April 16, 2024

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Rights of Working Women In India

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A woman is the backbone of a family but isn’t this to be considered the same with the nation. There have been many cases where women are degraded in society, in all fields including the legal field. Women have numerous rights at the workplace, as she is to be protected, the law provides her with many rights to protect them and to empower them at the workplace. Being a woman in India is a challenge, as they are facing many problems at the street level, district and national level. This is where gender equality came into the picture, to eradicate the fear of society in the heart of women, this didn’t help the condition and gained a lot of criticism instead. This Snippet addresses the rights of working women in India.

Legislative Frameworks

Thereby, the legislature passed laws regarding working women like the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, Prohibition of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act of 2013, The Equal Remuneration Act of 1976 etc.

These laws provided them with numerous protections including,

  • Protection from sexual harassment
  • Protection from illegal termination of job
  • Protection from indecent representation
  • Protection from undue influence by superiors

There are numerous cases in India where working women faced discrimination even though it was exterminated under Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, Women fought against this discrimination and courts faced a challenge in adjudicating the cases, as it was a matter of Human Rights and in the post-independence era, there were a lot of issues in the matter of rights and their acceptance. Sexual harassment at the workplace made women suffer, many of these facts have come to light after one case has been filed by an employee against her employer for sexual harassment, As it is a matter of dignity, some women didn’t want to take the risk. Everyone has a right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

Sexual harassment includes such sexually determined behaviour

  1. Physical contact and advances against women.
  2. A demand or request for sexual favours with employees.
  3. Sexually coloured remarks.
  4. Showing pornography.
  5. Any other physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

A lot of women are facing the issue of Sexual harassment irrespective of the profession they are in, it is affecting every woman, the irrelevance of their work shift, the superiors taking advantage of their weaker position and advancing sexually is a crime which should be taken seriously, And it violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Mrs. Rupan Deol Bajaj v. Kanwar Pal Singh Gill, 1995 SCC (6) 194.

In the instant case,[1] Kanwar Pal Singh Gill, at the DGP, Punjab, was held guilty of the charges of molestation. On 20 August 1988, the court upheld Gill’s conviction under Section 354 (outraging the modesty of a woman) and Section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult a lady) for his action against Rupan Deol Bajaj. Another type of sexual harassment, being quid pro quo harassment where the superior asks the subordinate for sexual benefits, to give the payment of benefits or for promotions. This is the most common harassment as the male dominance is shown clearly and the women feel inferior and helpless in certain cases.

Indian Penal Code :

Under the Indian Penal Code of 1860, there are certain offences against women which would constitute a crime and would be liable for punishments

  1. Section 294 ( obscene acts and songs)
  2. Section 354 ( assault or criminal force to women with intent to outrage her modesty)
  3. Section 370 ( trafficking a person)
  4. Section 375 ( rape)
  5. Section 509 ( word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman)

Vishakha V State of Rajasthan & Ors AIR 1997 SC 3011

The honourable court in the instant case, [2] provided the employers shall satisfy certain functions to prevent sexual harassment at workplace, the employers and the senior directors of the company shall take appropriate steps like making aware of the employees about sexual harassment and their consequences, appropriate health conditions including healthy and safe work atmosphere. And any behaviour as per the above mentioned shall amount to misconduct in employment. The honourable court also gave the following: Awareness of the rights of female employees in this regard should be created in particular by suitably notifying the guidelines. Where sexual harassment occurs as a result of an act or omission by any third party or outsider, the employer and person in charge will take all steps necessary and reasonable to assist the affected person in terms of support and preventive action.

And sexual harassment under Indian law may not only be by the opposite sex but also the same-sex which might be due to any circumstance, There have been 469 cases reported at other premises while only 57 were reported in office premises in 2014, and in 2015 there was a rise in cases 714 and 119 respectively and in 2016 the numbers were 523 and 142. There has been a 54% rise in cases in 2014-17.[3]

Why Are Women Afraid?

Women are afraid due to their employment status and their financial status as the workplace might affect the further future of the woman, it might be due to other superiors mocking them and criticizing them, and there is no guarantee for them that it won’t recur again.

What Is The Reason For A Low Number Of Cases?

The reason is not that there is low sexual harassment at the workplace, there is no prior knowledge given to women was to report the harassment at the workplace, this is the major problem, women should be made aware of the laws against sexual harassment.

Ministry of WCD on Oct12, 2018, said “I believe in the pain and trauma behind every single complaint. Cases of #SexualHarassmentAtWork must be dealt with a policy of zero tolerance,”

Are Laws In India Efficient Reg. Sexual Harassment?

In these times, Indian laws are poor to handle the situation of sexual harassment, many unreported harassments are happening in India and women should be protected by law. They can be made efficient.

Who May Be Liable?

In sexual harassment, if there exists a superior who harassed, he or she might be liable and the supporters of him, directly or indirectly in that harassment will also be liable.

Where To Report?

Women facing Sexual harassment should first warn the harasser about the consequences, and the second action should be reporting to the management and the managing head about the issue, if they are negligent, women can approach a police station of concerned jurisdiction and can file a complaint against that superior.

How To Eradicate Sexual Harassment?

To eradicate sexual harassment, there must be a change in 2 things :

  1. Changing the minds of superiors and peers
  2. Change in law

The mind is the first place where a change should take part, there should be an equal view of everyone in the minds of people, no gender discrimination and sexual intent Or there must be a change in law, the laws protecting women should be strong enough for people to be afraid of them, The punishments should be severe and hence no one will think of sexual harassment if there’s a punishment which scares him.

Is Pornography Also A Reason For Sexual Harassment?

Pornography, men and youth are getting addicted to pornography, which is a problem because of their pornography addiction, everyone gets provoked and they make offences including harassment, rape. Due to no barriers to internet usage and access, there is a vast majority watching explicit content on the web, in a survey it was concluded that 70% of boys started watching explicit content at the age of 10.[4]

Other Rights Of Women At The Workplace :

  • Women have a right to equal and fair remuneration as everyone working should be paid accordingly. If there exists any disturbance in the above, the women can complain to the labour inspector.
  • Women should not be working more than 9 hours in offices and can work night shifts with higher pay.
  • Every workplace should have a committee dealing with problems of women at the workplace which should be headed by a woman of competent authority.

Women working in factories have the following rights

  1. No woman should be made to lift more than the prescribed weight
  2. No woman should be made to clear or oil moving machines
  3. There must exist separate and clean washrooms for women
  4. Women get one day a week off.

Minimum wages depend on the work burden and the basis of conditions of work.


Women should be protected, against every superior who is harassing them, and taking advantage of their position, and the dominance on them should not be tolerated. They should be made aware of the laws which protect them.

[1] Mrs. Rupan Deol Bajaj v. Kanwar Pal Singh Gill, 1995 SCC (6) 194.

[2] Vishakha V State of Rajasthan & Ors,AIR 1997 SC 3011.

[3] National Crime Records Bureau,2014, 2015,2016.

[4] (Survey) Coimbatore Times, 2015 (June,25 June).


  • Koushik Chittella

    This snippet is penned by an enthusiastic learner " Koushik Chittella" who is pursuing his 4th year law degree from Dr. Ambedkar Global Law Institute , Tirupati.

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