Sexual harassment is a serious issue that affects individuals in all parts of the world, including the Indian state of Maharashtra. In recent years, there has been an increased focus on addressing sexual harassment in Maharashtra, with both the government and civil society groups taking action to prevent and respond to these incidents.
- Registration of IC:
One of the first measures by Mumbai District was to ensure registration of internal committees in its jurisdiction as per the notification of the District Women and Child Development, Mumbai District. In case an organization has registered address, and/or branches/facilities consisting more than 10 employees, within the precincts of Mumbai district (that is any location from Churchgate/CST to Mahim/Dadar), they have to send the list of the Internal Committee (IC) members to the District Officer and Assistant District Officer, Mumbai District. More details here.
- Set up of Appellate Authority for POSH Matters: A writ petition was filed before the Bombay High Court asking concerned authorities if an Appellate Authority existed for POSH matters and if not then within how much time they will issue said notification. In 2021, the Bombay High Court ordered that authorities must explain this. The Government of Maharashtra accordingly appointed 20 Industrial Courts constituted under section 10 of the Maharashtra Industrial Relations as the Appellate Authority to exercise the functions of an Appellate Authority under the POSH Act. More details here.
- Nirbhaya Squad set up
As per a Circular of 2021 of Government of Maharashtra, Office of Commissioner of Police, Greater Mumbai, to create a sense of respect for women in the society and to create fear of the law, as well as to eradicate the atrocities and harassment against women, “Nirbhaya” Squad was set up. More details here.
- Privacy guidelines on POSH related matters
The Bombay High Court, on 24th September 2021, in the case of the P vs A & Ors, 2021 coherently laid down a set a guidelines condemning the disclosure of the identities of parties, even accidentally, involved in matters falling under the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“POSH Act”) and Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 (“POSH Rules”). More details here. On 17th March 2022, Court issued a subsequent order and cleared the air around the application of the requirement of non-disclosure by stating that it was a case-specific order (mutually agreed to by the parties involved), and was not meant for general application. More details here.
- Maharashtra State Women Commission to conduct Surprise Visits in Offices: In 2022, Maharashtra State Women Commission announced that it will send a team to pay surprise visits to check whether companies are complying with this requirement and the company shall be directed to pay a fine of Rs. 50,000 if it is found that there is no IC. More details here.
Apart from the above, the state of Maharashtra has introduced several laws and policies generally as well including the Maharashtra State Commission for Women Act.
Despite these efforts, sexual harassment remains a pervasive problem, with many incidents going unreported due to fear of retaliation or social stigma. In recent years, there have been several high-profile cases of sexual harassment in Maharashtra, including in the film industry and the corporate sector. These cases have from time to time sparked widespread public discussions on these matters and led to calls for greater accountability and justice for those aggrieved by sexual harassment making these a discussions a matter of public interest.
Overall, while there has been progress, much more work needs to be done to create a safe and equitable society for all individuals. It is important for all stakeholders, including the government, civil society, and the general public, to work together to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in a timely and effective manner.