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'SHe-box' portal launched for complaints on sexual harassment
Jul 26, 2017

[GS Paper II: (Mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of the vulnerable sections)]

On July 24, Ministry of Women & Child Development launched an online complaint management system titled Sexual Harassment electronic–Box (SHe-Box) for registering complaints related to sexual harassment at workplace. 

  • The complaint management system has been developed to ensure the effective implementation of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (the SH Act), 2013.
  • Though currently this facility has been extended to employees of Central Government, the scope of the portal will soon be extended to women employees of private sector. 

Key provisions of the SH Act, 2013

  • The Act defines sexual harassment at the work place and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints.  It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.
  • Under the act, every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.  
  • Similarly, the District Officer is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee with powers of civil courts at each district, and if required at the block level.
  • Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to Rs 50,000.  Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.  

Vishaka Guidelines 

  • Before the SH Act was drafted, cases of sexual harassment at workplaces were dealt through the Supreme Court guidelines called the Vishaka Gudielines.
  • These guidelines were laid down by the SC in Vishaka and others v State of Rajasthan case in 1997. 
  • The Vishaka guidelines define sexual harassment including unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication) as: Physical contact and advances; A demand or request for sexual favours; Sexually coloured remarks; Showing pornography; Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
  • The guidelines say that “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 all steps required.”
  • It lays down a grievance redressal mechanism that mandates all companies, whether operating in the public or private sector, to set up Complaints Committee within the organisation to look into such offences. Such Committee should involve a third party, either NGO or other body which is familiar with the issue of sexual harassment.

PT Facts:

  • The SH Act upholds women’s fundamental rights to equality (Article 14, 15 and 16), right to live with dignity (Article 21) and right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to a safe working environment, free from sexual harassment as provided under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Indian Constitution.
  • The complaint committees under the act have been vested with the power of civil courts.

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