Sexual Harassment Act, 2013

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In the past, the global population was predominantly female. However, gender disparities were there, with women confined to traditional roles as homemakers, while men were considered the breadwinners of the family. Over time, development in society brought about significant changes. Women began to take on active roles both within the household and in the workforce, striving to establish their identity and contribute financially to their families. Despite these advancements, women continued to face violence and exploitation in male-dominated societies. The workplace, too, was not always a safe place for them.

Recognizing the urgent need to protect women’s rights, nations worldwide sought to implement laws and acts aimed at ensuring their safety and well-being. In India, the “Posh Act,” officially known as the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, came into effect in 2013. However, its implementation faced challenges due to uncertainties and gaps in the system. Consequently, there increased a demand for clear guidelines and directions to effectively enforce this act on such a large scale.

How did the POSH Act come into force?

The Posh Act (Prevention of Sexual Harassment, 2013) came into force in 2013 to address the issues of sexual harassment faced by females in the workplace. This act came into force after a shocking incident. In 1992, a women social activist was brutally gang-raped by a few men after she tried to stop the child marriage of a girl. It was felt that women were not safe in the workplace, so a law was needed to safeguard the interests of women. The act was made in 1997 by the Government of India. A set of practices (Vishakha Guidelines) was laid down under this act to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. This act drew its strength from Article 15 under which any kind of discrimination based on caste, gender, color or sex is prohibited. Following this act, the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill was introduced. This bill came into force on December 9, 2013, as the Posh Act (Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace).

What are the requirements imposed on employers under this act?

There are certain conditions/ obligations imposed on the employers by the Government under the POSH Act. Here are the conditions imposed on employers:

1. Those organizations which employ 10 or more employees are required to form an Internal Complaint Committee so that any female employee can approach it to file a sexual harassment complaint.

2. The committee formed must have at least two women employees, and it must include a women NGO worker, having five years of experience. The NGO worker must be aware of the challenges faced by women.

3. Along with the internal committee formed in the organization, every district must have a committee to receive and solve the complaints from the internal committee of the organization.

4. Both internal and external committees must comply with the rules and regulations laid down in the POSH Act.

5. A woman can file a complaint against sexual harassment within 3 to 6 months through any of the committees in a written format.

6. Every employer must file an annual audit report at the end of the year with the district officer stating the total number of cases or complaints received.

7. It is the duty and responsibility of the employer to organize workshops and regular events to aware their employees about sexual harassment.

8. An employer has to pay a fine of ₹ 50,000 if they fail to make an Internal Complaint Committee and this fine can increase further if there is repeated negligence from the employer’s side.

What are the hurdles to the Act’s implementation?

After the POSH Act was passed it came up with certain hurdles regarding its successful implementation. Here are some of the hurdles that arose:


1. It was reported that in India, 16 out of 30 sports committees or federations don’t have ICC (Internal Complaint Committee) to address or report cases of sexual harassment. This report came after various allegations of sexual harassment were imposed on the head of the Wrestling Federation of India (Brij Bhushan). This was not a single case of implementation. Various allegations were imposed since the act was enacted related to issues in implementation.


2. One of the other concerns is that this act does not lay down the accountability of the act. This act doesn’t state who is responsible if the norms and rules are not followed. No one was held responsible if the provisions were not followed.     


3. The law was inaccessible to the females who were working in the informal sector. According to a report, 80% of females were working in the informal sector. The major issue that arose in the informal sector was that the cases of sexual harassment were not reported at all. So the problem was not the presence of the law but the proper implementation of the law in place.


4. In most of the cases it was noticed that the evidence related to sexual harassment was missing at the time and people were afraid to speak against it. In some cases, women refuse to report the issue because of their fear of job loss, penalties and shame in society.


What are the Supreme Court’s recent concerns and directions?

The cases of sexual harassment not only hurt the dignity of women in society but also affect their emotional and mental health in the long run. The court says that the dignity of women can’t be retained until or unless there is strict enforcement or adherence to the Act. So these laws must be implemented in the long run.

The Supreme Court provided direction to Unions, States and Union territories to cross-check and verify whether Ministries, Government Associations, bodies, and public sector undertakings had made Internal Complaint Committees, Local Committees and Internal committees under the Posh Act. They are also directed to publish information about these committees on their respective websites. A period of eight weeks is provided to do so and submit an affidavit in the court.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

POSH stands for Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace in India.

The Sexual harassment Act was passed in 2013 to safeguard females against sexual harassment at the workplace.

A women should report the case of sexual harassment to the appropriate authority within six months.

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