#India – Sexual Harassment at Workplace #Vaw #Womenrights #mustread


Workplace Sexual Harassment

The Way Things Are

Vol – XLVIII No. 24, June 15, 2013 | Naina Kapur , EPW
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Sixteen years after the landmark Vishaka case judgment of the Supreme Court, the government introduced in the Lok Sabha in September 2012 a defective Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill. The Act, as it stands, has failed to draw on the extensive research on sexual harassment that has been done in this country and elsewhere. Further, its inaccurate phrasing of workplace sexual harassment and mismatches between subheadings and content of the text eclipses the most common forms of workplace sexual harassment.

Naina Kapur (naina.kapur@gmail.com) is an advocate who pioneered the Vishaka directions on workplace sexual harassment.

Before 1997, “sexual harassment” had never settled into the Indian legal lexicon. We were instead saddled with an archaic Victorian template which criminalised “outraging or insulting” a “woman’s modesty”. It made us pretend that we had it all covered. But we never did. Unwelcome words, gestures, images, language, and all those subtle intangibles which sexually violate a woman, were comfortably woven into the pattern of life rather than the fabric of law. It all became a silent and acceptable part of “the way things are”.

Bhanwari Case

It was not until the 1990s that the sexual torment endured by a rural level change agent in Rajasthan and her subsequent determination to challenge what led to her violation gave rise to a long overdue common-sense approach to what needed to change. It was us. Sexual harassment hit the Indian legal map when Bhanwari, a saathin in Rajasthan, prevented the child marriage within an upper caste community. In doing so she was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment through words and gestures from men of that community. When she reported the harassment, the local authority did nothing. That omission was at great cost to Bhanwari – she was subsequently gang-raped by those very men.

Surprisingly, nationwide calls for justice hovered around demands for a stringent criminal law response, i e, the filing of a first information report (FIR). With a history of failures by the criminal justice system to stem the pandemic of violence towards women, such demands appeared futile. At the risk of offending purists of criminal law, it has always struck me as somewhat offensive that a breach of criminal law is effectively treated as a crime against the state. Each FIR becomes the pursuit of a culprit by the police for a harm which the “State” has endured. At most the complainant woman is only ever a witness.

Bhanwari’s experience invited us to change that pattern. Rather than perceive sexual harassment in the home, on the street, at work or in accessing justice as individual personal injuries, we needed to experience it as a constitutional concern. The microcosmic commonality of Bhanwari’s experience of sexual harassment mirrored what scores of working Indian women faced in India – everyday, everywhere, all the time. In the absence of any existing legal response to “sexual harassment”, the opportunity was ripe for a comprehensive approach. In 1992, therefore, we approached the Supreme Court of India in a public interest litigation to do precisely that – rethink “the way things are”.

Sexual Harassment at Work

Sexual harassment was a form of discriminatory conduct at the workplace. It hampered women’s constitutional rights to equality and dignity. It sabotaged work performance, affected working environments, impaired women’s progress, resulted in absenteeism and cost both individuals and institutions in terms of qualitative health and growth. The statistics of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reveal how 55% of women from the ages of 14 to 55 in Italy have been subjected to sexual harassment (2004); sexual harassment in the United States army has cost close to $250 million (1999 survey); 40 to 50% of women in the European Union have faced some form of sexual harassment; and a 2002 survey by Sakshi (a non-governmental organisation) of 2,000 persons across workplaces found 80% acknowledging that workplace sexual harassment existed in India.

Statistics apart, constitutional equality was never the lens through which we viewed women’s experience of sexual harm at work. It took that rare creative courage of a judge, the late Justice J S Verma (then chief justice of India) to rise to the occasion and in 1997 we were given Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan. Unlike anything before it, Vishaka was a visionary decision. Primarily, it filled a legal vacuum. Second, it viewed sexual harassment through an equality lens and thus prioritised prevention. Third, in the absence of legislation, it became legally binding on all workplaces. Unlike the criminal law, it was the State, the employer, and the institution that had to own up for the equality and dignity of women at work.

Finally, it gave us a map for creating accountability. Workplaces, organisations, institutions (including educational establishments) were compelled to raise awareness about sexual harassment, take steps to prevent it and to offer effective redress. We sought and were granted the presence of a third party expert on complaints committees for sexual harassment, a mechanism mandated by Vishaka for all workplaces.

