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New Delhi, Aug. 13 

The Supreme Court today directed the Centre and state governments to enforce 12 guidelines to protect women from sexual harassment at places of work.

In the first crackdown that ripped the wraps off an offence which more often than not is hushed up, the court said it was the duty of employers — both in the public and private sectors — to prevent harassment on women.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice J.S. Verma, set the mandatory guidelines and directed all employers to “provide procedures for resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment”.

The judges gave a new definition to what constituted or amounted to sexual harassment. It would include physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography to women employees and any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.

The directions came on a batch of public interest petitions filed by several soc