A proposed legislation to protect women from sexual harassment in their jobs is set to widen its reach with the likely inclusion of lakhs of domestic workers under it.
The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill intends to provide a safe environment for women at workplaces and covers the public, private, organised and unorganised sectors.
The original bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2010 did not include domestic workers. The bill was referred to the parliamentary standing committee on HRD, which recommended that the proposed legislation safeguard domestic workers as well.
Now, the women and child development ministry is all for bringing domestic workers under the ambit of the bill. “We favour the inclusion of domestic workers in the sexual harassment bill,” women and child development minister Krishna Tirath said.
Ministry sources said to make this possible, necessary amendments would soon be brought to the bill and cabinet’s approval sought. The amendment in the bill will protect the rights of at least 47.5 lakh women registered as domestic workers.
They make up almost 30% of the women workforce in the unorganised sector. The actual number of domestic workers is much higher.
Though the standing committee recommended the inclusion of domestic workers in the proposed legislation, the ministry’s initial view was that there would be practical difficulties in implementing it within the confines of a home. The National Commission for Women had opposed the ministry’s view.
The committee headed by Congress MP Oscar Fernandes tabled its report in the winter session of Parliament.
Earlier, the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council too had favoured the inclusion of domestic workers in the bill.
The proposed legislation will not only provide protection to employed women but also those who enter workplaces as clients, customers, apprentices, daily wage workers or in ad-hoc capacity.
Students and research scholars in colleges and universities and patients in hospitals have also been covered.