It was an innovative moment in the history of women’s constitutional rights within all workplaces. That is what a visionary approach does for people’s rights. It expands and uplifts them through an inclusive process. Vishaka changed the map of how we could respond to other forms of violence against women. Unfortunately, the moment and momentum was frittered away by a state unable and unwilling to adhere to the bar Vishaka had set. Despite the Government of India’s own ratification of Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the women’s convention which promised to uphold the equality rights of women in all aspects of life, its commitment rang hollow. Added to this was increased public immunity to the daily sexual exploitation of women who never took adequate notice of what Vishaka had to offer.

‘To Do Something’

Still, Vishaka made it impossible for us to slip back to the way things are. It gave us language. Women’s experience of unwelcome sexual conduct was no longer a patronising moral transgression of her ”modesty”, it was sexual harassment – a violation of her constitutional equality.

Sixteen years post the landmark judgment, the Government of India introduced a new bill. Such delay might have been justified had excellence and improving on Vishaka been the goal. In reality, the state simply awoke from its lengthy slumber to “do something”. Amidst the din of the coal block allocations scam in the Lok Sabha, a defective Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill was allowed to pass into law without debate in September 2012. Before the Rajya Sabha, a feebler introduction was made by the minister whose “vision” suggested that it was a bill “to make them economically empowered so that they can do their work properly” – a condescending preface to constitutional equality which was the backbone of the Vishaka judgment. Adding insult to injury, nowhere does the debate find mention of constitutional equality.

Apart from the statement of objects, there is little in the language and content of the new Act which has continued to raise the bar, let alone retain the spirit of Vishaka. An itemised definition of what constitutes “workplace” might have been more easily stated as any place where a woman is present by virtue of her work – a suggestion supported by many at a consultation held in the presence of parliamentary standing committee members. Educational institutes have complained that the definition does not go far enough to include students who, while not workers, frequently suffer coercive sexual harassment on campus or otherwise linked to their educational growth, a concern endorsed by the Justice Verma Committee. Such institutes will need to adopt a creative approach to ensure students are covered. Extensive cross-country research carried out for the Vishaka hearings provided contemporary approaches to the definition and a road map for preventing workplace sexual harassment.

Use of such knowledge was scarcely evident in crafting the latest Act. Inaccurate phrasing (a trait which characterises much of the Act) of hostile workplace sexual harassment eclipses the relevance of the most common forms of workplace sexual harassment. Mismatches between subheadings and content compound that perception. A section titled “Prevention of Sexual Harassment”, for instance, fails to deliver on anything related to preventive measures. Instead, the section highlights “circumstances” which may amount to sexual harassment. Such glaring oversight betrays an abysmal lack of homework by the legislative draughtsperson and ignorance about the issue by parliamentary representatives across the political spectrum.

Diluted Version of Vishaka

As for the internal and local complaint committees now mandated under the Act in all workplaces, political understanding of what was intended to be an inclusive and informed redress mechanism simply is not there. Diluting third party presence on these committees to persons committed to “the cause of women” demeans the skill and specialisation required to meet the nuances of workplace sexual harassment. In a recent example, a lawyer committed to the “cause of women” was inducted into a government department complaints committee. Post the proceedings, my office was contacted by the department for a follow-up. Amazingly, the record revealed how the person accused of sexual harassment was allowed to openly question the complainant as part of the committee proceedings – a fundamental violation of the non-intimidation principle designed to protect complainants from just such practices. Third party persons (lawyers or not) must bring knowledge, skill and capacity to the table to ensure processes are professionally informed and unbiased. Vishaka envisaged an inclusive complaints committee to build ownership of the issue, ensure fair treatment and enhance knowledge and experience around workplace sexual harassment.

Of all sections, the most disturbing provision in the Act (Section 14) is one which punishes a “false or malicious complaint”. Such inventions are only ever peculiar to gender-specific legislations which relate to women and violence. In no other area of law do such penalty clauses exist as a matter of practice. Its presence in the new Act has no legal basis.

