Cabinet clears sexual harassment bill | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Cabinet clears sexual harassment bill

A bill that will place victims of sexual harassment at the workplace on a par with rape victims or juvenile delinquents is likely to be introduced in the winter Session of Parliament.

delhi Updated: Nov 05, 2010 01:30 IST

A bill that will place victims of sexual harassment at the workplace on a par with rape victims or juvenile delinquents is likely to be introduced in the winter Session of Parliament.

The Union cabinet on Thursday cleared the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at the Work Place Bill 2010, in which a key feature is acknowledgment of the stigma and social discomfort which filing a case generates for a victim.

Acknowledging victims’ need for absolute confidentiality, the bill says no information on the complainant or the complaint can be made known to the media public “in any manner”.

This would overpower any provisions of the Right to Information Act 2005, forbidding investigating officials, government officers and anyone else with access to the relevant information to disclose any of it. The bill will, however, allow information regarding justice provided to victims to be disseminated without compromising the victim’s identity.

Under the proposed bill an employer will be liable to a fine of Rs 50,000 for failure to comply with those provisions, which will require all employers to provide a safe working environment for women.

If enacted, the bill will ensure that women are protected against sexual harassment at all workplaces, be it public, private or unorganised. “This will contribute to realisation of their right to gender equality, life and liberty and equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth,” a spokesperson said.

The bill proposes a definition of sexual harassment, which is as laid down by the Supreme Court in Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan (1997). That would include any physical contact and advances or demand or request for sexual favour, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography and any other unwelcome physical, verbal, non-verbal contact of sexual nature.

It also recognises the promise or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment as “sexual harassment” at workplace and expressly seeks to prohibit such acts.

The bill provides protection not only to women who are employed but also to any woman who enters the workplace as a client, customer, apprentice, and daily wage worker or in ad hoc capacity. Students, research scholars in colleges or university and patients in hospitals have also been covered. Only domestic maids are not covered by the bill.

The provisions

A key feature of the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at the Work Place Bill 2010 is acknowledgment of the stigma and social discomfort which filing a case generates for a victim.

It says no information on the complainant or the complaint can be made known to the media public “in any manner”.

An employer will be liable to a fine of Rs 50,000 for failure to comply with provisions, which will require all employers to provide a safe working environment for women.

It also recognises the promise or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment as “sexual harassment” at workplace and expressly seeks to prohibit such acts.