Sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behavior (whether directly or by implication) as physical contact and advances; a demand or request for sexual favors; sexually coloured remarks; any other unwelcome physical verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. Where any of these acts is committed in circumstances where the victim has a reasonable apprehension that in relation to the victim’s employment or work whether she is drawing salary, or honorarium or voluntary, whether in government, public or private enterprise such conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and safety problem.
In 1997, a women’s rights group called Vishaka took up the cause and filed a PIL in the Supreme Court. This case brought to the attention of the Supreme Court of India, "the absence of domestic law occupying the field, to formulate effective measures to check the evil of sexual harassment of working women at all work places". The Supreme Court passed a landmark judgment in this case laying down guidelines to be followed by establishments in dealing with complaints about sexual harassment. The Court decided that the consideration of "International Conventions and norms are significant for the purpose of interpretation of the guarantee of gender equality, right to work with human dignity in Articles 14, 15 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution and the safeguards against sexual harassment implicit therein".
The consequences to the individual employee can be many and serious. In some situations, a harassed woman risks losing her job or the chance for a promotion if she refuses to give in to the sexual demands of someone in authority. In other situations, the unwelcome sexual conduct of co-workers makes the working conditions hostile and unpleasant- putting indirect pressure on her to leave the job. Sometimes, the employee is so traumatized by the harassment that she suffers serious emotional and physical consequences and very often, becomes unable to perform her job properly. The effect on the morale of all employees can also be serious. Both men and women in a workplace can find their work disrupted by sexual harassment even if they are not directly involved. Sexual harassment can have a demoralising effect on everyone within range of it, and it often negatively impacts company productivity on the whole.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was notified in December 2013. It criminalises sexual harassment at workplace and describes a proper redressal mechanism. Now, every company needs to comply with the norms of the Act and set up a committee for the redressal of such issues.