Sexual harassment at workplace explained

sexual harassment vishakha guidelines

Sexual harassment at workplace was not originally conceived as a separate offence in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The question drew first attention in India in 1997. The credit goes to the instrument of Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which, itself, is a creation of judiciary. An NGO, called Vishakha, took a case of gangrape in Rajasthan to the Supreme Court challenging the Rajasthan High Court verdict.

While hearing the matter, the Supreme Court noted the lack of legal recourse against sexual harassment at workplace. The Supreme Court defined what would constitute sexual harassment at workplace and issued guidelines that were to have statutory value until a proper law was enacted by Parliament.

Before the Supreme Court set the law against sexual harassment at workplace in order, such cases were dealt under IPC Section 354 (outraging the modesty of women) and Section 509 (using a word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman).

In the concerned case, a Rajasthan government employee with the Women’s Development Project was gangraped for campaigning against and stopping child marriage. Powerful landlords of a village, not very far from Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur, were accused of perpetrating the crime as they were enraged by the “guts” of a “lowly-born woman” who opposed marriage of a child of Gurjar family.

The incident took place in 1992. Both the trial court and the high court found the accused not guilty.

A group of activists, under Vishakha, moved the Supreme Court in 1997. And, sexual harassment at workplace got a definition in India. It took another 16 years for Parliament to replace the Vishakha guidelines with a law called, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.


What is sexual harassment?

In simple words, sexual harassment at workplace is an act or a pattern of behaviour that compromises physical, emotional or financial safety and security of a woman worker. Legally speaking, sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour as:

a) physical contact and advances;
b) a demand or request for sexual favours;
c) sexually coloured remarks;
d) showing pornography;
e) any other unwelcome physical verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Sexual harassment is also understood to have taken place if a victim has reasonable apprehension of facing humiliation, and health and safety problem at the place of her work.

If the employer or the co-workers by any action or words or gesture create a hostile environment for a woman worker, it amounts to sexual harassment.

The 2013 Act has also defined a quid pro quo arrangement undermining the consent of the aggrieved woman employee as sexual harassment. This is a significant clause as it removes the oft-referred defence by the accused that the act was consensual in exchange for some favour. The authority of the aggressor has been taken into account under this provision.

Under the law, physical contact between the aggressor and the victim is not required for the occurrence of sexual harassment. Verbal abuses, lewd jokes, sexual gestures, sharing of pornographic material, spreading rumours to tarnish reputation or any other act that creates a hostile work environment constitutes sexual harassment.

The law and the Vishakha guidelines don’t put a restriction of time period for lodging a complaint of sexual harassment.

A person found guilty of sexual harassment at workplace may be sent to prison for three years under modified IPC Section 354.

In cases of rape, the maximum punishment is decided in accordance of Section 376 – life imprisonment except when victim dies or is left in vegetative state.

NGO distributes Wheel chairs to the Disabled in Kashmir!

CEEOIndia in collaboration with Wheels for life, kick started distribution of Wheel Chair among Disable people in Jammu and Kashmir State. Shri Aga Syed Mehmood Al-Mosavi (Hon’ble, Member of Legislative Council, Jammu and Kashmir Government) inaugurated the function along with Priyanka Malhotra (Chairperson Wheels for Life) an Extension support to Ministry Of Social Justice and empowerment of Disable person across the India. Speaking on their occasion, Chief Guest assured that Government should involve all efforts to boost the caliber of people with multiple disabilities and they are part of our society only. The programme was attended by District Administration Budgam, Personnel from departments of central Government and other allied departments. Wheel chairs has been distributed among poor and disable people of Budgam, Baramulla, Bandipora and Ganderbal District. The organization will try to reach every disable across the country and stand for the rights of disable people.



N.G.Os alone provide effective care to the mentally challenged!

mental illness,ASHA,health care


India’s Mental Health Care Act is one of the most progressive legislations on mental health globally, and should be read as a bill of rights for people with mental disorders. Fundamentally, the Act enshrines equality for mentally ill people with those who have physical health problems in all matters related to health care. Conceptually, it transforms the focus of mental health legislations from supposedly protecting society and families by relegating people with mental disorders to second-class citizens, to emphasising the provision of affordable care, aligned with the preferences and needs of the affected person, financed by the government, through the primary care system.

Involuntary treatment and confinement in mental hospitals, which have historically been associated with profound depravity and abuse of human rights and which have been robustly contested by the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, has been greatly reined in with stringent procedures to ensure that these are restricted to the rarest of circumstances with systemic supports to enable the right of the person to make his/ her own decision.

However, it is hard to imagine these visionary ideals finding their way into the grim realities of the lived experiences of the tens of millions of Indians living with a mental disorder and the countless more of their family members and friends who are also affected. The National Mental Health Survey of India (2016), the largest exercise to count the numbers of people affected by mental disorders, reported that one of every ten adults experiences a clinically significant condition. Nearly 90% of these people have received no care at all in the past year.

The recent observation that some of the victims of the horrific series of lynchings in our country were people with mental disorders is a tragic reminder of their vulnerability. Indeed, no other health condition in this country has such astonishing levels of unmet needs for care. Scarcity is the mother of invention, and this is so true of health care innovations in India, a country where the majority of people get too little of the care that they desperately need, while a few get as much care, never mind if it is actually needed, that they can pay for. And the care that many receive, whether too little or too much, is often not aligned with scientific evidence. In the case of mental disorders, for example, only a tiny fraction of the population will have access to brief psychosocial interventions, one of the most effective classes of treatments in medicine.

