Sexual harassment at workplace is a serious problem and many women endure it silently.

Constituting local complaint committee (LCC) or internal complaint committee (ICC) as per the guidelines helps in addressing the concerns through appropriate channel.

Expanding the ambit of its 1997 Visakha verdict, the Supreme Court on October 19 directed all regulatory bodies such as the Bar Council of India and the Medical Council of India to set up a committee to deal with all cases of sexual harassment at workplace.

A three-judge Bench headed by R.M. Lodha directed regulating bodies and all institutions affiliated to them to implement the guidelines framed in the Visakha case within two months. The Supreme Court made it mandatory that all States, Union Territories, and regulatory bodies put in place a legal mechanism to implement the “guidelines in Visakha case,” which require the employers to ensure prevention of sexual harassment of women at workplace. The verdict defines gender equality through judicial process.

Speaking about the prevailing system, Legal Advisor to the Department of Woman and Child Welfare Ramani Spandana said, “There is still no proper mechanism in place to address the concerns such as whom to approach during contingency and how to deal with the sexual harassment at work. The committees help women come out and seek guidance, preventing such harassment to an optimal level. But, the onus lies on the employer to set up a committee.”

As per the guidelines, the committee should be headed by a senior woman, who is well versed with the issues of sexual harassment and involve non-judgemental people consisting either a third party or an NGO, in order to prevent any influence from the higher officials of the organisation, says member of Human Rights Forum K. Sudha. “Awareness should be created on ICC and employees should ensure that their organisation has one,” she adds.

But most of the organisations do not have committees in place. Though Kenexa and HSBC Electronic Data Processing India do not have any such separate committees, the representatives say that the respective HR Department takes care of the complaints, if any. APSRTC set up a Mahila Committee recently to address instances of sexual harassment of women at workplace. SBI, BSNL, and the police department in the city also have complaint committees as per the guidelines recommended.