The Committee against Sexual Harassment at the Asian College of Journalism
(in accordance with the Vishakha Guidelines 1997 and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013)
The Vishakha Guidelines
The Vishakha guidelines, as laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997, are a set of guidelines that seek to protect individuals from sexual harassment at their place of work and put the onus of a safe working environment on the employer.
According to the guidelines, it “shall be the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in work places or other institutions to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts, of sexual harassment by taking all steps required.”
The Vishakha Guidelines were superseded by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which came into force on 9 December 2013. The Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997) case established that actions resulting in a violation of one’s rights to ‘Gender Equality’ and ‘Life and Liberty’ are in fact a violation of the victim’s fundamental rights. The case ruling established that sexual harassment violates a woman’s rights in the workplace. The act uses this definition of sexual harassment as understood by the case ruling, and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.
Under the Act, employers and local authorities will have to set up grievance committees to investigate all complaints.
Committee Against Sexual Harassment
While the “workplace” in the Vishaka Guidelines is confined to the traditional office set-up where there is a clear employer-employee relationship, the Act goes much further to include organisations, department, office, branch unit etc. in the public and private sector, organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex and any place visited by the employee during the course of employment including the transportation. Thus with regard to the Supreme Court Judgment and these guidelines issued in 1997 to provide for the effective enforcement of the basic human right of gender equality and guarantee against sexual harassment and abuse, more particularly against sexual harassment at work places, educational insititutes like the Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS) and the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have also constituted committees against sexual harassment.
In compliance with the guidelines and the Act, the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) has also established a committee to combat sexual harassment, violence against individuals and any inappropriate behaviour that undermines the dignity of faculty members and the administrative and service staff, as well as the students of the college.
Composition of the Committee
The Committee at the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) consists of members of the faculty, administrative staff, a lawyer and legal scholar, and a member of a Non-Governmental Organisation that works in the area of sexual harassment. The members of the committee for the current academic year are:
Dr. Nalini Rajan, Professor, ACJ (Head of the Committee)
Ms.Lakshmi Ramji, Bursar, ACJ
Ms.Geeta Ramaseshan, Lawyer and legal scholar
Dr. Swarna Rajagopalan, Managing Trustee, Prajnya Foundation
Mr. Sampath Kumar, Professor, ACJ
Mr. V.K. Raghunathan, Professor, ACJ
The objectives of the Committee are:
- Prevent discrimination and sexual harassment by promoting gender amity among students and employees
- To lay down procedures for the prohibition, resolution, settlement and prosecution of acts of discrimination and sexual harassment by the students and the employees
- Deal with cases of discrimination and sexual harassment against students, faculty members or the staff in a time bound manner, aiming at ensuring support services to those alleging abuse or harassment of any kind
- Recommend appropriate punitive action against the alleged perpetrator
What is Sexual Harassment?
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
- it may be implicitly or explicitly suggested that submission to or rejection of the conduct will be a factor in academic or employment decisions or evaluations, or permission to participate in some activity at the college
- or when the conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic or work performance
- or creating an intimidating or hostile academic work or living environment.
Determining what constitutes sexual harassment depends upon the context in which the conduct occurs. Sexual harassment may be subtle and indirect, or blatant and overt.
- It may be conduct towards an individual of the opposite sex or the same sex.
- It may occur between peers or between individuals in a hierarchical relationship.
- It may be aimed at coercing an individual into a sexual relationship
- it may cause an individual’s behaviour or work performance to suffer
- It may consist of repeated actions or may occur only once.
Procedure for Approaching Committee
The Committee deals with issues relating to sexual harassment of students, staff or faculty at the ACJ. The victim or a third party may lodge a complaint of discrimination or sexual. A written complaint must be addressed to the head of the Committee.
Here it should be noted that according to the Supreme Court guidelines sexual harassment may be defined as “unwelcome” sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication) and includes:
- Physical contact and advances
- Demands or requests for sexual favours
- Sexually coloured remarks
- Showing pornography
- Unsavoury remarks
- Jokes causing or likely to cause awkwardness or embarrassment
- Innuendos and taunts
- Sexist remarks
- Unwelcome sexual overtones in conversation in person or over the telephone/email/SMS
- Touching or brushing against any part of the body
- Displaying pornographic or other offensive or derogatory pictures, cartoons, pamphlets, etc
- Forcible physical touch or molestation and
- Physical confinement against one’s will and any other act likely to violate one’s privacy.
The ACJ is committed to providing a place of work and study free of sexual harassment, intimidation or exploitation. All members of the ACJ community, including those who are in temporary or short term positions are subject to these guidelines, and anyone violating them is subject to disciplinary action.
Reports of sexual harassment shall be taken seriously and dealt with promptly. The specific action taken in any particular case depends upon the nature and gravity of the conduct reported. ACJ will respect the confidentiality and privacy of individuals reporting or accused of sexual harassment to the extent reasonably possible.