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Defining sexual harassment

While complaining about sexual harassment, the fear of unspoken social ostracism in office, a lengthy case of pressure from seniors to ?let it go, we?ll punish him? and ultimately a verdict which leaves the entire world wondering whether you were exaggerating it, will all be history now.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2006 03:22 IST

While complaining about sexual harassment, the fear of unspoken social ostracism in office, a lengthy case of pressure from seniors to “let it go, we’ll punish him” and ultimately a verdict which leaves the entire world wondering whether you were exaggerating it, will all be history now. The government is almost ready with a stricter law to deal with sexual harassment.

The draft Protection Against Sexual Harassment Bill, 2006, readied by the ministry of women and child development and being considered by the law ministry, gives women the power to stand up against sexual harassment at any place—be it a corporate office, school, college, grocery store, an autorickshaw or a public transport system, the unorganised sector or legislative bodies, including Parliament. The bill is likely to be introduced in the monsoon session of the house. As per the draft bill, sexual harassment includes “such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour as physical contact and advances, sexually-coloured remarks, showing pornography and demand for sex, physically or verbally”. “It is clarified that it is the reasonable perception of the woman that would be relevant in determining a sexually-coloured or an unwelcome conduct,” says the bill.

The definition of sexual harassment also covers such conduct that can be humiliating and may constitute health or safety problems. It also covers discriminatory practices adopted by the employer like stalling recruitment or promotions of the complainant. No time bar has been put on lodging the complaint and any delay will not go against the victim, the bill says. A complaint of sexual harassment will have to be lodged with a complaint committee, to be headed by a woman. The committee will have to pronounce its decision within 90 days. If the complaint is found to be correct, the victim will have the right to seek monetary compensation. The compensation would be granted as per the salary of the defendant.

The bill also allows government monitoring of such cases. Each district in urban areas and each block in rural areas will have to appoint a local officer, preferably a woman, to ensure that a complaint committee has been set up.