Respite for working women- bill against harassment at the workplace
Workplace harassment is another extremely rampant evil that more often than not, gets swept under the carpet in India. For many years it has enjoyed being overlooked as there were no concrete laws to address the same – and many women learnt to avoid talking about any harassment they had faced in office because that only brought on more recrimination. The corrupt system did not help matters as those with money - usually the ones to be brought to task in the public eye usually went scot free after paying off the cops.
If one questions why they didn’t fight back, it is because there was no point in doing so – much like the attitude that women have taken on with regard to harassment and abuse anywhere – they believe that there is no point because the perpetrators will go scot free anyhow. This is because of a system that does nothing to protect the rights of a woman, should she be harassed in any manner. The amount of effort a wronged woman would have to undertake to get justice is generally tantamount to harassment itself – what with judgmental judiciary and police being major obstacles in her path. However, that seems to be set to change – thankfully.
Women are one step closer to attaining justice if they face harassment at the work place – the Parliament passed The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace ( Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill in court on 26th February 2013. This is a much awaited bill – which is another drop in the ocean where India and sexual harassment laws are concerned. The passing of the Bill means allows redressal for women who face any kind of sexual harassment at the work place – not just rape. The workplace has also been defined in the broader sense, it has not been restricted to an office of four walls and a boss- employee relationship, but includes organisations, departments, office, branch units in private and public sector, hospitals and nursing homes, educational institutions etc. Most importantly, it also includes domestic workers within its parameters which is an extremely important step given that domestic workers arguably, face the most harassment in their workplace.
However, like all good things, it comes with its share of hitches. The redressals for domestic workers are still hazy as the Domestic Worker Bill is yet to be passed and even though a committee will take up the complaints any domestic worker makes, there is still a long way to go before the perpetrators are punished. Speaking of punishments, they are quite hefty, even though activists are of the opinion they should be harsher. Organisations are required to cough up a paltry amount of Rs 50,000 for a first time offence. Even though this might seem to be too less, it is heartening to note that the Bill prevents the victim’s identity from being made public as well as the accused and any witnesses, and also provides leaves and transfers to the victim should it be necessary, in the interim period between the complaint and the announcement of justice.
A bill like this is a welcome move in the light of security for women being a big issue after the Delhi rape tragedy. Millions of women suffer abuse on the streets, at the hands of an employer, at home at the hands of family and on the road. This Bill is a step forward in the right direction.