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, seems to be so 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.
On 9th March, 2019, Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) organised a one-day consultation with Centre for Reproductive Rights (CRR), to discuss the implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA) and the 2016 Karnataka Amendment to the PCMA.
In 2013, Independent Thought, a voluntary organisation involved with the issue of child rights approached the Supreme Court seeking a declaration that Exception 2 to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code violates Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution to the extent that fixes a lower age of consent and permits forced sexual intercourse by the husband with a girl who is between the ages of 15 to 18. Consequently, on 28.08.2017, an application for Intervention was filed on behalf of the Child Rights Trust, a non-governmental organisation working to secure Every Right for Every Child. Advocate Jayna Kothari, Executive Director of the Centre for Law & Policy Research appeared and argued on behalf of the Child Rights Trust.
With utmost respect to the Supreme Court, it is absolutely incorrect to state that domestic violence is gender-neutral. It is not. The world over, a vast majority of domestic violence is experienced by women at the hands of men. It is not a random event of violence but is a consequence and a cause of women’s inequality and is linked to the discrimination and devaluing of women. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, reported cases of domestic violence in India went up from 50,703 in 2003 to 1,18,866 in 2013. These are all cases of domestic violence against men. The U.K. Violent Crime and Sexual Offences study of 2011-2012 reported that 80 per cent of offenders in domestic or sexual violence were male.
hile endorsing these criticisms of the draft bill, CLPR has in its comments to the Ministry, highlighted some additional points of concern and has suggested measures which could possibly strengthen the law. For instance, with regard to the enforcement mechanism, CLPR has suggested that it is imperative that there be an identification of nodal authorities such as the National Commission for Women, the Juvenile justice authorities as well as the Labour Department, which are crucial to the smooth and coordinated enforcement of the provisions of the bill. These nodal authorities can receive complaints and take the assistance of support services provided by stakeholders and non-governmental organizations, such as Childline.
The Supreme Court has been predominantly lauded in 2015 for its far-reaching judgment in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India that expansively interpreted the freedom of speech. But we must not forget that the Supreme Court and some of the High Courts have rendered a few prominent judgments that have upheld women’s rights significantly in 2015.
While conducting a study of the Fast Track Courts that have been instituted in Bangalore to try cases of rape and sexual assault, it was startling to discover that out of the 12 cases that have been disposed of by the FTCs since their establishment, 11 resulted in acquittals. The only case which resulted in the conviction of the accused was for the offence of “attempt to rape” and not rape. In this case, the court heavily relied on the medical reports which stated that the victim was “used to having sexual intercourse.”1 This conclusion was drawn by the Medical Officer upon conducting the two-finger test”.
The gruesome gang rape in Delhi in December 2012 re-ignited popular demands for fast-track courts to be established to conduct speedy trials in cases of sexual violence against women and on August 13, 2013, the Government of Karnataka passed an order (G.O. No.74 LCE 2013, dated 13.08. 2013) directing 10 fast track courts to be set up in Karnataka solely to try cases of rape and sexual assault against women. CLPR conducted a detailed study of the setup and working of these fast track courts.
The Union Ministry for Women and Child Development has proposed a repeal and re-enactment of the existing Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (the JJ Act 2000), the primary law in the country dealing with children in conflict with the law and children in need of care and protection. CLPR provided its comments to the Ministry on two aspects of the proposed draft Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children), Bill 2014 – the treatment of children between the ages of 16 and 18 who are alleged to be in conflict with the law and the provisions relating to foster care.
On the 8th of November 2013, CLPR hosted Chitra Balakrishnan who presented her research paper titled “Understanding gender and judging through residence orders in Karnataka Trial Courts – A discourse analysis”.
Her research seeks to answer three main questions: Are judges in the lower courts in India making reasoned feminists judgments? Can the Hunter framework apply to trial court orders? What are the additional criteria one needs to look at to call a judgment feminist?
The US Supreme Court’s decision last month in US v Windsor has been celebrated around the world as a progressive step in gay rights and legalizing same-sex marriages. Even in India, it is anticipated that this judgment will be able to leave an impact on the pending Naz appeal decision in the Supreme Court. Although Naz and Windsor deal with different issues (decriminalization of homosexual acts in Naz and, recognition of same-sex marriages in Windsor), the fundamental concern is to stop discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
A brief of the most important international rules in the matter of male/female equality.
The 2013 United Nations theme for International Women’s Day fits into the theme of the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women being held at the United Nations Headquarters, New York. Making the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls its major theme, the session seeks to focus on two key areas – (1) the prevention of violence and (2) the provision of support systems and rehabilitative measures to victims of violence.
he violation of human rights pertains to ‘rape cases’ including distorting investigation in rape, pre-conceived notions of ‘honour’, certain regressive court judgments (in some cases, we are told, that the rapist made a magnanimous offer to marry the girl). Thus, complaints of rape become mere matters of formality – low on priority because there is no understanding of the acuteness of the violation of the human rights of a woman and the psychological trauma she undergoes. This is compounded by vulnerabilities emanating from class/caste/community disadvantages and also that of poverty. This has led to a subculture of oppression.
A law on sexual harassment at workplace has been one of the most awaited and anticipated laws since the landmark ruling of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241 where the Supreme Court observed that sexual harassment at workplace constituted a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. Making the above observation, the Court in an unprecedented move, proceeded to lay down guidelines that were to be followed in all workplaces until a suitable domestic law is provided for by the legislature. Another remarkable and novel feature of the judgment was its inclusion of the private sector apart from the public sector in its direction for employers to establish sufficient preventive and remedial systems in the workplace for female employees.