Students in educational institutions will be covered under the proposed Sexual Harassment at Workplace law.
The law ministry on Tuesday agreed to the women and child development (WCD) ministry’s proposal to include students and research scholars under the ambit of the law. “There would be a separate clause in the law to cover students and research scholars,” a WCD ministry official, not willing to be named, said.
In the existing draft of the Sexual Harassment Bill, only those women employed by the government or the private sector are covered.
“Considering the trend of increasing number of complaints of sexual harassment being reported from educational institutions, it was thought to include students under the ambit of the law,” the official said.
Students and the type of harassment they face in educational institutes would be defined to leave no scope for culprits to go scot-free. “There is a need to define sexual harassment in educational institutions, as it is different from the one faced in offices,” he explained.
A 1996 study of a group of women students of Delhi University’s sociology department found that 92 per cent of them had faced sexual harassment on campus. The study also said departments tried to hush up complaints, fearing they would bring a bad name to the institution.
The law ministry has also agreed to WCD ministry’s suggestion not to incorporate a strong deterrent in the law, that can discourage complaints. Instead, there would be provision for minor penal action against the complainant who fails to cooperate in the probe or whose complaint is found to be baseless.