Bill on sexual harassment referred to Par panel

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New Delhi, Jan 16 (PTI) A bill which seeks to ensure asafe environment for women at work place has been referred toa Parliamentary panel for further scrutiny.

The Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment atWorkplace Bill, 2010 was introduced in the Lok Sabha duringthe Winter Session in December.

The bill has now been referred to Parliamentary StandingCommittee on Human Resource Development for a deeper"examination".

The Committee, headed by Congress MP Oscar Fernandes,has sought opinion of various stakeholders, including thecommon man to fine tune the proposed legislation.

The move comes against the backdrop of the NationalAdvisory Council (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi suggesting tobring domestic workers under the purview of a proposed law forprotection of women against sexual harassment at workplace.

Voicing concern over the exclusion of domestic workersfrom the purview of the Bill, the NAC sought amendments tocertain clauses of the draft legislation.

The government contended that as domestic workers werein the non-formal sector, it was difficult to bring themwithin the scope of the bill.

The NAC also decided to ask the government to drop aclause in the bill that they felt could prevent women fromcoming forward to seek protection against sexual harassment atworkplace.

"The safeguards provided to them (women) by this billare weakened by the inclusion of clause 14 (punishment forfalse or malicious complaint and false evidence), which mightdeter victims from seeking protection of the proposedlegislation," the NAC said in a statement a few days ago.

The Bill proposes a definition of sexual harassment,which is as laid down by the Supreme Court in a 1997 case.

It recognises the promise or threat to a woman''semployment prospects or creation of hostile work environmentas ''sexual harassment'' at workplace and expressly seeks toprohibit such acts.

The proposed legislation also provides protection notonly to women who are employed but also to any woman whoenters the workplace as a client, customer, apprentice, anddaily wage worker or in ad-hoc capacity. Students, researchscholars in colleges and universities and patients inhospitals have also been covered.

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