Investigations (and this is true of any law) are designed to determine whether a harm occurred or not. That is it. To premise an Act on the assumption that women are potential liars about their human rights abuses reeks of stereotyping women and for that reason would be constitutionally untenable. Flawed drafting further amplifies the lack of political seriousness towards socially relevant legislation for women. The “false” charges section provides that “mere” inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof “need not” attract action against the complainant, but does not enlighten us on what “need not” means. Does it imply that if a complaint does not succeed, it “ought not to but still might” attract action for false charges?

The absence of user-friendly, unambiguous and accessible language throughout the new Act renders it prone to typical gender stereotyping in such cases. In all consultations on the bill, this retrograde provision was rejected outright. To foist it into the legislation can only be perceived as an attempt to discourage women from making complaints of sexual harassment.

In the 16 years since Vishaka, progressive developments have taken place in international guidelines and practices on workplace sexual harassment. Prescribing “duties” under the new Act as a way to compel employers to prevent sexual harassment runs contrary to contemporary human rights emphasis on promoting “responsibilities”. It is the difference between what employers feel obliged to do (and hence resist and scuttle) from what they would responsibly own and do (and hence, be proud of).

Clearly, the absence of urgency and enhanced vision has given us a diluted version of Vishaka. Dilution is what traditionally allows sexually inappropriate conduct to fester, spread and eventually escalate into rape in the first place. That is how it all began in Bhanwari’s case. For that reason, a 16-year wait offers no excuse for not getting a law that mirrored global standards of excellence and understanding in systemically tackling workplace sexual harassment.

At the same time, legislation, flawed or otherwise, cannot excuse us from implementing change, one which calls upon our own willingness to connect the dots. At most, legislation has reignited attention towards the plague of workplace sexual harassment. Owning the constitutional subtext to make it work is our job. Unexpected but welcome initiatives have begun to dot the landscape even pre-legislation. A recent award by the industrial tribunal in West Bengal offers an unusually credible direction in the sexual harassment case of senior journalist Rina Mukherjee against The Statesman.

Rina Mukherjee vs The Statesman

Within six months of joining The Statesman, Rina Mukerhjee lost her job. While the company alleged that her work was “tardy” and “lacking in quality”, it suppressed Rina’s complaint of sexual harassment against the news coordinator, Ishan Joshi. Within her first month of work, Rina had taken her complaint directly to the managing director (MD), Ravinder Kumar. Understandably, she expected him to act professionally and intervene, but time passed and nothing happened. Exploiting her status as a probationer, Rina was fired by The Statesman.

Such patterns are common to organisations who fail to see the importance of promoting a workplace free from sexual harassment. Frequently, a woman on probation will find it impossible to make a complaint, let alone succeed with one. Hence, most women hesitate and tolerate the behaviour. Rina was an exception. Post her termination she filed a formal complaint with the MD, The Statesman’s owner, C R Irani and the West Bengal Women’s Commission with the firm belief that her termination was a result of her sexual harassment complaint.

The matter was eventually heard by the Industrial Tribunal (West Bengal). In a rare display of social context, insight and clarity amongst the judiciary, judge Kundan Kumar Kumai, rejected The Statesman’s claim that Rina only referred to “professional” harassment in her complaint to Ravindra Kumar. In Kumai’s view, Kumar’s failure to dig deeper was clearly suspect. In the judge’s words:

He [Ravindra Kumar] never started any enquiry however discreet it may have been. Fairplay demanded at least an explanation from the senior executives as to why there was an allegation of professional harassment against them. Rather he has gone hammer and tongs over the delay made in making the sexual harassment public, in writing. What else could she have done… she made a verbal complaint of sexual harassment and professional harassment and she was dismissed from her service even without completion of her probation period.

It should also not be forgotten that the lady workman was not only well-educated but had about ten years of journalism, with other well known publications, behind her and not a novice or a rookie journalist, at that relevant time.

Moreover…it becomes clear that there was no Committee on sexual harassment, as per the Honb’le Supreme Court’s direction in Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan, existing in The Statesman, at that relevant time…to expect-the lady workman to file a written complaint and not to believe the same, when it has been filed ‘at a later date’ is sheer bias.

The Statesman was ordered to reinstate Rina and grant her full back wages from the time of her termination to the date of the order. It took 11 years but Rina won an order that dispels assumptions about why women take time to complain about sexual harassment, how those in power try through sheer numbers and gagged employees to dismiss such claims, and how workplaces can no longer take legal compliance on sexual harassment lightly. HadThe Statesman taken her complaint seriously at the outset and complied with Vishaka, the result could have been beneficial for all – for Rina, women workers, the workplace environment and inevitably the company’s reputation.

