Here’s what you need to know about India’s workplace sexual harassment laws


  • Indian laws that specially protect women from sexual harassment go back only a few years.
  • #MeToo movement brought the spotlight again on India’s workplace laws for sexual harassment.
  • Both verbal and non-verbal conduct can account as sexual harassment.
India’s #MeToo movement sparked the much-needed conversation around workplace sexual harassment. In October, a string of women journalists and actors shared harrowing accounts of their experiences on social media, accusing many prominent media professionals of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment at the workplace.

While India’s laws that specially protect women from sexual harassment go back less than six years, here’s a look at its main provisions. Keeping these in mind can and will help those on either side.

The “POSH Act”

Under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 or the POSH Act, both verbal and non-verbal conduct can account as sexual harassment. Specifically, according to the act, sexual harassment can include:

  • Unwelcome physical contact and advances
  • Demand or request for sexual favours
  • Making sexually coloured remarks
  • Showing pornography, or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature
  • In addition, any circumstances that include implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in employment, or implied or explicit threats that affect the employment in relation to sexual harassment are deemed as offences.
Who can complain?

According to the act, anyone from regular employees to temporary and contract workers including daily wage labourers, paid or unpaid voluntary workers are eligible for redressal under the law.

Any harassment incident that takes places at the place of employment or even outside the office premises such as work-related travel or meetings is covered under the act.

Employer obligation

Every employer with more than 10 employees is required to have an ‘internal complaints committee’ of a minimum of four members to address complaints related to sexual harassment. It should be headed by one senior woman employee and have at least one external member belonging to an organisation dedicated to women’s safety. As per the act, the committee has the same powers as that of a civil court.

Complaints and redressal

A complaint should be brought to the internal complaints committee within three months of the incident. However, that timeframe is extendable in certain circumstances.

The committee is mandated to complete its inquiry within 90 days and the organisation should act upon the recommendations from the inquiry within 60 days. All organisations are required to annually report any and all instances of sexual harassment.

Complainants are entitled to several forms of interim relief such as transfer to another workplace or a leave of up to three months. This is in addition to any other disciplinary action or compensation.

Additionally, most workplaces are generally expected to implement sexual harassment policies and ensure a safe and discrimination free-work environment for all women.
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