26TH FEB 2013
RAJYA SABHA (Bill — Passed)
The following Members took part in the discussion:—
1. Dr. Najma A. Heptulla
2. Dr. Prabha Thakur
3. Dr. T.N. Seema
4. Shri D. Bandyopadhyay
5. Shrimati Vandana Chavan
6. Dr. Ashok S. Ganguly
7. Dr. Bharatkumar Raut
8. Shri Rama Chandra Khuntia
9. Shrimati Maya Singh
10. Shrimati Gundu Sudharani
11. Shri Ram Kripal Yadav
12. Shrimati Kanimozhi
13. Shrimati Renubala Pradhan
14. Dr. Vijaylaxmi Sadho
15. Shrimati Smriti Zubin Irani
16. Shri M. Rama Jois
- Shrimati Krishna Tirath replied to the debate.
- The motion for consideration of the Bill was adopted.
- Clauses 2 to 30 were adopted. Clause 1, as amended, was adopted.
- The Enacting Formula, as amended, was adopted.
- The Preamble and the Title were adopted.
- The motion moved by Shrimati Krishna Tirath that the Bill, as amended, be passed was adopted and the Bill was passed.
SYNOPSIS OF THE DEBATE
The Sexual Harassment of Women at workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012
THE MINISTER OF STATE OF THE MINISTRY OF WOMEN AND CHILD
DEVELOPMENT (SHRIMATI KRISHNA TIRATH), moving the motion for consideration of the Bill, said:
The main object of this Bill is to provide safe environment to the Women at their workplace, to prevent their Sexual Harassment and to make them economically empowered so that they can do their work properly. First time this Bill not only covers those women who work in the Government offices, but also at all workplaces both in public and private sector, whether organized or unorganized. The Bill castes a responsibility on every employer to create an environment at every workplace which is free from sexual harassment. An internal complaints committee is required to be constituted at every workplace. Under Clause 26, the employer is liable to be punished if he does not act on the recommendations of the Bill. Under Clause 6, there is a provision to constitute a Local Complaints Committee for the unorganized sector, headed by an eminent woman and consisting of, at least, half women members with due representation of SCs, STs, OBCs and minority communities. If a woman makes a complaint with malicious intention and fail to prove it then she is liable to be punished. To make the women aware of the law, responsibility has given to the employer to organise awareness programmes at regular intervals. I appeal to the House to consider and pass this Bill.
DR. NAZMA A. HEPTULLA: This Government gives knee jerk reaction to every incident. There was a horrible incident of rape in Delhi. The whole country was in anger due to this incident. Government constituted a committee headed by a retired Chief Justice to suggest measures in this regard. Committee presented its report and Hon’ble President promulgated an ordinance. President, while addressing both the Houses, did not announce in his speech about the Bill related to participation of women in power. After the rape incident in Delhi such more incidents came into the light. Three minor girl children were ruthlessly raped in Bhandara District in Maharashtra. Such incidents took place even after existing so many laws. These laws will not be helpful until they are implemented. I have objection on the words ‘sexual harassment ‘ written in the title of the Bill. Women are also harassed mentally and physically at work places. All types of harassment cannot be covered under ‘sexual harassment’. If you wanted gender identification, for that purpose ‘women’ word was already in the Bill. What name will you give for the harassment of a woman by a woman at work place. Nothing has been mentioned in the Bill about the redressal of complaints regarding sexual harassment of women working in the private sector. This legislation is not for the Central Government alone, it is for the State Governments also. Have you taken them into confidence? What mechanism has been made for them. How it will be implemented to grass root level in villages. It is necessary to implement the law after its enactment. Immediate action is required to stop atrocities and rapes against women instead of constituting committees.
DR. PRABHA THAKUR: Government has brought this Bill with the intention to stop sexual harassment of women at their work places. I welcome the intention and support this Bill. Gangrape of women is more serious than murder. If all men in the country respect all women as their own sister, daughter, mother or wife, there will be no need to enact so many laws for protection of women. People do not afraid of law. Death penalty should be given for crimes like gangrape as it is prevalent in the Middle -East. The situation of women is very vulnerable. Very few women are their who approach to the court, and if someone goes the result does not come out positive. The situation poor women are more worsen. For the empowerment of women, we must follow the exists law of Goa. Rape victims should be provided lawyers. Those women who go home late from their working places, must be provided commutation facilities. The punishment for asking sexual favour should be made more stringent. Time bound justices must be provided. I support this Bill.