Conclusions

Repetition creates a life pattern. Enduring workplace conduct which sexually demeans, intimidates, offends, excludes and limits women is not only about the patterns of sexist behaviour, it is also about the repetitive nature of our own complacency. We have become immune to the pervasive harm of sexual harassment and its unconstitutional character.

People like judge Kumai, justice Verma, Bhanwari and Rina remind us that this need not be so. They inspire the rest of us who care, to use our carefully crafted skills, know-how and passion to innovate and transform the most ill-crafted provisions in law to work for us rather than limit us.

Sexual harassment need not be “the way things are”. It is up to us as political leaders, judges, responsible workplaces and individuals to change that pattern of thought. Having found its way onto our constitutional map for all to follow the direction and visibility of workplace sexual harassment will be determined by the men and women who understand the professional and human worth of speaking up. As frightening as that can be, it will enable us to own our constitutional equality not has some elusive right we should continue to aspire for, but as something we can live, experience and embrace everyday. That is not the way things are, that is the way things should be.

 

 

Karnataka – What women want – Open letter to Congress #Vaw #Womenrights


Vaishalli Chandra , oneindia one news : Friday, May 10, 2013,

Bangalore, May 9: With Congress getting a clear lead in the recently held Karnataka Assembly Elections 2013, they are busy deciding who will be the next CM. There is one issue that takes centre stage for women – that of their safety. An open letter to Congress – on what women expect out of the government: To Congress, Congratulations on your win. I am sure, it will feel good that finally you have come to power in a state that was beginning to turn saffron. Now, let me not beat around the bush and put forth my wish list (actually it is more of a demand, but I will try a polite approach, for now). Under the last government, I did not feel safe

Wish #1: NO moral policing, no deadlines, whatsoever. Yes. The last government, tried it and see where it is now. Do not judge me by the way I dress, speak, company I keep, places I visit (pubs et al), time of the day (or night). Do not make it a basis to refuse to help me in distress. It is my right to freedom, provided by the Indian Constitution (Article 19 (1) (a) Right to freedom of speech and expression). It doesn’t help if you curb my movement either. Therefore, even before you think of coming with any brilliant ‘deadline for women’ ideas, I’d humbly request you to put them away. Actually, throw that thought out completely, burn it, if possible. Let’s understand that a deadline is NOT a solution you can provide to make me feel secure. (Remember, most stats point at violence at home – so) Try instead to 1. Light up – dark alleys and by-lanes. 2. Public transportation – provide better last mile connectivity. 3. Police patrolling – presence of the cops can keep trouble-makers at bay.

 

 

Wish #2: Gender Sensitisation Top cops in the past have pointed fingers at women, saying it is there fault crimes happen to them. Therefore, you really need to get the police task force ‘gender sensitised’. What would really make me feel secure and safe is that when I approach a cop on the road, he listens to me and acts on my complaint, instead of making me feel guilty of my choice of clothes, company I keep, location I choose or the time of the hour (repetition of wishlist #1). Moral policing by the police is NOT acceptable. Really. No-lip service, put a feedback mechanism in place, so when you do spend money and time into the sensitisation of the police force, you know that it was spent well. Encourage feedback from the people to access how well your policemen behave. When you get scathing feedback from us, work on it feedback. Don’t get angry and/or get preachy. Incentivise (monetarily) the good behaviour of the policemen. You will be surprised how far that can take you. Also, since I commute by the public transport that the government provides, I’d really appreciate if there is a helpline number in all the buses that: (a. functions; (b. functions even past 6pm (life goes on after sunset, you know).

