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Maharashtra is the safest place for working women; Delhi is worst

Friday, 9 May 2014 - 11:05am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Maharashtra is the safest place for working women. The state has beaten most others, along with the national capital, in terms of security of women at workplace.

National Commission of Women (NCW) statistics of the past four years show the state has recorded just 22 complaints of sexual harassment at workplace, including in Mumbai and Pune.

Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, notorious for crime against women, topped the ranks with 118 and 99 complaints in the same period.

Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal's alleged assault on a women employee during a fest in Goa is the first case being tried under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act (SHWWA) passed by Parliament in 2012.

But despite guidelines being in place for the past three decades and the recently implemented SHWWA, are women really safe in their workplaces?

"I don't think so. First of all, security, which comes under law and order, is a state subject... so, compilation of comprehensive data of all states is extremely difficult," Pankaj Sharma, Centre for Transforming India, an NGO, said. "NCW figures could be just the tip of the iceberg as NCW is the last resort for women who don't give up. Yes of course, Maharashtra might be doing better than states like UP and Rajasthan."

Both Vishaka guidelines and this new act are supposed to work as a remedy. But half-hearted implementation has made these mechanisms toothless.

"We surveyed around 125 companies across the country, especially in Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai; and around 120 of them have committees against sexual harassment. But their appraoch is more legal and not resolutional. The committee doesn't have any power, especially against owners of the company. Their is no prevention and prohibition mechanism in place, forget redressal," Sharma said.

Delhi too hasn't seen much improvement because sexual harrasement cases are still on the rise.

Gaurang Kanth, a Supreme Court lawyer who is a specialist in workplace harassment cases, provides another harsh assessment. According to him such cases are not only happening in private organizations, but also in government institutions.

"I find more and more sexual harassment cases coming from workplaces. The recent case where a teacher accused her principal of assaulting her is an example. Committees established by institutions are just hokum as most of them aren't empowered enough to take action," Kanth said.

Private sector employees particularly become prey of such assault. "When we talk about private sector, we only talk about organised sector... what about construction sites of private builders, factories and other unorganised avenues where there is no committee to look into the matter? I don't think we get even 20 per cent of the total cases of sexual harassment taking place," Sharma said.

Top five states
1. Uttar Pradesh:
2. Delhi: 99
3. Rajasthan 42
4. Madhya Pradesh 38
5. Haryana 23

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