The central government on Tuesday came up with a new mechanism to deal with the menace of sexual harassment at workplaces. The Ministry of Women and Child Development, headed by Maneka Gandhi, launched a portal named SHe-Box, with the motto ‘A safe workplace is every woman’s right’.
The url of the website is shebox.nic.in. The homepage of the website gives two main options to the users. While one option is ‘Register Your Complaint’, the second one is ‘View status of Complaint’.
When one clicks on the link to register a complaint, the user has to choose if she is government employee or works in a private firm. Following this a form is provided where the user can register her details such as name, designation, email, company name, Aadhaar number etc.
Launching the portal on Tuesday, Maneka Gandhi said that harassment could include use of foul language or cracking of lewd jokes.
It was a flood of complaints from people working in government sector that prompted the government to extend its mechanism to those working in private sector.
“We received 346 complaints from women employed in the government sector. Seeing such a huge response we are opening SHe-box to all women who have faced any kind of sexual harassment at the workplace in India,” Gandhi told reporters.
Referring to the #MeToo campaign on Twitter sparked by allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, Gandhi said, “India is the first country in the world that is responding as a government.”
A cell under the ministry will look into every complaint filed online and share it with the concerned organisation’s internal complaints committee (ICC), which is a mandatory requirement under the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013.
Complainants will also be able to monitor the status of the inquiry initiated by the ICC.
Elaborating on the kind of offences women can complain about online, Gandhi said, “Not just physical harassment but also complaints of being transferred or terminated by an employer, discrimination due to maternity (can be filed). It is not necessary that there is physical touch but (harassment can include) men using foul language or cracking lewd jokes.”
While the law requires all organisations to submit an annual report on the number of complaints of sexual harassment received, there is no mechanism to ensure compliance.
Maneka Gandhi said she would appeal to the finance ministry once again to make the disclosure of the constitution of an ICC mandatory under Section 134 of the Companies Act, 2013 — a proposal earlier shot down.
Under the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013, it is compulsory for any organisation with 10 or more employees to set up an ICC for addressing complaints of sexual misconduct.
A committee should consist of a presiding officer who is a woman employee at a senior level in the same organisation, at least two employees “preferably committed to the cause of women”, and a member from an NGO or a person “familiar with issues relating to sexual harassment”.
The committee would have powers similar to that of a civil court and have to complete its inquiry within 90 days. An employer who doesn’t constitute an ICC could face a fine of up to Rs 50,000.