Portal, booklets, surveys: How Kerala spreads awareness on workplace sexual harassment

The new POSH portal will require every organisation to mandatorily register on it and provide details regarding its Internal Complaints Committee.
Cover of booklet on POSH Act
Cover of booklet on POSH Act
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December is the follow-up month at TNM where we go back to headlines of the past for a status update. In this series, we strive to bring focus back to promises made by governments, revisit official investigations that should have been completed by now and exhume issues of public interest that lost steam over time.

A small red booklet, with a drawing of working women and men on its cover, explains the the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act (POSH), 2013, in an eight-page-long comic story. It is a conversation in Malayalam between colleagues outside their office, just as an awareness class is about to start inside. In an exchange of questions and answers over tea, they share what they know about the Act. Kerala’s Department of Women and Child Development (WCD) has distributed three lakh of these booklets in the last two years.

Giving out the comic booklet is one of the steps that the Department has taken to spread awareness on the POSH Act, an official said, while handing a copy to TNM. The back page of the booklet contains a form to fill in the names of the Internal Complaints Committee (IC) members of the office. The booklets were first given to government offices, and later private organisations. Awareness has also been given to women in the unorganised sector where there are no ICs and Local Committees (LC) handle their complaints on workplace sexual harassment, the official said. ICs are mandatory for every organisation with 10 or more employees. If the establishment — for example, a store with less than 10 workers — has no IC, the women can approach the LC.

Last page of the booklet with a box for filling names of IC members

“District collectors will constitute LCs in every district. The government has appointed 258 nodal officers to the LCs, to work as WCD project officers. Their task is to facilitate the process of filing complaints. If a woman approaches a nodal officer with a complaint, they have to take it to the LC,” the WCD official said.

Since the POSH Act came into existence in 2013, training has been given to the officials in the Department. Earlier, the ACt fell under purview of the Social Justice Department, and government level training was conducted through the Institute of Management in Government (IMG). Every year, officials were given training on various aspects at the district level, one of which was the POSH Act. Later, when the Department bifurcated to form the WCD, the latter became the nodal agency for it.

“Even through the two waves of COVID-19, we continued the training through online sessions. District officers of the WCD were alloted funds to give awareness training to officials in other departments, to private organisations, and to workers in the unorganised sector. Apart from that, we provided awareness classes to college students across the state through the Kanal Karma campaign on gender relations and women’s legislations. As many as 1,29,000 students have received training through this campaign,” the WCD official added.

POSH Portal

Last year, Anganwadi workers were deployed to conduct a survey in organisations with more than 10 employees in their respective areas. The survey was meant to find out which all organisations had constituted an IC, among other details. “They collected details of more than 10,000 organisations and found that more than 7,000 of them have formed ICs. But we need to verify if these are fully functional. That is why we are soon launching a POSH portal,” the official said.

WCD building in Thiruvananthapuram

The portal will aid the Department in knowing whether the POSH Act has been implemented, and if ICs have been constituted in various organisations. It will be mandatory for organisations to register on the portal and include the details of their IC. The portal will also be used to send alerts to the organisation when it is time to reconstitute an IC or the deadline for filing the report of an IC complaint (within 90 days) has reached. It will not, however, accept complaints from the public. The public can make use of the Government of India’s She Box, which will direct complaints to the respective district officials.

The official also spoke about Orange the World Campaign (of the UNESCO) which was conducted between November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violation against Women, and December 10. The campaign, which fights violence against women, also provided awareness on the various laws against such atrocities.

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