Course: Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace

Module 2: Understanding Sexual Harassments and Governing Laws

The Vishaka Guidelines and the POSH Act: The Genesis


In this lesson, we will look at the incident that led to the Vishaka Guidelines’ draft and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) that was passed in the year 2013.

It all started with an incident in the year…



Bhanwari Devi – a rural change agent – engaged by the Rajasthan state government as a saathin or friend for their Women’s Development Programme, tried to stop the marriage of a nine-month-old girl belonging to an upper-caste community. She reported this to the local authority, but no action was taken.

Enraged by Bhanwari’s actions, five men from that community turned up at the field where Bhanwari was working alongside her husband. Two of them beat up Bhanwari Devi’s husband, while the other three took turns sexually assaulting her.

Following this incident, Bhanwari Devi filed a police complaint and went public. Once again, the police treated her case with negligence and botched up the investigation.



Around three years after the brutal incident, after a local newspaper reported Bhanwari’s ordeal and the botched investigation the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI took over the case and finally arrested the accused.  

The trail, however, was a road downhill. Judges were changed five times, and in November 1995, the accused were acquitted of the more serious rape allegation, convicted of lesser offences like assault and conspiracy and were all given just nine months in jail.

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