Parliament on Tuesday finally put its stamp on a legislation to end sexual harassment of women at workplaces. The bill on sexual harassment of women was approved by Rajya Sabha unanimously, as the lower house had approved it in last session. Thanking MPs for giving nod to the bill, women and child development minister Krishna Tirath promised to follow up the legislation with strict rules for its implementation after President Pranabh Mukherjee returns it with his mandatory stamp to make it part of statute book.
The bill covers under its list of offences sexual remarks, demand for sexual favour, or any act of physical advance or an unwelcome touch. Tirath said the bill will cover both organised and unorganised sectors and will include domestic workers. "The aim is that women are able to work freely whether it is workplace in organised or unorganised sector," she said.
The bill makes it mandatory for any organisation with 10 or more employees to set up an internal complaint committee. For an employer not following this, the penalty will be Rs.50,000. Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business. However, in the case of false or malicious complaint, the bill provides for action against the complainant in accordance with service rules and in any other manner in case no service rules exist.
The bill covers not only employees, but also clients, customers, apprentice or daily wage workers who enter the workplace. Its provisions will also apply to private sector organisation, societies, trusts, educational institutions, NGOs, service providers of commercial, professional or entertainment activities.
Repeated non-compliance of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, can even lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.
The sexual harassment has been defined as any one or more of unwelcome acts or behaviour such as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography. The acts or behaviour whether directly, or by implication, include any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
The legislation further defines domestic worker as a woman employed to do household work in any household for remuneration whether in cash or kind, either directly or through any agency on temporary, permanent, part time or full time basis, but does not include any member of the family of the employer.