DR. T.N. SEEMA: I rise to support the Bill. Crimes against women are on the rise in the country. The implementation side of these kinds of laws is very poor in our country. I would like to highlight some of the weaknesses in this Bill. I would like to know about the methodology of implementation of this Act in the unorganized sector. The women in the Armed Forces, police, schools and educational institutions must be included under the Bill. In the unorganized sector, the restriction about the number of workers to less than ten should be done away with. I strongly object to the inclusion of Clause 14 which allows for penal action against the complainant in the Bill, which will defeat its very purpose. There are many laws for weaker sections, women, SCs/STs, etc. in our country but majority of these sections do not enjoy the legal protection because of poor implementation. I would strongly suggest of referring this Bill to a Select Committee for redrafting of the Bill. I support the Bill.
SHRI D. BANDYOPADHYAY: I rise to support the Bill. But I have some doubts about the its fairly being implemented. While supporting the Bill I suggest that at the Gram Panchayat level women members should be given the power of vigilance and take action under this Act as well as under the Domestic Violence Act. I would ask the Government to have a relook at the whole thing and do not depend upon the same traditional mechanism. I suggest that there should be three separate courts for women cases as civil, matrimonial and criminal, but let the IPC remain what it is. I support this Bill.
SHRIMATI VANDANA CHAVAN, making her maiden speech, said: I rise to support the Bill. It reaffirms confidence in women. Women, in their lifetime, have a horizontal canvass. One is at home that has been addressed by the Domestic Violence Act, the second is at work place which is being addressed through this Bill, and the third is a public place which, needs to be taken up in the near future. Laws may not be necessary, but policies certainly to make cities and towns gender-friendly so that women feel safe. I would like to point out one section which really worries me. It is punishment for false or malicious complaints. It is very rare that a women would make a false complaint. This legislation has mentioned ‘sexual harassment’ in its title itself, but in future, the word ‘harassment’ should only be continued. It is an all pervasive legislation. Women safety has become a major issue. There are several steps needed to be
taken to make sure that women are safer in public life and public spaces also.
DR. ASHOK S. GANGULY: I support this Bill. Harassment of women in India is now not only a national shame but it is a national burden. Women who complain about sexual harassment, need a Womens’ Complaints Protection Act also. It is a Bill for protection of women at the workplace. So it should be made compulsory for Annual Reports to have a section on sexual harassment of women. Lot of women are provided with transportation after certain hours. The transport companies should be certified. There should be mobile courts, manned by women, where women can approach without any fear. Women who suffer silently at all places should be given justice.
DR. BHARATKUMAR RAUT: I support this Bill. But even if this Bill is passed, it will only remain a piece of legislation. We have forgot to put multi-national companies in this. Don’t they come under Indian laws. I used to get complaints from women that being a woman they are neglected while giving promotion. I know some companies in Mumbai and Delhi where there is an unwritten rule that women should not be employed beyond this level. Isn’t it is a sexual harassment? Many things are not mentioned in this Bill. I think, a better exercise would have brought a much better Bill.
SHRI RAMA CHANDRA KHUNTIA: I support this Bill. Within one year or two years, all the murder or rape case must be disposed of and the culprit must be punished. We should take a decision in this regard. Why these murder, rape or harassment cases are happening. In army we have millions of soldiers but only thousand of women. That is the main reason for harassment. If at all workplaces the number of women are more nobody will dare to harass or rape women in this country. The most discriminatory part is that private employers do not want to employ women. Not only sexual harassment alone, if an employer is denying employment to a woman on gender bias, they should also be liable to be punished. They have a formal policy which prohibits sexual harassment at workplaces. In USA cases of sexual harassment have been reduced now to 11,000 from 15,000 in 2001. That means, a strong law for sexual harassment has yielded good results in the USA. We must expect that if this law is implemented properly, we can also get better results. We fully support this Bill and we also expect that judiciary, media and all the people in the society would support it so that the culprits can be punished at the right time. Punishing the culprits and creating the opportunity to make 50 per cent space for women will give a handle to resolve the issues of women in this country.
