Dowry, sexual harassment laws among government priorities
New Delhi: Three laws - on dowry, indecent representation of women and juvenile justice - as well as a draft bill on sexual harassment at workplace are top priority for the government this year, says Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath.
The laws to which the ministry is contemplating seeking amendments are the Dowry Prohibition Act, the Indecent Representation of Women Act and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act.
Tirath also wants probes into honour killings at the behest of caste councils.
"New enactments and amendments of existing laws are one of our top agendas for the year 2010-11. The draft bill on sexual harassment in workplace is ready and awaiting the central government`s approval," Tirath told a news agency in an interview.
The sexual harassment in workplace bill envisages that every workplace, whether organised or unorganised, should have a forum to take up complaints pertaining to sexual harassment.
It also includes a new clause which brings students, research scholars, patients and women in the unorganised sector within the ambit of the proposed law.
In the case of the organised sector, there will be internal complaint committees, in the absence of which a penalty, including deregistration of the institutions or a fine of Rs 50,000 for a first-time offence, will be imposed.
On the issue of honour killings of young couples who dared to go against the diktats of khap panchayats (caste councils) and marry within the same gotra or ancestral lineage, Tirath said she has asked the National Commission for Women (NCW) to probe "such retrograde social practices".
"The government and the ministry of home affairs are considering legislative measures - amendment of the Indian Penal Code, the Special Marriage Act and the Indian Evidence Act - to tackle the matter.
"We have also asked the NCW to look into allegations of such killings and suggest measures on how to combat such retrograde social practices," Tirath said.
Talking about the Dowry Prohibition Act, a senior official of the ministry told IANS: "We received the proposed amendments in the Dowry Prohibition Act from the NCW and are currently in talks with the legislative department on the same."
"There is criticism that the law holds the taker of dowry responsible and not the giver. So a lot of points have to be taken care of while vetting the proposed amendments," the official said.
The minister said the proposed amendments in the Indecent Representation of Women Act were also submitted by the NCW and are now being assessed by the ministry. The Act prevents indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, which provides a framework for protection, treatment and rehabilitation of children in the purview of the juvenile justice system, is further sought to be amended to make it more stringent, effective and child-friendly.
"The main idea behind amending the laws is to make them more effective in protecting the interests of women, and also children," Tirath said.
The ministry is also holding a conference of state ministers in charge of women and child development June 16 to review the implementation of various laws relating to women and the girl child.
"There will be a review of the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, the Dowry Prohibition Act and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. The state ministers` opinion and suggestions will be taken into account for further action," an official said.
The ministry is also planning to expand the services of the child helpline (1098) - from 83 districts to 305 districts in the country.
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