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Updated: Aug 22, 2020

By- Diksha Dubey

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual behavior that’s offensive, humiliating or intimidating. It can be written, verbal or physical, and can happen in person or online. Both men and women can be the victims of sexual harassment. When it happens at work, school or universities, it may amount to sex discrimination.

Sexual harassment can include someone:

  • touching, grabbing or making other physical contact with them without their consent.

  • asking for sex or sexual favors.

  • leering and staring at the person.

  • displaying rude and offensive material so that the person or others can see it.

  • making sexual gestures or suggestive body movements.

  • cracking sexual jokes and comments around or to that person.

  • questioning them about their sex life.

  • insulting them with sexual comments.

  • Committing a criminal offence against that person, such as making an obscene phone call, indecently exposing themselves or sexually assaulting.

Sexual harassment at a workplace is considered to be the violation of women's right to equality, life and liberty. It creates an insecure and hostile work environment, which discouragement of women’s participation in work. So thereby these adversely affect the social and economic empowerment of women and their inclusive growth to achieve their goals. With the idea, the legislature formulated the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013.

The need for prevention of Sexual Harassment of women at workplace was observed first time by the Supreme Court in the case of Vishaka v State of Rajasthan. In the absence of any laws at that time provide measures to check the evils of sexual harassment of women at workplace. The Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India gave power to them and framing the guidelines to be followed at all workplaces or institutions, until the legislation was enacted for the purpose. The Supreme Court has incorporated the basic principles of the human rights enshrined in Constitution of India under Article 14, 15, 19(1) (g) and 21. The provision of Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has been ratified in 1993 by the Government of India. The guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court were to be treated as the law declared under Article 141 of the Constitution.


Sexual harassment can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any given time there is no any specific cause for it to be happened. Here we will analyze some of the prominent causes which are quite perceived in our society:

1. Male Domination

The authoritative men i.e. men in power, making sexual favors towards female subordinates by this one can commonly understand that this kind of male behavior is only about the sex to which we call popular perception. But the real matter isn’t sex; it’s sexism on the job. The fact is most harassment isn’t about satisfying sexual desires but it’s about protecting work especially the most favored lines of work. Most of the women face harassment at their workplace is doesn't mean that they were sexual harassed but the motive of harassment is only to show the domination of male folk. And this kind of behavior determine the gender discrimination and to claim work as a domain of masculine mastery.

2. Inferior Job Position

Women as compare to men usually hold less hierarchical power in organizations, sexual harassment serves as one method of the powerful asserting control over the powerless. This suggestion is supported by findings that women are more likely to be harassed when they move into higher levels in organizations or into non-traditional areas. The individuals with less power tend to be more attentive to the individuals with more power than the reverse. This clearly shows that as they were given inferior position in the organization or institution, they are more prone to sexually harassed by the person who has power in the organization or institution.

3. Aggressive Masculine Trait of Male Gender

Different researches reveal that harassers are found in all types of occupations at all organizational levels, inside and outside home and even among the college professors. The sexual harassment is considered to be an outcome of extreme competitiveness and concerns with ego or there is always a fear of losing powerful position or dominance among men.

They do not want to appear weak or less masculine in the eyes of other men. In order to show their dominance they engage in harassing the women colleagues. So this becomes clear here that the masculine aggressiveness causes the sexual harassment of women.

4. Misconception about the Friendly Nature of Women

It is familiar that men began to harass their women colleagues who are quite friendly in nature within the organization. They perceive that these women are sober in nature and if we seek sexual favors from them they will accept. But this is not true that being women means having intention for the same. And this ultimately leads to the fact that the women would easily being convinced by them for sexual favor after becoming friendly. This friendly nature woman with their men colleagues in an organization or in general these type social setup leads to sexual harassment.

5. Higher Academic Profile and Lesser Job Opportunity

In our present day society we are familiar with the fact that there are a large number of women population who are with higher academic degrees but the available job position are lesser than their academic degrees to which they are having with them. When these talented and efficient women began their journey to find a job in an organization may it be an educational institute or other private or government sector they are harassed and advanced by sexual favors by the person in charges and for that they are assured to be offered a job. This behavior of male components of an organization who are in higher positions leads to an outcome of ‘Quid Pro Quo’ (This for That). Latter when these girls got job position within the organization they are often asked for sexual favor for promotion, salary increase and other conditions of employment. No doubt this is surely the case of our present society and this becomes one of the basic causes of sexual harassment of young educated women.

