- An investigation revealed that more than half — 16 — of India’s 30 national sports federations do not have an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), a legal requirement under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Act, 2013.
- As many as 16 of the 30 national sports federations of disciplines in which India has participated in the 2018 Asian Games, Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and Commonwealth Games, do not meet this mandatory compliance.
- And this, when there has been a record uptick in women’s participation in sports.
- Their number in the Khelo India Games, an index of this growing trend, showed a 161 per cent increase from 2018 to 2020.
What is the Internal Complaints Committee under the law?
The ICC was designed to be the first port of call for any grievance under the PoSH Act to create a safe workplace environment for women.
As per the law, it needs to have a minimum of four members:
- at least half of them women.
- A functional ICC is one of the key conditions set up by the Ministry of Sports to grant annual recognition to the federations.
- Employers must constitute an Internal Complaints Committee in their organisation to address complaints of sexual harassment.
- A woman must head the ICC.
- At least half of its members should be women.
- Employers must take steps to prevent sexual harassment and ensure that the victims are not victimised or discriminated against.
- Employers must provide necessary support and assistance to the complainant and make arrangements for her work in case she has to be transferred.
About the Act:
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, commonly known as the PoSH Act, was passed in 2013.
- The POSH Act was enacted to protect against sexual harassment of women in workplaces.
- This Act makes it mandatory for employers to provide a safe and secure work environment to female employees.
- It defined sexual harassment, lay down the procedures for complaint and inquiry, and the action to be taken in cases of sexual harassment.
- The 2013 law broadened and gave legislative backing to what are known as the Vishaka Guidelines, which were laid down by the Supreme Court in a judgment passed in 1997.
- The Vishaka Guidelines defined sexual harassment and imposed three key obligations on institutions:
- prohibition, prevention, redress.
- The Supreme Court directed that they should establish a Complaints Committee, which would look into matters of sexual harassment of women at the workplace.
- The court made the guidelines legally binding.
The complaints committee
The PoSH Act mandated that every employer must constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch that had 10 or more employees.
What constitutes sexual harassment under the PoSH Act?
- Physical contact and advances
- A demand or request for sexual favours
- Sexually coloured remarks
- Showing pornography
Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
In addition, the PoSH Act mentions five circumstances that amount to sexual harassment:
- Implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment;
- Implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment;
- Implied or explicit threat about the complainant’s present or future employment status;
- Interference with the complainant’s work or creating an offensive or hostile work environment;
- Humiliating treatment of the complainant that is likely to affect her health or safety
Procedure for complaint under the Act
- It is not compulsory for the aggrieved victim to file a complaint for the ICC to take action.
- The Act says that she may do so and if she cannot, any member of the ICC shall render all reasonable assistance to her to complain in writing.
- If the woman cannot complain because of physical or mental incapacity or death or otherwise, her legal heir may do so.
- The ICC may either forward the victim’s complaint to the police, or it can start an inquiry that has to be completed within 90 days.
SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB