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`Pending anti-sexual harassment bill is useless`

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill was passed by Lok Sabha in 2012 but is pending with Rajya Sabha.

New Delhi: While the government has assured a stronger anti-rape law, activists say a bill against sexual harassment at the workplace that has been passed by the Lok Sabha but is yet to be brought before the Rajya Sabha is "useless".

In a discussion at Indian Women Press Corps here, women activists also said they had little hope that government will make the laws stronger in real terms.

"We do not accept the present draft bill. It has a lot missing," Indu Agnihotri, director, Centre for Women and Development Studies said.

The activists said among the shortcomings of the bill, the main was making the sexual assault gender-neutral.

"Making the law gender neutral will go against the women. It means a woman can be booked for raping a man," Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research added.

The activist also said they were apprehensive if any substantial changes will be made in the law.

"Even the Justice Verma committee is only to give recommendation for stricter punishment. We have made comprehensive suggestions to the committee but it is not necessary it will make a difference," women`s rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer Kirti Singh said.

"The government still does not seem very serious and is looking for short term solutions," Singh said.

Agnihotri added that the women groups have been making recommendations to the government since last several decades, and the laws have taken even 20 years to get framed.

"We have made recommendations to the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government, to the pre-NDA (PV) Narasimha Rao government, to the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government but still the anti-rape law took so many years to be framed, that too flawed," Agnihotri said.

Demands of amending the anti-rape laws has been strong after a 23-year-old woman was gang-raped and brutally assaulted in a moving bus in Delhi Dec 16. The woman later succumbed to her injuries Dec 29.

Mass protests were witnessed following the incident, with loud cries being made to form stronger anti-rape laws. The opposition parties also demanded special parliament session to make stronger laws against violence on women.

The government has formed a committee under former Supreme Court chief justice JS Verma to collect suggestions on need to change the rape related laws.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill was passed by Lok Sabha in 2012 but is pending with Rajya Sabha.


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