Sexual harassment Bill may cover helps, men-TOI
New Delhi: Domestic helps would find it easier to complain against sexual harassment if the recommendations of a parliamentary panel, favouring their inclusion in the proposed ‘protection of women against sexual harassment in workplace’ bill, are accepted.
Dismissing the government’s view that there were “practical difficulties” in implementing the law within the confines of a home, the committee on Thursday said such excuses could not be used as a shield against complaints. Domestic workers, with 47.5 lakh registered in the country, comprise 30% of the female workforce in the unorganized sector. In another first, the panel has also suggested that an enabling provision be considered to allow reporting of sexual harassment of men at the workplace. This follows representations from several men’s organizations. The parliamentary standing committee on HRD headed by Oscar Fernandez tabled its report in Rajya Sabha on Thursday. The report has suggested involvement of NGOs, police stations and RWAs in helping the aggrieved domestic worker get justice through the legislation.
Incidentally, the National Commission for Women, set up for protection of women’s rights and which works under the ministry of women and child development, has contradicted its own ministry. NCW officials told the committee that the concerns raised over enforcing the provisions of the bill within the privacy of the home were “unfounded” as the domestic violence act had “broken this myth” and extended legal protection into the confines of the home.
The committee had received representations from several domestic workers associations .
The committee has also recommended change in the definition of an employer to make it more broad-based and to include contractors, home-owners and landlords. Workplace can also include vehicles provided by employers for women to travel to and fro from work. It has also suggested that the head of a private institution including a company, hospital or university be specified, as in the case of government institutions.
The sexual harassment bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 7, 2010 and was referred to the standing committee on December 30. It seeks to provide every woman a safe and secure work environment.
The committee was of the view that preventive aspects reflected in the proposed Bill had to be strictly in line with the Supreme Court guidelines in the Vishaka case and sought the pro-active role of NGOs in implementing the Bill. The apex court’s judgment in Vishaka case not only defines sexual harassment at the workplace but also lays down guidelines for its prevention and disciplinary action against erring employees.