The Gender Issue

The Gender Issue

The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act, 2013 (the “Act”) is a statute aimed at creating a safe and healthy work environment for women. When the Act was brought into effect, organizations started off by aligning with the mandate prescribed under the Act, but over time, many companies evolved their approach. Most companies now have a gender-neutral policy which prevents and redresses complaints of sexual harassment involving all genders and orientations. However, the question now becomes whether such complaints come under the ambit of the Act? If the complainant is a woman, the Act is fairly clear on the legal process that should be followed. However, if the Complainant is someone other than a woman, they do not have redressal under the Act, but under the organization’s Gender-Neutral POSH Policy. 

 The logical next question then becomes the gender of the Respondent. While it is commonly assumed that the Respondent is a male, this might not be right in all circumstances. The Act itself defines the Respondent as a person against whom the aggrieved woman has made a complaint under Sec 9 of the Act. Considering that the definition is open ended when it comes to the gender of the Respondent, does it mean that in effect, the respondent could be a male, female or any other gender? The Act leaves this question unanswered and open to interpretation. Therefore, if such complaints reach the IC, what should be the stance of the IC? The answer may lie in careful examination of the organization’s POSH policy and handling of the issue in consultation with the company’s legal experts…

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