“While a murder destroys the physical frame of the victim, a rapist degrades and defiles the soul of a helpless woman.”
–Justice Arijit Pasayat
The issue of gender inequality and sexual harassment is prevalent in the society and it is also faced by women of the country. Sexual harassment means unwanted gestures or sexual behavior from one gender to another gender. The sexual offences not only affect the physical state of a woman but also the mental and emotional state. Vishaka v State of Rajasthan is a landmark case that provided the guidelines regarding sexual harassment of women at work place. Before 1997, there were no guidelines about the sexual harassment of women at workplace. Earlier, Section 354 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 gave the punishment for such offence. The Supreme Court in this landmark judgment provided for the guidelines regarding the sexual harassment of women at workplace. Later, in 2013, ‘The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was enacted.
NAME OF THE CASE: Vishaka v State of Rajasthan
PETITIONER: Vishaka and Others
RESPONDENT: State of Rajasthan and Others
CITATION: (1997) 6 SCC 241, AIR 1977 SC 3011
BENCH: J.S.Verma (then, Chief Justice of India), Sujata V. Manohar, B.N. Kirpal
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 13 August 1997
Bhanwari Devi was a social worker in the state of Rajasthan who used to work in rural areas. The social work to stop child marriage was administered by the state government of Rajasthan. When she stopped marriage of one year old girl of Gujjar Community, she was boycotted by the village. Later, in September 1992, the five men of Gujjar Community went to her home and brutally gang raped her in front of her husband.
They went to police station for help. At the police station, she was subjected to cruelty by the women constable about the gang rape. The police asked her to leave her skirt for evidence and forced her to seek medical help at Jaipur Hospital. The doctor of primary hospital refused to examine her and the doctor at Jaipur did not give any information about the rape in medical report.
She filed a case in the trial court. The trial court discharged the accused. Then, she appealed in the High Court. The High Court held that this was a rape committed in revenge. Then, Bhanwari Devi and women of the Non Governmental Organization filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India in the name of Vishaka. The petition was filed for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of working women under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
The Supreme Court held that this incident is in violation of the fundamental rights of ‘Gender Equality’ and ‘Right of Life and Liberty’. The incident is violation of Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The women have fundamental rights regarding the protection of sexual harassment at workplace. It is fundamental right of every citizen to carry on any occupation, business, profession or trade and there should be safe working environment.
The concept of ‘Gender Equality’ includes protection from sexual harassment. The right to work refers right to work with dignity. The Supreme Court held that all workplaces should have a proper mechanism to enforce cases.
The Supreme Court referred to Article 14, 15, 42, 51, 51 A and 253 of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court also referred to various international conventions and statutes because there was no domestic law in regards to sexual harassment. The court referred to Article 11, 24 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
GUIDELINES LAID DOWN IN THE CASE (Vishaka Guidelines Case):
The Supreme Court gave various guidelines on the basis of Section 2(d) of the Protection of Human Rights, 1993. These guidelines are to be necessarily followed by the employers in work places as well as for other persons. The guidelines are:
- It is the duty of the employer to have a proper redress mechanism in the company to deal with issues related to harassment of employees.
- Sexual Harassment has been defined as unwelcome sexually determined behavior as physical contact, demand or request for sexual favors, showing pornography, sexually colored remarks and any other verbal or non verbal conduct of sexual nature. It can be done directly or by implication.
- The employers should take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment.
- The employer shall make a complaint with appropriate authority, if any conduct falls under Indian Penal Code or any other law. The victims or the witnesses should not be victimized. An option of transfer of the perpetrator or victim should be available.
- In case of misconduct in employment, appropriate disciplinary actions must be taken by the employer.
- An appropriate complaint mechanism should be created in employer’s organization.
- There should be a complaint committee headed by a woman and it must make annual report to the government department of the complaints and actions taken.
- The employees should be allowed to raise issues of sexual harassment.
- There should be awareness of the rights of female.
- Necessary steps should be taken by employer to assist person who has been affected by sexual harassment by any third party or outsider.
- The Central and State Governments should consider adoption of suitable measures including legislation to ensure that the guidelines are observed by private sector employers.
- The guidelines should not prejudice any rights available by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
From Vishaka v State Of Rajasthan case, we can conclude that It is very important that women must be respected and treated equally. Bhanwari Devi waited for over 23 years for justice. The crime against women should be stopped.
This blog is written by Jyotsna Singh, Banasthali Vidyapith
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