Women in India are protected from sexual harassment at the workplace under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) 2013 Act. The objective of the Act is to create a safe and secure workplace for women free from sexual harassment.
If you are a working woman in any capacity as given under, you will be protected from being subjected to sexual harassment at the workplace:
- A full-time employee
- A part-time employee
- A contractual employee
- Working for compensation (cash or other)
- A visitor to a workplace
- A domestic help
- Hired through an agency
- Working on a short-term basis
- Working on a long-term basis
- Working on a daily basis
- A volunteer
- An intern
How to file a complaint?
If you have faced sexual harassment at the workplace, this is how you can file a complaint:
- Draft a complaint. Emphasise that you want confidentiality.
- Make six copies of the complaint
- Make sure to submit any supporting documents with the complaint
- Make sure you submit the names and addresses of any witnesses who are supporting your complaint. Provide any evidence that you have.
- Submit your complaint to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) within three months of the sexual harassment. If your workplace does not have an Internal Complaints Committee, you can go to the Local Complaints Committee that is closest to you.
- A criminal complaint can be filed against the harasser in case it has been three months since the incident of harassment.
You can also file a complaint online on the website of the Ministry of Women and Child Development through the SHe-Box or on National Commission of Women through Complaints Registration and Monitoring System. National Commission of Women have also created a dedicated email ID to receive such complaints: firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you have filed a complaint, check in regularly to make sure that your complaint is being dealt and you are getting feedback.
If you do not want to file a formal complaint, the employer can try to work out the situation with the other person. This is called “conciliation.”
If you are unable to file a complaint by yourself because of a physical issue, you can give a written permission to one of the following to file a complaint for you:
- A relative or friend
- A co-worker
- Someone who knows about the sexual harassment that took place, and has your written permission
- An officer of the National Commission for Women or State Women's Commission
How to get legal advice?
After #MeToo gained momentum on social media in India, various survivors shared queries about their legal options and how to follow up with legal cases. To support the survivors and give them legal advice, various lawyers have offered their services pro bono.
Journalist Rituparna Chatterjee has curated #MeTooSupportGroup that has a list of such lawyers. It is an open document and will be updated in real time on social media. You can access the list here.
Are there self-care tips to deal with trauma?
Here are a few self-care tips for survivors:
- Physical and emotional self-care: After a trauma, it’s important to keep your body and mind healthy and strong. It's extremely important that you understand that it is not your fault and you are not to be blamed. You can read more tips on physical and emotional self-care by RAINN. You can also refer to the state-wise repository of trusted mental health professionals across India, curated by The Health Collective, for more self-care suggestions.
- Positive affirmations: In order to reprogram subconscious mind, which has undoubtedly been affected by abusive words and actions, one has to literally reprogram our brain and minimize the negative, destructive automatic thoughts that may arise in our day-to-day life. Advocate and sexual abuse survivor Lauren Book encourages us to dig into our pain to regain power and create change. Read more at NDVH.
- Channel your pain into creativity: Art therapy is especially helpful to survivors of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because it enables survivors to find modes of expression that allow them to create and integrate rather than self-destruct. Read more at NDVH.
- Seek help and counselling: In an interview to The Quint, Shelja Sen, a child and adolescent psychologist and family therapist, urges survivors to break the cycle of silence and find people they can confide in. Apart from friends, relatives and family members, complainants can also reach out to 125 feminist individuals and organisation across the country who have given their unequivocal support to all women who are speaking fearlessly against misogyny they have experienced at workplaces.