Better Future for Women at Work: Combating Violence and Sexual Harassment at Work

As per Census 2011 (reported in The Statistical Profile on Women Labour), literacy levels in Indian men and women were reported to be 82 percent and 65 percent, respectively. The total percentage of women in workforce, constituted 30 percent in rural areas and 15 percent in the urban areas. The Census arrived at an average per day wage of men and women for the previous year and reported that the former in Public Sector earned Rs. 619 while the latter earned Rs. 328. In the Private Sector, men reported to earn Rs. 255 while the women earned Rs. 139. The Joint Sector reflected a startling gap as men reported Rs. 725 and women, Rs. 293 per day wage.


In the year 2009, Central Organizations (Unions) registered under the Trade Unions Act (1921), reported only 36 percent women members and the State Organizations (Unions) reported 32 percent women members. The Factories Act (1948) makes it mandatory for every factory to provide and maintain crèche facility for children under the age of 6 years. Any factory having more than 30 women employees is under obligation for the aforementioned Act. At an All India level (2010), an estimated of only 3289 factories reported adherence to the provision of The Factories Act.Some provisions in the Minimum Wages Act (1948) is intrinsically linked to the Maternity Benefits Act (1961). The former Act decrees that the organization for which a female employee works, provides to her, certain benefits in case of miscarriage, premature birth or illness arising out of pregnancy. In the year 2011, the 44,693 establishments (in plantations) reported adherence to the Maternity Benefits Act. This has not only been a decline from 60,185 establishments for the year 2001; but also is an overall truncated figure considering all the 28 states in India. The Plantation Labour Act (1951) covers every Tea, Coffee, Rubber and Cardamom Plantations measuring 5 hectares or more wherein 15 or more persons were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months.For the year 2010, ‘The Statistical Profile on Women Labour’ reported 61 percent share of women employment in plantations but has not provided statistics on the plantations that provide benefits to their female employees, under the Act. For the Public Sector factories,about 16 percent women workers were reported to be employed, in the year 2010. Of the 16 percent women workers, three types of factories reported their highest proportions of employment. ‘Other Mining and Quarrying’ reported higher head count of female workers over male workers in the year 2010 and as per percentage, women constituted 53 percent of the workforce. ‘Manufacturing of Food and Beverage’ and ‘Sewage / Refuse Disposal Sanitation and Similar Activities’ reported 42 percent women workers. ‘Recreational, Cultural and Sporting Activities’ and‘Health and Social Work’ constituted least number of women workers (1 percent) as per the year 2010’s figures. The Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act which was established in the year 2013, provides protection to women through redressal committees,against sexual harassment. In the year 2016, the Maternity Benefits Act (1961) was amended and the entitlement of the women was extended to 26 weeks from the earlier provision of 12 weeks’ paid maternity leave.


The Indian judiciary system has comprehensively ensured systems that protect women so that they can be productive in the work environment. The lacunae has been found in the implementation of those existing Acts which has resulted, due to absence of overall monitoring mechanism and tapping into the complexity of informal sector which has high proportion of women workers. The informal sector, intrinsically, has not created systems for employer accountability. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS) has defined the informal/ unorganized sector as all unincorporated private enterprises owned by individuals or households engaged in the sale and production of goods and services operated on a proprietary or partnership basis and with less than ten workers. As per the Analysis of the Informal Labour Market in India report, in the year 2011-12, 90 percent of the informal sector employment is unorganized. Of the 90 percent informal unorganized sector, ‘Agriculture’(100 percent) followed by ‘Services’(69 percent) has claimed the highest percentage chunk . The women workers in the informal sector reported lack of parity in wages; a phenomena that has been observed across the sectors. There is no social protection, decent work for women and they are subjected to exploitation and harassment at work; the judicial redressal of which is beyond the purview of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act (2013).

sexual harassment in the workplace

At Centre for Social Research, we have been working towards the cause of violence against women, and specifically sexual harassment at workplace for many years now. Our Gender Training Institute aims to inculcate gender sensitivity amongst different domains such as police, lawmakers, accountants and health professionals, so as to prevent any untoward incident of sexual harassment, and how to deal with future cases of sexual harassment. Additionally, we have developed a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on, titled “Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace”. You can ready about it in these blogs (1, 2, 3, 4).

We believe that it is important that for ensuring decent work for women by creating not just legal framework, but also its implementation mechanism which should categorize labour force in ‘reachable’ and ‘non-reachable’ category. Tribals, migrant workers, self-employed and those engaged in family enterprise would constitute the latter category. The current situation is dismal regarding implementation of labour laws; although the systems for the same have been created efficiently.

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