Unit 1: Evolution of anti-harassment law
The course begins with an introductory video, which briefly gives an insight into the course. The first module of the course is regarding the evolution of the anti-harassment law. It states that while the phenomenon of sexual harassment has been prevalent since time immemorial, the focus on it is recent, especially in India. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, is the first time that it has been addressed by law in India.It then proceeds to discuss certain international legal provisions on sexual harassment, and talks about India’s ratification of CEDAW (1993), which is the leading international document on sexual harassment. The Beijing Declarationof 1995, an important document on the phenomenon, is also discussed.
Then, certain nuances of sexual harassment are discussed; how itaffects workforce and is a deterrent to economic and financial emancipation. It is also pointed out that it usually occurs by men against women, and is more about power and control, than sexual activity.
This is followed by a brief explanation of two landmark court cases on the issue of sexual harassment. The first is Vishakha vs State of Rajasthan, which was a public interest litigation filed against the State of Rajasthan by a group of social activists, and which ended in the recognition of sexual harassment as a violation of Article 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The judgement in this case led to the creation of the ‘Vishakha Guidelines’- a 12 point document applicable to all employers and institutions to prohibit, prevent and redress sexual harassment of women at the workplace. The second case, Medha Kotwal Lele Vs. Union of India, was a culmination of four public interest litigations, to bring the judiciary’s focus on the lack of implementation of the Vishakha guidelines.These two cases are included as supplementary material in the module.
The reading material finally ends with a delineation of certain key features of the Sexual Harassment Act. It also discusses certain criticisms and loopholes of the same.
The module also includes two short video lectures which summarizes the reading material. The first video lecture discusses the two court cases, and how it led to the passing of the Sexual Harassment Act in 2013. The second discusses the Sexual Harassment Act in detail.
From the point of view of a new student,the first module is quite informative and enlightening. Although to a lay person, the use of legal terminology can be slightly confusing, overall, the module is crisp, as well as thorough. It provides a good historical background to the development of the Sexual Harassment Act (2013), and also outlines its key features well.
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