'Women should introspect what provokes sexual harassment'

'Women should introspect what provokes sexual harassment'

Working wo­men should introspect whether the way they dress contributes to them being sexually harassed at workplaces, Minister for Women and Child Development C C Patil, has said.

“When we talk about women facing sexual harassment at workplaces, it is also important that we find out if the way they dress plays a role,” Patil said in his address at the State-level training camp for presidents and secretaries of committees that investigate complaints of sexual harassment at workplaces, here on Friday. The event was organised by the Karnataka State Commission for Women.

The minister also felt that the dowry menace was on the decline “probably because of the skewed sex ratio”. Patil said that morality, not laws, was crucial in ensuring women’s safety at workplaces.

The Acting Chief Justice of Kerala High Court, Justice Manjula Chellur, called upon the heads of complaint redress cells to properly scrutinise the complaints on sexual harassment at workplaces. “Many false complaints are also lodged. We should not forget that. Also, the dowry harassment clause in the IPC (Section 498 A) should never be treated as a weapon. It’s just a tool to ensure your protection. Let it be so, else its very purpose will be killed,” she said.

A uniform understanding of the investigation process should be brought about, and volunteers be given extensive training. Justice Chellur called upon women to be ‘mentally tough’ and not get upset with ‘petty issues’. “Take notice only when an incident goes beyond the Lakshman Rekha. In the process, don’t lose your womanly characteristics,” she said.

Justice Chellur lamented the absence of clear guidelines about sexual harassment at workplaces, although the Supreme Court had laid down a few in a landmark judgment in 1997. Justice Chellur felt that women’s hesitation in lodging a complaint of sexual harassment often created problems.

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