Wish #3: Fix the ‘headlessness’ of the Karnataka State Commission for Women (KSCW): Your manifesto under the section Women Welfare, reads very vague. Here’s what it reads: ‘Undertake programmes in schools, colleges and industries for gender sensitisation and prevention of sexual harassment by involving NGO’s and voluntary organisations and giving them financial incentives.’ Without a preamble then. You do have an uphill task when it comes to providing a sense of security to the women in the state. Your immediate job responsibility should be to fill the vacant post of Karnataka Women’s Commission’s post, that has been vacant ever since C Manjula resigned to join politics early this year. A report in an English daily, pointed out that even the counselling sessions that are held every Tuesday and Friday have become less frequent. That is sad. The counselling sessions were helpful because the chairperson could give oral instruction to the police to help the women in distress. Once a chairperson is appointed, ensure that the KSCW’s website is re-vamped. Look at it yourself. You will not find anything of use to women in distress, apart from brochures that date back to 2012. Wake up it is Mid-2013. As a web-savvy woman I can tell you this, this website is offering me no help. It doesn’t even tell me what the KWC is all about. The ‘About’ page describes the commission in Kannada only, what about an urban population that cannot read Kannada? Is the Commission selective, in who it will help? Shouldn’t the website have information in Kannada and English. The team has a table with names and numbers. With C Manjula still listed as the chairperson of the commission. Think it is time to update that too.

Wish #4: Implement the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Law: This law is still in a nascent stage. It will be up to you to direct the concerned department to ensure it is followed. Maybe, a good starting point would be to ensure that all organisations have an in-house committee. Without these committees in place the law is of no use to women. Do, you think you will be able to get these in place along with your ‘gender sensitisation’ programs in schools, colleges and the workplace? Undersigned, A woman, who loves this city to bits.

Read more at: http://news.oneindia.in/feature/2013/wish-list-to-congress-from-a-city-woman-1212783.html?google_editors_picks=true

 

#India – Download the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act #Vaw


Ink pink... Bullies stink!

 

The New Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act   came into effect on April 23, 2013.

 

Under the Act, employers’ organisations must have mechanisms to address complaints of sexual harassment, and deal with such complaints within 90 days. Non-compliance of the law is punishable by a fine, and repeated non-compliance can lead to higher penalties and cancellation of the employer’s licence to conduct business.

 

The law comes 15 years after the Supreme Court’s historic Vishakha judgment in 1997.

 

The Vishakha judgment was incorporated into the Central Civil Services(Conduct) Rules, 1964 and the The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Rules, following the 1999 order on the Medha Kotwal case.

 

Download the Act here

 

 

 

#Mumbai- Women Hunted at workplace , Hounded for Protest #Vaw #Womensday


HUNTED AT WORKPLACE, HOUNDED FOR PROTEST

In a city where everyone strives to find their place under the sun, women face a double challenge — to excel in their professions and also fight off strong gender bias

