, sms or instant messages
- Accessing sexually explicit internet sites
- Inappropriate advances on social networking sites
- Behaviour which would also be an offence under the criminal law, such as physical assault, indecent exposure ,sexual assault, stalking or obscene communications.
Types of sexual harassment at workplace
1. Quid pro quo
Quid pro quo is a Latin term which literally means ‘this for that’.
In this types of sexual harassment, The respondent being a person in power, pressurizes the woman employee (usually a subordinate) for sexual favours in exchange for advancement in the workplace or threat of adverse employment action
It means subjecting a woman to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature on account of the following:
To force the woman to agree with such conduct by promising/threatening her (explicitly or implicitly) preferential/detrimental treatment in her job. The act of ‘asking’ may either be verbal or implied and the ‘sexual conduct’ may be verbal or physical. But, in either case, it must be unwelcome.
“If you agree to have dinner with me , I will give you a good rating in your increment or in case you refuse, I will transfer you other place.”
Submission to or rejection of such conduct by the woman is used as the basis for deciding the future course of her job.
“If you refuse to obey my demands, your job will be in danger”
“ You shall get a promotion in exchange of sexual favours”
2. Hostile Environment
Creation of a hostile, intimidating or an offensive work environment with the purpose of unreasonably interfering with woman’s work performance or subjecting woman to humiliating treatment likely to affect her health and safety.
It occurs when either speech or conduct of a sexual nature takes place, and is seen or perceived as offensive and interferes with the work performance of the recipient, or any one or more associates.
- Sharing obscene jokes in front of female colleagues
- Making sexually coloured comments or remarks
- Unsolicited touching of any part of clothing or body of women employee
- Spreading rumours about a women’s sexual orientation of sex life
- Making sexually suggestive gesture
In 2010, the High Court of Delhi12 endorsed the view that sexual harassment is a subjective experience and for that reason held “A complete understanding of the Complainant’s view requires. …an analysis of the different perspectives of men and women.. ..conduct that many men consider unobjectionable may offend many women… men tend to view some forms of sexual harassment as “harmless social interactions to which only overly-sensitive women would object. the characteristically male view depicts sexual harassment as comparatively harmless amusement. ……men, who are rarely victims of sexual assault, may view sexual conduct in a vacuum without a full appreciation of the social setting or the underlying threat of violence that a woman may perceive.”
All women employees have right to a safe and secure working environment. In case they face any kind of sexual harassment, they must stand up for themselves and inform the accused that such behaviour is not acceptable. If such harassment continues, they should immediately file a compliant with the IC(Internal Committee).
Shivani Bose is a PoSH certified trainer and has been instrumental in implementing PoSH across industries. She is an external panel member of ICC for various companies. She has conducted several workshops on Gender sensitization and PoSH awareness and had counselled several clients facing mental wellness and gender bias issues.
Proud HR Services is an end-to-end service partner for the implementation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) legal compliance. We partner with companies on case redressal and policies to proactively build safer work cultures and sexual harassment (POSH) trainings either in person or virtually. We also help in empanelment of external members of IC.
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