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Providing secured ‘law blanket’ to working women

Wednesday, 5 September 2012 - 4:08pm IST | Place: Pune | Agency: dna

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed a major bill on protecting women against sexual harassment at workplace.

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed a major bill on protecting women against sexual harassment at workplace. The bill was pending before the house since 2010 and underwent over 39 official amendments. The most significant point is that it covers domestic workers employed for household work. While women activists welcomed the move, some are apprehensive about the actual implementation of the law. DNA gets you the details

Now, domestic workers will be protected by the law
For many years we have been demanding for a law to protect women from sexual harassment at workplace. We welcome the news of the bill being finally passed. Till now, women’s rights were protected under the Vishakha Guidelines but it had its shortcomings and was not enough. After the bill was introduced before the house, it went through many amendments.

The most significant amendment in the bill was made due to our agitation. The bill will now even cover domestic workers who are employed for household work.  However, the real challenge is how will this law be implemented. For example, the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, was also introduced but till date it has not proved to be of much help. Since the government has made efforts to pass this new bill, it must also set up a machinery that checks the implementation of the law.

The bill states that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a healthy environment to women at the workplace because any kind of sexual harassment means violation of human rights.

Shubha Shamim, state secretary, Working Women

Co-ordination Committee Compensate women victims who are harassed at workplace
Passing the bill to protect women at workplace from sexual harassments is a big step forward. Since the Vishakha Guidelines were put forth by Supreme Court on August 13, 1997, the women organisations in the country have been demanding for a strong and comprehensive law to safeguard women’s rights. Since then 3-4 bills were drafted and when it was presented in the house to be passed, it went through many amendments. The three significant amendments to note are giving protection to domestic workers, bringing private establishments under the law and also business establishments where there is one employer and one woman employee. Even women working in service sector come under the purview of the bill.

We had also demanded to make a provision in the bill to financially compensate women victims who are abused at workplace. I will check whether this provision has been included or not. Once the bill goes through Rajya Sabha, the government committees of women representatives will be formed at district and taluka level.    
Lata Bhise, Social Activist for Women Welfare

Even the maternity policy should be amended to protect women’s rights
The new law coming in force to protect women at workplace will be of great help. Women will  feel more confident and secured, giving them equal opportunities as their male counterparts. Today’s working women face many challenges compared to their male counterparts. With the new law, parents and family members will feel more comfortable in sending their girls to work in other cities as well.

Apart from protecting women at workplace, even the maternity policy should be amended. Most of the organisations provide a three-month maternity leave, which is not enough and should be extended to six months. With the new bill coming into force, we will definitely bring changes in our work policy. It is not only about providing safety and security to women at workplace but they should also feel equally comfortable because they have to handle both home and office.      
Anuradha Duttagupta, director-HR, Ideas (SAS Company )

Govt took 15 years to pass the bill
We should first welcome the government’s move to pass the bill and think of how it will be implemented. It took the government 15 years to pass the bill after the Supreme Court had given directives to implement Vishakha Guidelines in 1997 and suggested there should be a separate law to protect women’s rights. I think it is necessary to protect women from harassments as these problems are quite common at workplace. 
Kiran Moghe, President (India), Janwadi Mahila Sanghatna

The bill must be rolled back till it is not made gender-neutral
I am surprised that the bill to protect women at workplace was passed in Lok Sabha without any debate. The bill is gender biased and goes against men as all representations, recommendations and articles supporting gender neutrality have been discarded. The bill must be stalled and rolled back till it is not made gender-neutral. The women and child development ministry should stop demanding for anti-male laws and rather try to bring in gender neutral laws. The new law can lead to frivolous complaints at workplace and can motivate companies to stop hiring women. The law can also be misused to cover incompetence at workplace. This bill was proposed in 2007 based on a judgment by the Supreme Court in Vishakha case. Hence, the government must ensure the new law is not used against men and should provide equal protection to all.
Rajesh Vakharia, Member, Save Indian Family Foundation

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