Govt proposes to introduce sexual harassment bill in Parliament

Govt to introduce Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010.

New Delhi: Women can now look forward to a secure workplace with the government on Thursday proposing to bring in the long-pending sexual harassment Bill under which an
employer would be liable to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 on failing to comply with its provisions.

A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the introduction of the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace
Bill, 2010, in the coming Winter session of Parliament.

The proposed Bill, if enacted, will ensure that women are protected against sexual harassment at all work places be it public, private or unorganised and ensure a safe
environment for women at workplaces.

Domestic maids, however, will not be covered under the Bill.

"This will contribute to realisation of their right to gender equality, life and liberty and equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace
will improve women`s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth," an official spokesperson said.

The Bill proposes a definition of sexual harassment, which is as laid down by the Supreme Court in Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan (1997).

The definition includes any physical contact and advances or demand or request for sexual favour, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography and any other unwelcome physical, verbal, non-verbal contact of sexual nature.

Additionally it recognises the promise or threat to a woman`s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment as "sexual harassment" at workplace and expressly
seeks to prohibit such acts.

The Bill provides protection not only to women who are employed but also to any woman who enters the workplace as a client, customer, apprentice, and daily wage worker or in ad-hoc capacity.

Students, research scholars in colleges or university and patients in hospitals have also been covered.

The Bill provides for an effective complaints and redressal mechanism. Under the proposed Bill, every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee.

Since a large number of the establishments (41.2 million out of 41.83 million) in the country have less than 10 workers for whom it may not be feasible to set up an Internal
Complaints Committee, the Bill provides for setting up of Local Complaints Committee to be constituted by the designated district officer at the district or sub-district levels.

This twin mechanism would ensure that women in any workplace, irrespective of its size or nature, have access to a redressal mechanism. The local Committees will enquire into
the complaints of sexual harassment and recommend action to the employer or district officer.