The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act) which is considered to be of the better piece of legislation protecting women’s rights and dignity, exists only on paper in the Chennai, especially in the Collectorate and its subordinate offices. The executive authorities appear uninterested in implementing this progressive law and awareness about this law is lacking among employers, employees, and workplaces including companies, shops, households, and government organizations alike. This scenario does not only hold for rural areas but also to the metropolitan city like Chennai.
Only one Complaint received by LCC
Awareness of the POSH Act is low even in Chennai, which is the capital city of Tamil Nadu. This is evident from the claims of the Chennai District Collector’s office in a recent RTI reply that its Local Complaint Committee (LCC) had received only one complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace between 2014 and 2019. The Local Complaints Committee is the committee, which receives a complaint from women in workplaces with less than 10 people employees.
No Internal Complaints Committees (ICC)
As far as Internal Complaints Committees are concerned, only the District Collectorate-Chennai office has constituted one. We did not receive any reply from Chennai District’s Central and South Divisions on this question. The North Chennai Division office replied that information regarding ICC is not readily available, which can only indicate that an ICC has not been constituted yet. The Mambalam Taluka Office also replied that no committee has been constituted to register sexual harassment complaints.
No Awareness programmes
Despite the poor implementation of Act, the Chennai District Authority did not conduct even a single workshop to create awareness among the stakeholders like the general public, employers, employees, and especially those working in unorganized sectors.
In response to the RTI question on the number of workshops and awareness programmes conducted by the District Collectorate-Chennai during between 2014 and 2019, the Social Welfare Department, Chennai replied that “(they) will be conducted soon”. This means no workshop or awareness programmes on the crucial POSH Act has been held in Chennai District by the District Administration. This is even though Section 19 of POSH mandates every employer to organize workshops and awareness programs at regular intervals for sensitizing the employees with the provisions of the Act and to provide a mechanism of redressal where such incidence happens to ensure justice to the victim of sexual harassment.
The authorities who are at the helm of various departments should consider that when the level of seriousness displayed in implementing the POSH Act in Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, could well have an effect on other Districts in implementing the POSH Act. Therefore, it is time to start constituting ICC/LCCs at Government establishments and create awareness and training workshops across the Chennai District and the State of Tamil Nadu about the POSH Act to ensure a safe workplace environment for our women.