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Exploring the Distinctive Aspects of the POSH Act: 5 Unique Selling Propositions (USPs)

Did you know that IPC Section 354 A aligns its definition of sexual harassment with that found in the POSH Act of 2013? This means that a woman encountering a case of sexual harassment has the option to either file a sexual harassment complaint with the Internal Committee (IC) as per the POSH Act or lodge a First Information Report (FIR) with the police. This flexibility holds regardless of whether the incident was mild, moderate, or severe, and whether it happened once or repeatedly. It is even possible to pursue both avenues simultaneously or consecutively. With these options available, the question arises: How should a woman decide whether to utilize one or both paths?

The decision-making process revolves around multiple factors, including the nature and seriousness of the sexual harassment, the victim's preferences, and the surrounding context. To assist individuals in navigating this choice, here is some insight. Several of these considerations are so distinctive to the POSH Act that they can be aptly termed the "Unique Selling Propositions" or USPs of the Act, as they are delineated in its various sections, guiding the Internal Committees in their implementations.

1. Reasonable Assistance

One of the pivotal USPs of the POSH Act revolves around providing reasonable assistance to complainants who might encounter difficulties in composing a written sexual harassment complaint. The Presiding Officer or any Internal Committee Member must extend support, including:

  • Clarifying the complaint filing process

  • Aiding in structuring the written complaint

  • Offering language translation assistance

  • Cultivating a supportive and respectful environment

  • Addressing apprehensions about potential retaliation

  • Explaining investigation timelines and details

Such comprehensive assistance encourages individuals to confidently file complaints with the IC, irrespective of the intensity and frequency of the sexual harassment. While filing an FIR, the police might not offer comparable assistance, and the procedure could evoke a sense of detachment and unease for the affected woman.

2. Comfort of Home or Office

Understanding the concept of comfort and respect as highlighted earlier becomes paramount. This is exemplified through the entire redressal process, which includes conciliation, interim measures, inquiry hearings, and more. Notably, section 12 provides the option for the complainant to choose paid leave for up to three months, enabling her to participate in the inquiry process from the comfort of her home. Furthermore, a Work From Home arrangement can ensure business continuity while prioritizing her well-being. These options may be more appealing than a potentially daunting trip to the police station, especially when dealing with mild to moderate cases of sexual harassment.

3. Conciliation

Conciliation, a distinctive feature of the POSH Act outlined in section 10, is a noteworthy USP. For women experiencing milder forms of sexual harassment—such as vulgar jokes, lewd comments on attire, or flirting—conciliation presents an appealing option. It involves informal mediation conducted by the IC, aimed at fostering dialogue between the involved parties and reaching an amicable settlement. Unlike FIRs, conciliation emphasizes resolving the issue through communication rather than legal proceedings.

4. Interim Measures

Addressing concerns during the inquiry process is a significant USP found in section 12. Interim measures include transferring individuals to different workplaces, granting paid leave to the aggrieved woman, and ensuring that she is shielded from any potential retaliation. The IC's recommended measures are binding for the employer, ultimately curbing the harasser's ability to further victimize the complainant.

5. Speedy Redressal

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the POSH Act is its commitment to speedy redressal. The Act mandates that the entire inquiry process must be completed within 90 days from the date of filing the complaint. This emphasis on timely resolution ensures that complainants receive swift closure. This is particularly noteworthy when compared to the potentially protracted processes associated with FIRs.

In conclusion, the POSH Act offers a range of features that cater to the unique needs and preferences of individuals facing sexual harassment. These features, or USPs, set the Act apart by promoting resolution, comfort, privacy, and efficient redressal through internal mechanisms, which may be particularly relevant for cases of mild to moderate sexual harassment. More severe cases might warrant involving law enforcement, demonstrating the importance of understanding the available options and seeking the best course of action based on the situation at hand.


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