SHRIMATI MAYA SINGH: Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012 has taken 13 years to pass. Sexual harassment is a tragic reality of our society. Buy now whatever laws or legal protection made for women were sufficient. But specially of the case of Damini which has shaken the country. Whether the mechanism of implementation of making of laws is flexible? Whatever efforts should be made to bring awareness to our society are not sufficient. Our Parliament and beaurocracy has to think over this issue in a very effective manner that the women will be kept on victimizing and we will be discussing the issue in the Parliament in the same way, is not good. In the Bill, harassment in the work place to the women has been defined broadly but I have some doubt that women working in education sector and professional sector will be given the same protection. . In the matter regarding teacher and students small girls are exploited and they are not getting justice in lack of concrete law. In some other fields where women are not related to anybody in terms of job. But they have to face uncomfortable situation with their associates. I doubt whether women working in the field of fashion designing will be getting protection through this Bill. We have to make this provision more clear with regard to constituting committee for sexual harassment so that women can join this fourm of their own. After the report of internal complaint committee, an employer should not have any other substitute than to initiate disciplinary action. According to service rules the employer should ensure the action. With regards to the power vested in different officials I feel the need of some amendments. If we include Labour Commissioner in this, then women will be more protected. The constitution of Internal Complaint Committee will be difficult in the offices where less than 10 employees are there. You have empowered Internal Complaint Committee with the power of civil court. But binding of having the knowledge of law or giving legal training to any member is not mentioned. In this situation justice is doubted. I suggest that women commission, Labour Commissioner and Local Administration should hold a review meeting at district level wherein women going for work can be reviewed. There can be a good and concrete law if duty power of district officers should be inserted in Clause 20. They should be a concrete authority for unorganized authority. This Bill should give protection of the society and it should not remain on paper and discussion. This Bill is talking about stoppage of sexual harassment should not be ineffective than only it will be meaningful. I support this Bill.
SHRIMATI GUNDU SUDHARANI: It is an important legislation which protects women against sexual harassment at workplace. India was party to U.N. Convention on CEDAW the recommendation was given 20 years ago. And, it is unfortunate that it is becoming law here after two decades! Sub Clause (V) to clause 2 (n) appears to be vague. I request the hon. Minister to clarify this. Eve-teasing in our country is the most common practice and girls at schools and colleges are victims of this. But, nowhere in the Bill has it been mentioned that eve-teasing constitutes sexual harassment. Government never thought about other forms of sexual harassments. So, I request the hon. Minister to include ‘eve-teasing’ as sexual harassment under Clause 2(n) of the Bill. Bill has kept out domestic workers working at home. Most domestic workers are poor, illiterate, unskilled and come from vulnerable communities and backward areas. The hon. Minister agreed to include all domestic workers under Clause 2(e) of the Bill. But, Sir, what about those who constitute five to seven times of registered domestic workers? The Bill deprives them access to an efficient redressal mechanism in getting protection from sexual harassment.
SHRI RAM KIRPAL YADAV: This bill has been brought for the working women which we welcome. Despite all laws there is no decreasing in harassment of women, rather it is increasing. The number of person commiting such barbarism is increasing and today women are unsafe. We regard women and we worship them. Earlier. leave alone working women, they are not literate and there limit was four walls of the house. There was a change in our thinking and number of working women was increased. They become more literate. But if there are no implementation of the law due to lack of will power than law has no meaning. If we are not ready to change our mind set and there is no change of thinking we cannot stop sexual harassment despite any law. Tendency to crime, to barbarism, to sexual harassment and to harassment is there. How can we stop this. This is also an important question. I feel that law is not competent. Law are made but time limit is not prescribed. So I request the Minister that you think about to constitute of special court. Rape is no lesser offence than murder. I agree that those women are not able to face the society. School going girl are being raped and they are being murdered. We should make any amount of laws. But unless we change our thinking this is not going to stop. If women are kept away from working than there will be the problem of bread earning. There should a provision of special court of this Bill so that cases can be disposed of in a given time and criminals can be punished. I request the hon. Minister to find a mechanism so that they are also covered under this. I also request that recommendations of the Local Committee should be made binding and ensure that no further inquires be initiated. I have a strong objection to Clause 14 of the Bill which seeks to punish false or malicious complaints. Now Clause 14 of the Bill asks for evidence of acts like verbal favour that often would be done in an implicit or clandestine manner. Certain forms of sexual harassment cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt as may be possible with physical injury or other crimes. In such a situation, it is very unfortunate that the lack of proof of a crime makes the complainant liable for punishment. Most of the women did not report for fear of being victimized. I support the Bill brought forward by the hon. Minister.
