Prevention of Sexual Harassment for Women and Gender Minorities

Shailja Tiwari

- April 28, 2022

Violence, subjugation etc are different forms in which patriarchy manifests itself in the society. It’s not very uncommon to find the incidents of domestic violence, rape,  abudction, and many other crimes against women in the news daily. This is not only confined to the private sphere, but has its imprints in the public sphere, such as the workplace, as well. Sexual harassment of women at the workplace is one form of manifestation of the patriarchal nature of society. From startups to MNCs, the media industry to civil society organizations, each industry has had challenges to building a safe working environment for women and other gender minorities.

The argument is not devoid of evidences as the landmark Supreme Court judgment, known as Vishakha Guidelines, which became basis for enactment of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) (POSH) Act, 2013, was itself given after the Bhanwari Devi incident in 1992, in Rajasthan. It is unfortunate but true that the sufferings of Bhavanri Devi and many others (which might have even gone unreported) brought the “absence of any domestic law to check the evils of sexual harassment of women at workplace”, to the attention of the government and the court. After the case, the court recognized that sexual harassment of women at the workplace violates their fundamental rights under Articles 14, 15, 19, and 21. 

As per the act, definition of sexual harassment is “any unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) such as physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favors, making sexually colored remarks, showing pornography or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.” 

The International Labor Organization (ILO) says that sexual harassment at workplace might include “sexual assaults, sexual blackmail, sexual advances, sex-based comments, disparaging remarks about the sex of the target, innuendos, the display of sexually suggestive or explicit material, etc. It can be committed by a coworker (which is horizontal violence), by a supervisor (vertical violence) or by a client/ customer (third party violence)”. 

Mandate for organizations under the PoSH Act- 

The PoSH act demands to set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in any organization having more than 10 workers, to deal with such cases. But in many cases women either do not know how to report the case or they might not be willing to report due to fear of retaliation and defamation, especially when the perpetrator is a senior. At times this harassment becomes so frequent at the workplace that it becomes normalized, part of daily work life and people stop questioning it. This is what makes it even more dangerous. 

The impact of such incidents can be grave on the life of the victim; it may affect their mental health, self-esteem, dignity and work situations. Not just victims, workplace violence and harassment may affect the mental health conditions of witnesses and colleagues as well. In such cases an organization should take steps such as having a more active ICC, have regular conversations on safety and sensitization of employees, inform people of the bystander interventions, etc.

Gender Minorites and Workplace Harassment

Women are always at the higher risk of facing violence and harassment compared to their male counterparts in the world of work but this does not mean that it is impossible for males to be sexually harassed. As we are moving towards more inclusiveness in the private and public spheres, different gender identities have openly shared their identity or have joined the workforce which indeed is a good step. But at the same time, their vulnerable position in society compounded by the absence of any concrete domestic law to prevent their sexual harassment at the workplace increases manifold the chances of them being harassed. 

As per the Survey conducted by the Guardian, nearly 70% of LGBT people reported sexual harassment at work. The aim of the PoSH act is to prevent and protect women from sexual harassment at the work place; it is currently silent on the issue of harassment of other gender identities. This where  organizations can step in to create not only gender neutral policies but focus on their implementation as well. 

Gender neutral PoSH policies and a well trained ICC on gender issue prepares the workplace for gender inclusion. Organizations can also build awareness through sensitization sessions, gender neutral internal communication, job-descriptions and infrastructural facilities.

The multiple business cases for diversity shows evidence of a better bottom line. But diversity cannot co-exist without inclusion and equity. Proper and consistent implementation of safety laws especially the PoSH Act allow for a safe working environment of the employee but also for the growth of the organization. 


Hussain, S. (2017, March 16). India’s History Of Sexual Harassment At Workplaces Via 6 Major Cases. Homegrown. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from es-via-6-major-cases 

Junaid, F. (2020, September 23). How does the Transgender Act impact the Indian Workplace? – Serein — Serein. Serein. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from workplace 

Safe and healthy working environments free from violence and harassment. (n.d.). ILO. Retrieved April 7, 2022, from—ed_protect/—protrav/—safework/document s/publication/wcms_751838.pdf 

Sexual Harassment of women at work. (n.d.). Legal Services India. Retrieved April 7, 2022, from ml 

Perraudin, Frances. “Survey finds 70% of LGBT people sexually harassed at work.” The Guardian, 16 May 2019, Accessed 15 April 2022.

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Nithya drives operational excellence within the HR function. She ensures that Serein maintains the highest standards of HR practices and ethical conduct. Her role extends beyond traditional HR responsibilities as she also serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients, specialising in preventing workplace harassment through the PoSH vertical.

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Sharanya serves as a PoSH external member for 15+ companies in e-commerce, fintech, healthcare, SaaS, and more. She supports partner organisations on legal procedures and best practices to build safe work cultures.

She has been involved in the review of PoSH policies, labour law compliances, and research regarding the risk of secondary victimisation of complainants under the PoSH Act.

Sharanya graduated with BBA, LLB (Hons.) degree from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She has experience in PoSH and employment law with notable law firms like Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas and Co., J. Sagar and Associates, among others.

Kirtika N

Safety and PoSH expert

Kirtika is an expert speaker and workshop facilitator on topics like sexual harassment awareness, bystander intervention, and anti-harassment redressal mechanisms. She has developed learning content for investigating committees on topics like witness cooperation in a workplace sexual harassment inquiry proceeding. 

Kirtika serves as a PoSH external member for 30+ companies in fintech, healthcare, business management, gaming, and more. She has 50+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations at the workplace and supporting partner organisations on legal procedure and best practices.

She has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Montfort College, Bengaluru, and has experience working as a trainee counselor.

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Bhavini Pant

Safety and PoSH expert

Bhavini serves as a PoSH external member for 30+ companies in industries like education, healthcare, IT, Pharma, and more. She has 70+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace and supporting partner organizations on the legal procedure and best practices for workplace safety.

Before Serein, Bhavini worked as an archivist at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and as an editorial assistant for IIT Bombay’s PR and Alumni Associations department.

She has a Master’s degree in Education from Azim Premji University where she worked extensively with the management on anti-sexual harassment legal implementation. Her work involved the interpretation of the law in a university as a workplace and an educational institution for adults. 

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Thejaswini is also engaged with finance and other operations to ensure Serein’s 500+ long-term partners are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law.

Thejaswini holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Application from Field Marshal KM Cariappa College, Kodagu.

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Faakirah is a legal professional and expert facilitator on topics like anti-sexual harassment, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. Faakirah has conducted 100+ training sessions on the prevention of sexual harassment for employees and internal committee members.

She has 150+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace. Her legal research at Serein includes policy analysis, human rights, women’s rights, and document drafting.

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Aparna is leading the finance and operations at Serein. She has also been responsible for Serein’s online platform, customer management, and marketing.

She works closely with Serein’s 500+ long-term partners to ensure they are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law. Aparna is a workshop facilitator on topics like the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace in languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada.

Aparna Pandurangan holds a degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Anna University, Chennai. 

Bianca D’Costa

Head of PoSH: India, Global

Bianca leads the compliance partnerships and workshops on anti-sexual harassment, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. She has 100+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace.

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Before Serein, she was a Gandhi Fellow working in rural Rajasthan to address educational leadership and gender equity in government schools. She graduated from Azim Premji University in Bangalore with a Master’s in Education where she specialised in gender and sexuality education.

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