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Vishakha Guidelines

 In the year 1997, Indian
women celebrated a landmark judgment which was passed by the supreme court of India
where they formulated the VISHAKHA GUIDELINES and made it mandatory for the institutions
all over the country to take up these guidelines to prevent and redress sexual
harassment at workplace. These guidelines laid the foundation of the Sexual
Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Women in India comprise of almost 50% of the population of India and work in
almost all the sectors and areas, even in those professions which were believed
to be exclusively reserved for men and women never even thought to enter those.

This change was
followed by a series of incidents where women were raped and harassed by men,
and were subjected to a lot of physical and mental torture at the workplaces. This
was a violation of the fundamental rights of the women such as art 14 i.e. right to equality, art 15
and 16 which states that there shall be no discrimination on the
basis of gender, caste, religion
etc. and equality of opportunity respectively. Thus there was a necessity
for the women to be treated properly at their workplace. The Vishakha
Guidelines came into existence after the horrifying case of Bhanwari Devi, a
government employee who was harassed by a group of people at her working hours.


Bhanwari Devi was a
social worker in Rajasthan, who was brutally raped by a number of upper class
men as she tried to stop a child marriage. She filed a complaint against those
men but was not taken seriously by the policemen and it took 52 hours to file
the complaint. The Rajasthan High Court acquitted all those men of rape on the
context that a woman cannot be raped in front her husband and that the head of
the village would never indulge in such acts. They convicted those men for the
offence of assault, the degree for punishment of which is quite lesser than
that of rape. In her support, many women’s groups and NGOs filed a PIL in the Supreme
Court under the collective platform of Vishakha asking the court to give
certain directions regarding the sexual harassment against women at the
workplace. On 13th august 1997, the Supreme Court gave the Vishakha Guidelines
which included the basic definition of sexual harassment at workplace and
guidelines to deal with it.


After the Bhanwari Devi
incident, many women groups protested as they demanded recognition of their
rights as the citizens of India and urging the government to take necessary actions
to prevent harassment of women at their workplace. At that time, the legal
system of our country did not have proper legislation that would ensure the
safety of the women at their workplace or provide just and fair punishment to
the offenders who would indulge in the heinous crimes of rape and sexual
harassment. Also there was no rule regarding the obligation of the employer to
provide support and assistance to his employee who might be a victim of
harassment rather they would just throw the employee out of their jobs in order
to escape the liability. Thus there was a need for a new set of laws that would
punish the wrongdoers and ensure the safety of the women at their workplaces.


  1. Definition of sexual harassment
    – the guidelines issued by the supreme court widens the meaning and scope of
    sexual harassment and defines it as an unwanted sexual determination which is
    direct or implied and is intended to cause physical contact or advances, demand
    or request for sexual favors, sexually colored remarks, or any other unwelcome
    conduct whether it is physical, verbal, or non verbal.
  2. Providing a safer working environment
    – it is the duty of each employer to provide a safe working environment for
    each and every employee working in the company, which involves taking measures
    towards protecting the interest of the women employees and ensuring that none
    of the employees indulge in any practice of sexual harassment.
  3. Duty of the employer
    – the guidelines lay down that it is the obligation of the employer to file a
    complaint if the conduct of any of its employee amounts to a criminal offence
    which is punishable under the Indian Penal Code.
  4. Complaint Redressal Committee
    – it was made mandatory for all the organization to set up a complaint
    redressal committee in order to ensure that the complaints of the employees are
    dealt properly and suitable action is taken.

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