Swati Deshpande | TNN

even in a big city like Mumbai, not many women, in fact very few women, actually report sexual harassment at work,’’ says Flavia Agnes, a leading women’s activist and lawyer who began Majlis, an organization that takes up women’s rights issues.
The much-awaited Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill is expected to become a law soon, yet activists are sceptical. “The passing of the Bill will enable victims to fight but its implementation has to be seen,” says Flavia. For 16 years, the Supreme Court’s directives in the landmark Vishakha case were the only guidelines. It called for committees to include women members and from NGOs, the new law will do the same. The law, in fact sets a 90-day deadline for in-house committees to dispose of harassment complaints and failure to do so attracts a penalty of Rs 50,000.
In the US in 2010, there were almost 12,000 sexual harassment cases. The data, compiled by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes “only 5-15% of victims report harassment”. There are no specific figures for India, but across corporate cubicles, public sector corridors and unorganized employment platforms, cases of sexual harassment in the workplace have risen, say experts. And predatory bosses often target “vulnerable women’’ Agnes says, especially those who need the job and suffer silently.
But women in senior positions have also reported harassment. In 2007, a former director of a multinational firm alleged her male colleagues had shown her semi-nude photographs of a woman stripper in 2005 and that a colleague said he could arrange for a male stripper at a discount. She filed an FIR against several colleagues, four of whom got relief from the Bombay HC a year later. Last year, at a meeting held by the Maharashtra state commission for women on sexual harassment, Thansky Thekkekara, additional chief secretary said, “From personal experience, I can say we are all exposed to
sexual harassment
at the workplace.’’ She said the state sometimes takes the issue “lightly’’. Vandana Krishna, principal secretary, state women and child development admits “sexual harassment at work is one of the most difficult subjects to handle.”
Agrees advocate and human rights activist Mihir Desai who has been on various committees set up under the SC judgment. “Often, the woman who complains of sexual harassment becomes a victim and the fight then becomes one of trying to save her job,” he says. Desai says harassment is often verbal, with insinuations. Advocate Rina Pujara at the Bombay high court says, “Companies are not happy to receive sexual harassment complaints. Women are made to feel they may be making much ado about nothing. Some are even told a pretty woman is likely to face harassment so she must learn how to deal with it.’’ Adds advocate Anand Grover, “Though sexual harassment at the workplace is pervasive, few report it as they don’t want to be seen as troublemakers or undergo the humiliation of crossexamination.”
A professor at a Mumbai college c o m p l a i n e d a g ainst her head of department for repeated suggestive remarks and denying her a promotion after she rebuffed him. The case is now before the HC. “Often women end up fighting not just the man but also the institution. The woman has to suffer not just indignity but also huge legal expenses,” she says. The tendency to malign women who do speak out must change, say activists. NGO members on committees in several MNCs say complaints sent to global head offices always elicit quicker and pro-active responses.
A senior government official says, “The least we can do when such cases come to our notice is to support the woman mentally, encourage her to come out and complain. The woman shouldn’t look back after years and feel it was the most traumatic experience of her life.’’
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Sexual harassment is a form of abuse. At the workplace, it is also about power play of a bully over a vulnerable individual, regardless of age, race, class, religion or sex. It impinges on the fundamental right to earn a livelihood by making it difficult to work
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome acts or behaviour like physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography, other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature whether direct or by implication
THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION
Parliament on February 27, 2013, passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill. It provides for protection of women, including domestic helps and agricultural labourers, against sexual harassment at the workplace
The Bill makes it mandatory for all workplaces including homes, universities, hospitals, government and non-government offices, factories, other formal and informal workplaces to have an internal redressal mechanism for complaints related to sexual harassment
The in-house committee has to dispose of a complaint within 90 days
There will also be a safeguard against against false or malicious charges. If a woman is found to have filed a complaint with mala-fide intentions, she can be punished. Failure to prove charges, however, will not be construed as mala-fide intention

There is a belief that women somehow provoke sexual harassment. Be it at the workplace, on the sidewalk or otherwise. Women have become perpetrators to that toxic thought process by not protesting the very first time they are victimised. We have to encourage a culture of airing our grief and shaming our tormentors. If you look at what constitutes sexual harassment, then ALL women have been victims of the same at some point of their life
Pooja Bhatt
ACTOR, FILMMAKER
Pay disparity between men and women in a profession is unfortunate, but this has been the truth since cinema started in our country. But today female actors do have a much stronger monetary command than they ever did earlier, especially actors like Sridevi, Madhuri, Kareena & Priyanka Madhur Bhandarkar FILMMAKER
I took a break from work to take care of something more important at that point of time and which will always be a priority. I did not miss on anything, rather experienced the joy of motherhood. It has always been a nice feeling to be there with your family, to watch your kids grow. Making a comeback was not difficult but it was important to do something worthy after so many years. Once I decided to do E n g l i s h V i n g l i s h, there was no worry of acceptance. I am also privileged to have a family that supported me and helped me make a comeback
Sridevi
ACTOR

IMMEDIATE RELEASE- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill leaves out women agricultural workers


 

ALL INDIA DEMOCRATIC WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION

NO. 2253- E , SHADI KHAMPUR, NEW RANJIT NAGAR,

NEW DELHI-110008

PH: 011-25700476, 25709565

Email : aidwacec@gmail.comaidwa@rediffmail.com

                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                    4th Sept.2012

                                                   PRESS RELEASE

 

AIDWA welcomes the long overdue passage of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2010, in the Lok Sabha, on Sept 3rd 2012.  It has taken 15 years for the formulation of a legislation to define sexual harassment at the workplace and make legal provisions for its prevention and for expediting disciplinary action against offenders, as laid down by the Supreme Court under the Vishakha guidelines (1997).

