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Bill on sexual harassment referred to parliamentary panel

Sunday, 16 January 2011 - 2:48pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI
The Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010 was introduced in the Lok Sabha during the winter session in December.

A bill which seeks to ensure a safe environment for women at work place has been referred to a parliamentary panel for further scrutiny.

The Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010 was introduced in the Lok Sabha during the winter session in December.

The bill has now been referred to t he parliamentary standing committee on human resource development for a deeper "examination".

The committee, headed by Congress MP Oscar Fernandes, has sought opinion of various stakeholders, including the common man to fine tune the proposed legislation.

The move comes against the backdrop of the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi suggesting to bring domestic workers under the purview of a proposed law for protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace.

Voicing concern over the exclusion of domestic workers from the purview of the bill, the NAC sought amendments to certain clauses of the draft legislation.

The government contended that as domestic workers were in the non-formal sector, it was difficult to bring them within the scope of the bill.

The NAC also decided to ask the government to drop a clause in the bill that they felt could prevent women from coming forward to seek protection against sexual harassment at workplace.

"The safeguards provided to them (women) by this bill are weakened by the inclusion of clause 14 (punishment for false or malicious complaint and false evidence), which might deter victims from seeking protection of the proposed legislation," the NAC said in a statement a few days ago.

The bill proposes a definition of sexual harassment, which is as laid down by the Supreme Court in a 1997 case.

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 proposed legislation also 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 and universities and patients in hospitals have also been covered.




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