‘Bill against sexual harassment should cover domestic workers`
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Last Updated: Thursday, December 08, 2011, 19:43
New Delhi: A Parliamentary panel has strongly recommended bringing domestic workers under the ambit of a proposed legislation which seeks to protect women against sexual harassment at the workplace.

Concurring with the views of different stakeholders, it said, domestic workers who comprise 30 per cent of female workforce in unorganised sector and are most vulnerable to sexual harassment, should be ensured their right to work with dignity.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD in its report tabled in Rajya Sabha today on 'Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill 2010' said "definition of employee, employer and workplace are required to be changed to ensure domestic workers are brought within the ambit of this Bill thereby upholding their rights to work with dignity."

The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 7 last year and was referred to the Standing Committee on December 30.

It seeks to provide every woman a safe and secure environment, free from sexual harassment.

The committee was of the firm view that preventive aspects reflected in the proposed Bill has to be strictly in line with the Supreme Court guidelines in Vishaka case and sought pro-active role of NGOs in implementation of the Bill.

The apex court's judgement in Vishaka case not only defines sexual harassment at the workplace but also lays down guidelines for its prevention and disciplinary action against the erring employee.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD observed that all workplace including Central and state government institutions are required to follow Supreme Court guidelines on sexual harassment laid down in the Vishaka case in 1997 which covers an entire gamut of behavioural aspects.

In this context, it suggested that "preventive aspects in the Bill, as mandated in the SC guidelines has to be reflected in the Bill" and the title of the Bill modified to 'Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill.

Taking into account the problems likely to be faced by local level committee in providing redressal to victims against highly placed government or private officials, the committee felt state commission for women need to be involved in handling cases against employer.

It also suggested that a distinction be made between a minor offence and a major one in the Bill related to sexual harassment. "Tendering apology or admission of guilt would be fine in case of a minor offence but the same should not be applicable to major offence," the committee said.

It said punishment should be the only of rendering justice to the aggrieved women in major cases and for such offences "stern punishment should be the only way out without any scope for conciliation," it said.


First Published: Thursday, December 08, 2011, 19:42

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