South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

NEW DELHI: The government has excluded domestic helps — among the sections most vulnerable to sexual harassment — from the purview of the Bill that the Union Cabinet cleared here on Thursday for protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace.

The Bill, which is likely to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament, mandates that women subjected to sexual advances — verbal or physical — are within their right to complain against her colleague. A person found guilty of sexual harassment is likely to face financial penalties besides loss of employment and, in case of a graver offence — a police complaint.

In order to address complaints related to sexual harassment, the Bill envisages formation of committees in each organisation, which has more than 10 workers or a local committee at the level of district or sub-district if it is an organisation with less than 10 people.

In the organised sector, employers will be expected to set up a complaints committee, including senior officials in the company preferably with experience in social work, legal knowledge or committed to the case of women, besides a member from an NGO. At least half of the total members should be women.

The penalty, if harassment is proved, will be levied in view of the victim’s mental suffering and trauma, income and financial status, medical expenses incurred and loss in career opportunity because of the incident. For the first time, any person giving a false complaint or false evidence will be liable to be punished under service rules.

Slamming the government’s move to keep domestic workers out of the ambit of the proposed legislation AIDWA’s Sudha Sundaraman said, “It is utter injustice to leave a section of women workers who are amongst the most exploited lot. Studies have shown that they are extremely vulnerable to sexual harassment. The Bill is extremely limited in its scope and it is very condemnable that the government has not taken this marginalised section on board.”

Officials argued that domestic workers were left out in view of the administrative difficulty in proving sexual harassment due to lack of witnesses and the effectiveness of the local committee in the home of accused.

“The Bill was in the pipeline for long and would now be presented in Parliament. This is sure to improve the lot of women in workplaces,” Krishna Tirath, minister of state for women and child development, said.

Source: Domestic helps left out of sexual harassment Bill – The Times of India