AIDWA notes that the Bill is comprehensive in its definition of sexual harassment, as well as in other areas it seeks to cover. The definition of sexual harassment  includes any unwelcome act or behaviour, demand for sexual favours, making sexually coloured remarks, or showing pornography, etc, and any other physical, verbal, or non verbal conduct of a sexual nature. The Bill has also made it mandatory for all offices, hospitals, institutions and other workplaces to have an internal complaints redress mechanism. Non-compliance with the provisions of the law has  been made punishable with a fine of up to Rs 50,000. Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to do business.

However, while the demand for inclusion of domestic workers has been accepted, there are some glaring lacunae and gaps in the Bill that are still to be addressed.  The Bill leaves out women agricultural workers, who form a large segment of the unorganized labour force, including under the MGNREGA. Women working in fisheries, forests, or in construction work sites, roads, stations, trains, etc, must be brought under its purview. The women employees in the armed forces must also be covered under the Bill. In the unorganized sector, the restriction in the number of workers to less than ten should be done away with.  The Bill needs to be amended so as to rectify these weaknesses and loopholes.

 

Moreover, AIDWA strongly objects to the inclusion of the clause which allows for penal action against the complainant in the Bill, which will defeat its very purpose. We had repeatedly asked for the removal of the “complaint with malicious intent” clause. This not only goes against the Vishakha guidelines, which explicitly state that the complainant should not be victimized in any way, but also completely undermines the victim’s ability to file complaints of sexual harassment. The Standing Committee had also noted this aspect. Women victims of sexual harassment at the workplace are in an extremely vulnerable position and the AIDWA experience has been that in most such cases, allegations of falsehood and malicious intent are invariably leveled against them. Hence, we demand removal of this clause from the Bill.

 

AIDWA also demands that the enquiry must be conducted in a more time bound manner. The recommendations of the local committee should be acted upon within 30 days of submission of their report. The Bill seeks to give preferred treatment to the accused, by protecting his identity. While the identity of the complainant need not be known, there is no reason to extend such protection to the accused, otherwise these incidents would not even come to light.

 

AIDWA demands passage of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, after incorporating these important amendments, so that women victims of sexual harassment at the workplace can be assured of justice and legal protection.

 

 

 

            Sd/-                            Sd/-                                        Sd/-                               

Shyamali Gupta          Kirti Singh                     Sudha Sundararaman

(President)             (Legal Convenor)                    (General Secretary)

 

 

ATTN Bangalore -Screening ‘678’ & Talk on Violence Against Women: 10:30 AM, Sun, Aug 12 #VAW


SUCHITRA’S Media Wing
presents

678 (Egypt)

2010|Drama|100 min
Director: Mohamed DiabScreening and Panel Discussion

with

Pratibha Nandakumar, Poet
Pampa Chowdhury. Branch Head at Concern India Foundation

Moderated by Rashmi Vallabhajosyula, Entrepreneur

ABOUT THE FILM:

The film is about three women and their struggles with sexual harassment . The film took top prize in the 2010 Dubai International Film Festival. The filmmaker had to publicly deny that he had any intent to defame Egypt and assert that the issues are universal. The filmmaker had to even argue against banning of the film on the grounds that it could incite women to injure men in their sensitive parts with sharp tools.

……………

OPINION:

Critic Haisam Abu-Samra writes (excerpts):

“678 is… a thoughtful study that leaves the gravity of the issue to speak for itself.

“678 provides some objective insight into the dynamics of sexual harassment … and the fostering environment that made it possible in the first place.

“All three women go through one or multiple incidents of traumatising sexual harassment. The incidents themselves aren’t exceptionally tragic; they’re even mild compared to the harassment stories that we’ve become used to hearing about. However, these incidents have upsetting physiological effects on the women, crippling them emotionally and functionally to the point that they transform into ghosts of their former selves.

“By focusing on the personal aspect of these women’s stories, 678 resonates on a large scale. It’s in these small moments where glimpses of their humanity become so apparent and immersive…

“Writer-director Diab shows restraint as a filmmaker by avoiding broad theatrics and melodrama for the most part. He also captures Cairo’s chaotic spirit with an authenticity rarely ever seen in Egyptian films.

“678 can be unsettling at times but it’s never uncomfortable. It doesn’t reach for an easy resolution or provide the answers. Rather than pointing a finger or looking for someone to blame, 678 takes a introspective look at a society plagued with contradictions and self-conflict, then the film invites its audience to take a second look around.”

(Courtesy: Cairo 360)

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