The above given causes clearly shows that women either employed in private or in government sectors are conditioned to face such humiliation by their male colleagues besides these there are number of legal and constitutional provisions to protects the modesty and honor of women at the workplace but still the condition of women is same.

Pre Vishakha Scenario

Before the Vishakha guidelines came into picture, the women had to lodge their complaint for the matter of Sexual Harassment at Workplace under Sec 354 and 509 of IPC.

Sexual Harassment was a serious issue and it still is, it was needed to be given priority and measures were decided to be taken to tackle this problem. Government, employers, employees, women organizations all were thinking to how to eliminate this menace from the society. Everybody want to prevent Sexual Harassment from their society as it is the first step to prohibit or abolish any hazardous thing from the society. To achieve this, one needs legislation as a tool based on that the government and the organizations will be able to make strategies and policies to remove the issue.

As we all know Sexual Harassment is universal problem which is a kind of violence against women. International community has recognized in their international treaties and documents that being free from Sexual Harassment is the human rights of the women. All the legal instruments dealing with this matter have laid down protection of life and liberty and these instruments have been used as a source to prevent and address the issue.

In India till the Vishakha judgment came into force there was no law for governing this matter. The guidelines laid down in this case were derived from the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Even the Constitution of India had grounded provisions in the form of fundamental rights of life and liberty, the right against discrimination and the freedom to practice any trade or profession or to carry on any occupation.

Vishaka Guidelines Against Sexual Harassment At Work Place

Guidelines and norms laid down by the hon'ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Vishaka and others vs. State of Rajasthan and others is that it is necessarily and expediently observed that certain guidelines given in the case of vishaka as to prevention of sexual harassment of women at workplace as an employer as well as other responsible person or institution.

Duty of the employer or other responsible persons in work places are it shall be the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in work places or other institutions, to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts, of sexual harassment by taking these preventive steps into consideration.

Preventive Steps

All employers or persons in-charge of work place in any sector either in public or private sector should have to take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment at work place. Without being prejudice to the generality of this obligation, they should take the following steps:

a. Express prohibition of sexual harassment as defined above at the work place should be notified, published and circulated in appropriate manner.

b. The rules that governs the public and government sector's behavior and discipline should includes rules for prohibition of sexual harassment and also provides appropriate penalties in such rules against the person who is exercising sexual harassment at workplace .

c. With regards to the private employers, steps should be taken for the prohibitions of sexual harassment in the standing orders under the industrial employment (standing orders) act, 1946.

d. Appropriate work conditions have been given to them in respect of work, leisure, health and hygiene so that no employee woman should have reason to believe that they are having disadvantage with regards to their employment in that unfavorable working condition.


Here are some of the suggestions and recommendation which will help in prevention of sexual harassment incidents at workplace:

1. All the organizations should train their employees about sexual harassment and its legal implications where it is suitable to them.

2. Seminars, workshops and mock drills should be organized by the competent authority about the evil practice of sexual harassment.

3. Maximum number of job opportunities and promotion slots should be reserved for women which will help them to not to get emotionally tracked and avoid their future worry.

4. Internal complaints committee and grievance cells should be established in every organizational setup wither it is governmental or private person to monitor the cases of sexual harassment.

5. Legal awareness program should be arranged and organized by each department under government and private sectors which will be familiar to their women employees about their rights and privileges.


In India Sexual harassment at the workplace still exists in today's world. The study revealed that sexual harassment has recently emerged social evil which is growing with extreme speed and gives much concern to the authorities about the issues. The present study laid down the cause that gave spontaneous increase in the sexual harassment cases in India. Dominance of men at workplace should be put under stack by giving women an extra edge for promotions and other privileges and it surely bring down the number of cases reported each year. Besides this another major cause for sexual harassment is higher educational profile of women who are being betrayed and offered sexual advances by the bosses of an organizations in lieu of job needs to be addressed very strictly. The present study analyze that data of National Crime Records Bureau was released by the department in 2016 and the extensive survey was reported in the report. In short it is being observed that the cases of sexual harassment of women at work place in India are increasing day by day. There is a need to provide such a mechanism that could better halt the situation and reduce down the number of cases of sexual harassment at the workplace.

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