A conglomerate of about 400 women’s organizations has called for significant changes in the draft bill against sexual harassment at the workplace so that it becomes gender-neutral, brings sex-based discrimination in its ambit and expands the definition of sexual harassment to include, among other things, the long-term impact of a single incident of humiliating sexual commentary.
WomenPowerConnect (WPC), the conglomerate of women’s organizations, has listed out the changes to be incorporated in the bill to give more teeth. These include:
*expand applicability and scope of coverage from a few illustrations to a whole range of incidents of harassment
*make it clear whether an establishment which has violated a provision of this bill can be forced to pay monetary damages to the suing party
*assigning personal liability to someone who victimizes a sexual harassment complainant for having brought a complaint
*include in the bill sex based discrimination so that it becomes gender-neutral. Currently, the bill only protects women against harassment by men. But same sex harassment is also possible. Also, women can sexually harass men as well.
*state the goals of the legislation more clearly.
``Since the draft bill is incomplete and several definitins and objectives in it are likely to be misinterpreted in the future, we have submitted a list of recommendations to the concerned ministries,’’ said Ranjana Kumari, WPC president.
According to WPC, the current bill does not make it clear when a woman can bring a charge and when she cannot. It describes many scenarios in which sexual harassment must not take place but also fails to mention several others. ``The bill should be amended to clarify that the currently described scenarios are illustrations only so that they do not become restrictive on the applicability of the bill,’’ it said in a statement. Similarly, it said there is also need to make it clear whether an establishment that has violated a provision in the bill can be forced to pay monetary charges to the suing party.
The draft bill was recently put up on the website of the Women and Child Development Ministry inviting suggestions and objections from the public.