The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2013 allows any woman who is subjected to sexual harassment at workplace to seek civil and/or legal remedies. However, this law does not recognise persons from the LGBTQI+ community. And it looks like the Union government has no intentions, at least in the foreseeable future, to include persons from the LGBTQI+ community under this law.
At the Parliamentary session on Thursday, MP Vandana Chavan of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) asked the Centre whether it plans to amend the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 - also known as POSH Act - to include members of the LGBTQ community within its ambit.
However, Union Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani stated that the Centre has no such proposals. “Realising the need to ensure safe and secure workplaces for women, the Parliament has enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act. This is a special Act that could be invoked by any woman subjected to sexual harassment at workplace, irrespective of her work status. At present, no proposal for amendment of this Act to include members of LGBTQ community within its ambit is under consideration,” replied Smriti Irani.
Critics, on numerous occasions, have said that LGBTQI+ persons should be included in the ambit of the law as they also face sexual harassment at workplace.
Incidentally, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act — which the government notified despite the nation-wide protests by the transgender community in India — makes a distinction between a trans person and a cisgender woman in terms of punishment awarded to the sexual crime perpetrators.
In cases of sexual assault, the punishment designated for a trans person, per the Act, is a maximum of two years. On the other hand, punishment for raping a cisgender woman, as per the current provisions of the law, is 10 years. Activists have persistently argued that this deems persons from transgender communities and allies “as lesser, as inferior”.
Months before the Bill was tabled, protesters demanded that the Bill be sent back to the Parliament so that it would reflect the concerns of the transgender communities, the very community for which the government was framing the law. However, activists pointed out that the law failed to take or include the feedback of the trans persons.