A Bill to make the workplace a safer zone for women

Finally, some good news and relief for women in distress. Recently, the Parliament passed a law for protection of women, including domestic helps and agricultural labourers, against sexual harassment at workplace.

The law says that all sectors providing women employment, should constitute an internal committee for redressal of complaints - including homes, universities, hospitals, government and non-government offices, factories and other formal and informal work places.

These committees will have a five member team to listen and address the issues of sexual harassment. In terms of unorganised sectors where wo­men are labourers or ma­ids, there will internal committees which will be headed by deputy collectors of
the area.

Nilanju Dutta, manager, violence intervention team, Jagori, said, “Women have always been the sexual targets. This is a positive step in terms of helping women at the workplace. But, we are yet not sure about women working in unorganised sectors. These women are clueless about their rights and duties and there is nobody to even guide them. So, it is challenge for the government to ease the procedure for them.”

Nilanju also shared that they get cases where sexual favours are sought for promotions. But, on the other hand, women even shy away from complaining. They fear that reporting harassment to the higher authorities could create a hindrance in their creers or people would perceive them to be the ‘provoking’ element.

“There seems to be no place safe for women – be at home, while travelling or casually walking down a shopping street or even at the workplace. If at home, they are most likely to be abused by a family member, at the workplace it’s either by the peers
or the bosses.

“Aggressive harassment co-exists amongst a vast majority of women employees. It commonly involves an unwelcomed gesture or a comment by any person which humiliates insults or degrades you, be it through spreading rumors, pranks, sexist remarks which could either be in an active or passive tone, uncalled arguments and even bullying,” said Kranti Sanghave (Corporate Legal Council), LawPositive.com.

According to Vishaka Guidelines, every corporate organisation should form a committee against sexual harassment for a safe working environment for all the wo­m­en. According to the bill, cases of sexual harassment of women at workplace, including against domestic help, will have to be disposed of by committees within a period of 90 days failing which penalty of Rs 50,000 would be imposed.

Another major factor about the bill - repeated non-compliance of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, can even lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.

Sulagna Bose, accounts officer in WWF India, shared her views on the latest bill.
“If the bill is implemented as is, then it will be very beneficial for women in distress as harassment has become very common nowadays. But, the government does so many things which fall apart after a few months. So, lets hope this is time this bill will make some difference.” Say Amen to that!

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