Supreme Court fiat to States to check sexual exploitation of women at workplace
New Delhi, October 19, 2012
Enforce legal mechanism to implement the guidelines in Vishaka case
The Supreme Court on Friday made it mandatory for all the States, Union territories and the regulatory bodies to put in place a legal mechanism to implement the ‘guidelines in Vishaka case’ which require the employers at workplace to observe them and ensure prevention of sexual harassment of women.
A three-judge Bench of Justices R.M. Lodha, Anil R. Dave and Ranjan Gogoi said: “The implementation of the guidelines in Vishaka has to be not only in form but also substance and spirit so as to make available safe and secure environment to women at the workplace in every aspect and thereby enabling the working women to work with dignity, decency and due respect.”
Pointing out that a legislation in this regard was yet to be put in place, the Bench said: “There is still no proper mechanism in place to address the complaints of sexual harassment of the women lawyers in Bar Associations, lady doctors and nurses in the medical clinics and nursing homes, women architects working in the offices of the engineers and architects and so on and so forth.”
Writing the judgment in the petition filed by Medha Kotwal Lele seeking enforcement of Vishaka guidelines, Justice Lodha said: “While we have marched forward substantially in bringing gender parity in local self-governments, the representation of women in Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies is dismal as the women represent only 10-11 per cent of the total seats. India ranks 129 out of 147 countries in United Nations Gender Equality Index. This is lower than all South Asian countries except Afghanistan. Our Constitution framers believed in fairness and justice for women. They provided in the Constitution the States’ commitment of gender parity and gender equality and guarantee against sexual harassment to women.”
The Bench said: “As the largest democracy in the world, we have to combat violence against women. We are of the considered view that the existing laws, if necessary, [should] be revised and appropriate new laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures to protect women from any form of indecency, indignity and disrespect at all places [in their homes as well as outside], prevent all forms of violence — domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment at the workplace, etc; — and provide new initiatives for education and advancement of women and girls in all spheres of life. After all they have limitless potential. Lip service, hollow statements and inert and inadequate laws with sloppy enforcement are not enough for true and genuine uplift of our half most precious population – the women.”