Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill

An email from Praveen Talwar 🙂

Hey, IHM.
Some good news I’ve been meaning to share with you for a couple of days:

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill, 2010 was passed by the Rajya Sabha on the 26th (Feb) with some modifications (this was passed by the Lok Sabha in September).

The ambit of the jurisdiction is much wider now, and includes workers in unorganized sectors, contractual employees, as well as employer-employee harassment outside the workplace. On the whole, a tight, well-written law which allows room for defendants to contest claims, and requires conciliation parties to respond in a time bound manner.
Domestic workers, who were included under the original act continue to be covered.
Should be a boon to many female workers. 🙂
A universally accessible link:

This is more or less the same bill with superficial changes.


20 thoughts on “Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill

  1. That IS good news. I feel India is changing in a positive way, although slowly.
    I think the HR in Indian companies need to be trained on the legal aspects and should have a good understanding of what does and doesn’t constitute sexual harassment. They should also be trained on how to respond in a sensitive way, when problems do arise. They can then train all employees on what’s acceptable behavior and what’s not.

    I find that the HR of our branch in India is not proactive in educating employees about acceptable behavior – they react to problems as and when they do arise, and that too inconsistently.


    • HR in most IT companies in India are only paper-pushers who do not have the training, inclination or authority required to really do their jobs. Their scope of influence is restricted to facilitating hiring, and initiating/executing payroll related and separation formalities.

      Very rarely do they have the power or authority to drive organisational changes that would reduce gender-based harrassment and discrimination.


    • This is true.

      There’s more too.

      The most insidious forms of harassment in corporate scenarios tend to happen to newbies or to people who are at a relatively lower level in the hierarchy, because these people are seen as easy targets. When the victim complains, HR managers will often ‘side’ with the harasser, and simply try to kill the issue instead of acknowledging it, for reasons involving some form of office politics or sometimes just because they don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ by accusing someone who is otherwise powerful and well-respected. This typically happens in the absence of effective enforcement of laid-out policies regarding harassment and hostile environments – something that is often a result of a glut of disinterested (in this particular issue) mid-level managers within HR.

      For senior management, this is a nightmare.

      Although I’ve spent relatively little time in corporate India, I can attest that this disinterested attitude from HR was one of the more troubling parts of my tenure as a VP for legal affairs. In a more litigious culture, it would have been an invitation to being sued big time.


      • ” In a more litigious culture”

        Maybe that’s what we need, maybe organisations won’t comply unless they fear litigation. Except that our courts already seem to be crumbling under pressure and the complainant will probably retire before the case is heard!


      • Yes, HR does seem clueless. And yes, I think not offending the ‘important ones’ is a big deal. Even the ‘not so important ones’ seem to get away with inconsistent, whimsical behavior.

        I find that the interaction between managers and reports is still very hierarchical. When a a manger doesn’t have an open, communicative, egalitarian relationship with his/her reports, it’s very difficult for the reports to bring up a sensitive issue that needs attention. However, shoving it under the rug doesn’t solve the problem, it makes it worse.

        We had a young woman (engineer) who was receiving a lot of unwanted male attention. She was so afraid to talk to her boss about it. When she finally had the courage to bring it up, it was brushed aside, and she was asked to “ignore them”. Unable to take it anymore, she quit. She sent a letter to HQ explaining how and why she quit. She was very talented, and I think it’s the company’s loss, and I’m sure she found other offers. However, I feel angry that this young woman could not just do her work with dignity, respect, and her right to be left alone.

        I think Indian managers need to start seeing themselves not so much as ‘bosses’ but as true leaders – with the ability to inspire a team of people, motivate them, support them, and instill pride in the team’s achievements – then he/she will naturally be the go-to person when problems crop up, will be seen as someone who can be trusted to handle the problem well.

        I think it’s the mid-level managers that need to be trained to change the organization’s culture. Hopefully, when they get promoted into senior management, it will percolate all the way down.


      • Many organisations also expect women to be “invisible” and not cause trouble. They are expected to be quiet, diligent workers who know their place in the pecking order. Much like in the rest of Indian society,

        Many successful female professionals circumvent these attitudinal prejudices by either being one of the boys or by being outstanding performers who are extra-committed.

        The unsaid assumption is that women should be grateful for being allowed into corporate spaces, and shouldn’t become uppity upstarts.

        A friend and ex-colleague handles it by being extra-assertive. She doesn’t take any nonsense. She looks flirtatious men straight in the eye and tells them, loudly but politely, to behave professionally. The man backs off after such a public telling off.


    • Ah…the revered European Parliament….a monument to the destruction of personal liberty. The road to serfdom starts on the steps of the hallowed European Parliament in Bruxelles….


  2. Is there anyone, anyone at all here with the conscience to point out that the law should have been made gender neutral. Why is it legal for a man to be sexually harassed by a woman but not vice versa?


      • That’s a poor attitude, in general.

        While everyone in the world is free to focus on their own particular issues to the exclusion of all others, this hardly makes for a healthy society, or even a healthy individual. I believe it is important to take a stand for what one feels is right, whenever such a thing is feasible.


  3. A manager in my company wished the women on his team and said he was glad to have them on the team. And reminded them to wish the men on Men’s Day. For some reason, it brought to mind the scene in Chak De India where the young woman from manipur is welcomed to her own country.


  4. Pingback: “How to react when you know somebody is staring at you? I am not sure if I should slap him…” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  5. Pingback: “He said my top was not in line with company prescribed code and that it made him very uncomfortable during the meeting.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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