Women harassment bill: Conciliation clause can be misused

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Sexual Harassment
Bangalore,Feb 27: It's good news on the eve of International Women's Day for working women in the country. The long- pending Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill has finally been passed by the Rajya Sabha. However, activists feel that this is just the beginning with miles to go before perceivable changes are seen.

KS Vimala, vice-president of All India Janwadi Mahila Sangha, if the bill is properly implemented, there will be many changes for the better. "This is a long-pending demand. However, we are not under any illusion that everything will be perfect after its implementation. We will next have to pressurise for proper rules and laws to be formed. Our next goal is to work on that," she said.

According to Geetha Menon, Secretary of Domestic Workers Rights' Union (DWRU), the bill was pushed through in a hurry. "Before the inquiry report is prepared there is a provision for conciliation. We are worried that at this time, many women may compromise and back-off which will not help matters at all. Secondly, the implementation mechanisms for the unorganized sector needs a lot of clarity," she said.

For a victim of sexual harassment from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore who has been fighting a legal battle after filing a complaint of sexual harassment against the Chief Administrative Officer of the Institute she hopes that this bill will save many women of the mental trauma that they undergo. "If implemented properly then it will save many women. It's finally something positive that's happening in this regard," she said.

According to the act, sexual harassment includes unwelcome behaviour such as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography. It also has provisions for safeguard against false or malicious charges.

Failure in doing so will attract a fine of Rs 50,000. Repeated violations of provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Bill can lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licences or registration.

The bill passed by the Rajya Sabha will ensure that cases of sexual harassment at workplace should be disposed of by in-house committees within 90 days.

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