Domestic workers and women in the unorganised sectors should be granted protection under the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Work Place Bill, activists said on Wednesday.
“The definition of work place can be a place where a woman earns her livelihood,” said Nandita Gandhi, from Akshara, speaking at a day-long workshop on sexual harassment at the workplace held at Kalina. “Construction workers, domestic workers and vendors should be included and have a forum where they can come forward to complain.” Lawyers and activists also demanded that a clause that recommends punishment for false complaints of sexual harassment be dropped to ensure that complainants are not victimised further with counter-complaints.
The workshop was organised by human rights organisations Lawyers Collective and Oxfam and the University of Mumbai. Non-implementation of the Supreme Court guidelines on sexual harassment at the work place because they are considered to be “merely guidelines,” was a major concern among activists.“In cases of sexual harassment in private companies, the woman starts protesting against one man but ends up fighting the entire company,” said women’s rights activist Anagha Sarpotdar. “The victims deal with trivialisation of the complaint, inaction despite repeated complaints and a strong bias towards male members as they are perceived to bring more business to the company.”
Participants pointed out that student nurses and Phd aspirants were among the most vulnerable women working in organised sectors.
Guidelines issued by the SC in 1997 (Vishakha judgment) include creation of complaints committee, protection of victims and witnesses and disciplinary action or criminal proceedings against the accused.