SHRIMATI KANIMOZHI: I rise to support the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012. It currently excluded the women of many fields. It is very important that we include these women. These women constitute a large chunk of working women in this country. The word ‘unwelcome’, in the Bill should actually be determined by the victim, and not by any Committee or by anybody outside. If we do not do that then, again, it will become another way to harass a woman or to find other ways to get out. When we are talking about agricultural workers or other workers, not many of them are capable of giving a written complaint. Also, not everybody is really comfortable in writing or giving a written complaint. So, it should also include ‘oral complaints. The aggrieved persons or the victims should be able to go and give their complaints orally. In this country, women’s education has still not reached the desired level. So, we have to take this into consideration. With regard to limiting this to a period of three months, not many women complaint at the first incident. Unless it becomes repeated and intolerable, no woman will make a complaint. This law has been brought forward to protect them. Then, how can there be a conciliation in these cases? This is not a business contract, where a conciliation can be achieved over the table. The present clause 14 which relates to punishment for false or malicious complaint and false evidence seems to be working against the purpose of this legislation. We know how society works against women. So, this has to be taken into consideration seriously.
SHRIMATI RENUBALA PRADHAN: I welcome the Bill as the women in their workplaces are harassed severely despite several existing provisions. Many of them do not ventilate their plights either due to social taboo or fear of their higher officers. The ministry should constitute separate independent forum at district and block levels with women members only so that the victimized women can ventilate their grievances properly. It should be made mandatory for every Government, semi-Government and private offices and institutes to constitute a cell to look into the grievances of the sexual harassment of the women at their workplace. It is seen that the females who are working in the unorganized sectors are more harassed than the women working in the organized sector. The Government should incorporate some of these provisions so that the working women in both the sectors can ventilate their grievances without fear. In order to address the problem of assault on women, special fast track courts should be constituted throughout the nation, at least, at all District and Sub-Divisional levels.
DR. VIJAYLAXMI SADHO: I welcome this Bill. Since the early times, women are being treated as inferior. Even after so many years, the situation is almost the same. Rajiv Gandhi had provided 33 percent reservation in the local bodies even in adverse circumstances. He had given respect to the women in the country through Panchayati Raj, local governance. They were given participation in the power. The Hon’ble Minister is required to pay more attention to the mental and physical harassment at work place also in addition to the sexual harassment. The proper implementation of legislations enacted in Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies is absolutely necessary. Most of the population of the country is in rural areas. The agricultural labourers working there, face the maximum harassment. They should be brought under this Bill.
SHRIMATI SMRITI ZUBIN IRANI: The scars on the psyche of Indian women are deep because we hear of cases of molestation, sexual harassment and rape, but very few news reports of conviction in such cases. As per the Law Commission Report, as of now 72.6 per cent cases of sexual harassment and 83 per cent cases of rape are pending in our courts. I would support the submission that even professionals like lawyers and doctors be brought within the ambit of this law and their rights and their dignity be protected. While the internal complaints committee, according to this Bill, has the mandate of receiving complaints, nowhere does this Bill highlight how it is to be ascertained as to how many establishments or companies come within the ambit of the law within a district. While this legislation highlights a penalty of Rs.50,000 if an employer fails to constitute the internal complaints committee, it is silent with regards to the timeframe within which this committee has to be set up. Clause 9(1) of this Bill, speaks about providing assistance to women in making complaints in writing if the lady herself is unable to do so, but is silent, on what happens in cases where the internal complaints committee or the local complaints committee does not take cognizance of verbal complaints and does not provide support to the aggrieved woman. As regards clause 10 about settlement, the bill is absolutely silent as to how the Committee is to conclude whether an aggrieved woman or her family has been pressurized to reach a settlement. The Bill is silent on repeat offenders who manage to reach settlement. The Supreme Court while laying down the guidelines, looked upon sexual harassment at workplace as a cognizable offence but this particular Bill does not look upon it as a cognizable offence. It is a mystery to all of us.
SHRI M. RAJA JOIS: There has been total moral degradation during the five decades, and that is the reason, the Bill has to be brought for penalizing this onslaught on women. In our culture, highest respect is given to womanhood and the woman is treated as divine treasure. Immoral sex has been considered as the worst offence. It has been considered even worse than a murder. It does an irreparable damage. The State has failed to provide a good system of education. I welcome the legislation. The guilty should be punished. But at the same time this matter cannot be solved by legislation alone.