As with so many other formidable challenges facing our people, the community has been at the heart of innovative solutions. A variety of community actions have illustrated paths to mental health care which is affordable, evidence based, empowering and equitable. Prominent amongst these are the use of community based workers to deliver mental health care.

The community health worker, including cadre such as the ASHA worker and the Auxiliary Nurse Midwife, are the foundation of our public health care system. Indeed, they have played a central role in the success of our public health programmes which substantially reduced maternal and child mortality. Even as they are slowly, but surely, winning these age-old battles, they present a unique human resource to be deployed to helping people with mental disorders to recovery.

Over the past decade, some national health care programmes (such as for adolescent health) and NGOs have begun to task community-based workers to provide low intensity psychosocial interventions. Sangath, an NGO I co-founded in Goa in 1996, has pioneered the design of an entire suite of psycho social interventions for delivery by persons from the local community with no prior professional training in mental health. These interventions have targeted a range of conditions, from autism in childhood, emotional and behavioural problems in adolescents, depression, drinking problems and psychosis in adults, to dementia in older people. Through rigorous public health trials, we have demonstrated, time and again, that such interventions are not only effective but, importantly, highly desired by people who are affected by these disorders. There is no longer any doubt about whether community health workers can be trained and supervised to deliver clinically effective psychosocial interventions. The challenge before us now is how to go beyond pilots and research studies and scale these innovations up in routine health care.

Sangath is currently embarking on a series of projects seeking to achieve these goals, by embedding its proven interventions for delivery through existing community health workers and counsellors of the public system, in partnership with state governments. In New Delhi, we will train ASHA workers to deliver parent-mediated interventions for children with autism. In Madhya Pradesh, we will design digital interventions to train and support ASHA workers to deliver brief psychological therapies for depression. In Goa, we will train primary care based counsellors and community based workers to reduce the burden of depression in the population. Each of these models for scaling up could offer opportunities for wider adoption across the country.

No NGO can ever match the mandate, reach and resources of the state for taking health care to India’s vast and diverse population. For this to happen, we will need a structural rethink in how we plan and implement mental health care. The doctor and hospital-centric approach which dominates must be balanced with a robust investment in community based care, as was done with such great results for maternal and child health.

The recent decision to rebrand the primary health care sub-centre as a Health and Wellness centre, with a mid-level provider trained in community health, offers a major new opportunity. Coordination between mental health professionals, primary care providers and community workers is essential to address the longterm nature of many mental disorders and the need for integrating clinical and social care. Only then will the creativity and science, which harnesses civil society’s talent and instinct to care, be able to play its rightful role in realising the vision of the National Mental Health Care Act.

The author is the Pershing Square Professor of Global Health at Harvard Medical School and is affiliated with the Public Health Foundation of India and Sangath.

NGO – United Sisters Foundations’ Fearless Midnight Run!


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At midnight on Monday, more than 200 women took to the streets in Delhi to participate in a five-kilometre “Fearless Run”. The midnight run was organised at Delhi’s Connaught Place, in an attempt to reclaim public spaces of a city described as one of the most unsafe in the world for women.

The unique initiative, organised by Delhi Police and a Delhi-based NGO, the United Sisters Foundation, was flagged off by Joint Commissioner of Police Ajay Chaudhury and social activist and acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal.

Speaking to NDTV, Ms Agarwal said, “It’s a very good initiative and when more women see me and all the others out on the streets at 1 AM, they too will be inspired.  It’s heartening to see that more and more women are becoming fearless.” On the issue of security, she said that while the police had shown their support, “it would be nice to see the support from police more often”.

The Delhi Police spoke about the safety initiatives taken by them and the helpline numbers for women. They also talked about the mobile app for women safety “Himmat Plus”. Speaking on these initiatives, Laxmi Agarwal said, “The number of helplines or apps launched by the police won’t make a difference until we see more awareness among the police personnel or support from them”.

Women and girls from across age groups took part in the midnight run and were joined by several women personnel of the Delhi Police. Also, several men from a cycling club from Indirapuram near Delhi accompanied their wives, daughters  and friends on their bicycles.


“The Fearless Run is a midnight-run of 5 Kms. It’s the symbol of reclamation & empowerment. Every woman participant learns that they can roam freely in all spaces irrespective of time,” Madhur Verma, Deputy Commissioner of Police in New Delhi district tweeted. “Today we must forego the stereotype of a woman being confined to the indoors after dark,” he said.

Wildlife NGO gets int’l award for conservation efforts in India.

India-based wildlife conservation charity ‘Wildlife SOS’ has been felicitated with Lifetime Achievement Award and ‘Conservation Medal’ by San Diego Zoo Global at their annual ‘Friends of the Animals’ event. The award was presented by San Diego Zoo Global’s President / CEO Douglas G Myers for their “dedicated conservation efforts” since 1995 when Wildlife SOS was established, and comes with a grant of $10,000 “to further the efforts of Wildlife SOS in this field”.