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PARLIAMENTARY REPORT


Heptulla (BJP) had objection to the words “sexual harassment” mentioned in the title of the Bill as all types of harassment could not be covered under these two words as women were harassed mentally as well as physically. She asked the government to clarify its position on the harassment of a woman by another woman at work place. As the legislation was not for the central government alone, she wanted to know whether the state governments also had been taken into confidence and how the Act would be implemented at the grass root level in villages. Dr Prabha Thakur (INC) said transportation facilities must be provided to the women going home late from work. The punishment for asking sexual favours should be made more stringent, while rape victims should be provided lawyers. Time bound justices must be provided and death penalty should be given for crimes like gang rape as it was prevalent in some other countries. Supporting the Bill, Dr T.N. Seema (CPI-M) wanted to know about the methodology of implementation of the Act in the unorganized sector. She


INDIA Dr T.N. Seema, MP


observed that crimes against women were on the rise in the country while the implementation side of the existing laws was very poor. She strongly objected to the inclusion of the clause in the Bill that provided penal action against the complainant


for making false complaints as it would defeat its very purpose. Shri D. Bandyopadhyay (AITC) while supporting the Bill, expressed some doubts about its implementation. He suggested that at the Gram Panchayat (Local self government) level women members should be given the power of vigilance and take action under this Act as well as under the Domestic Violence Act. Smt. Vandana Chavan (NCP) said appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that women felt safe in public life and public spaces and also to make cities and towns gender- friendly. She also expressed reservation on the clause that provided punishment for false or malicious complaints. Dr Ashok S. Ganguly (Nominated) said harassment of women in India was not only a national shame but was a national burden. Since the Bill was for protection of women at the workplace, the Annual Reports of employees must contain a section on sexual harassment of women. Dr Bharatkumar Raut (SS) was sceptical about the effectiveness of the law and observed many women employees were being denied promotions on the ground of gender which was nothing but sexual harassment. Shri Rama Chandra Khuntia (INC) believed that the main reason for harassment of women was their under-representation in the nation’s workforce. Lamented that private employers did not want to employ women, he argued that if an employer denied employment to a woman on gender bias, he should be punished. He strongly believed punishing the culprits and creating the opportunity to make 50 per cent space for women would go a long way in addressing the problem. Smt. Maya Singh (BJP) said even though the Bill broadly defined sexual harassment of women in the workplace, women working in education and professional


224 | The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three


sectors might not get the same protection. The empowered ICC enjoyed the power of civil court but having the knowledge of law or giving legal training to any member was not mentioned in the Bill. Smt. Gundu Sudharani (TDP) said it was an important legislation for protecting women against sexual harassment at work. She requested the government to include “eve-


and false evidence seemed to be working against the purpose of the legislation. Smt. Renubala Pradhan (BJD) suggested for constituting separate forums at district and block levels with women members only so that the victimized women could properly voice their grievances.


Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani, MP


teasing” as sexual harassment under the Bill. Shri Ram Kripal Yadav (RJD) requested the Minister to think about constituting special courts so that cases could be disposed of in a given time and criminals could be punished. He also strongly objected to the clause that sought to provide punishment for false or malicious complaints. Smt. Kanimozhi (AIADMK) said since many workers, particularly agricultural workers were not capable of giving written complaints and as not everybody was really comfortable in writing or giving a written complaint, the aggrieved persons or the victims should be allowed to go and give their complaints orally. Referring to the provision for conciliation, she argued that since the law had been brought forward to protect women, how could there be conciliation in these cases? This was not a business contract, where conciliation could be achieved over the table. The clause relating to punishment for false or malicious complaint


She was also for constituting special fast track courts throughout the nation, at least, at all district and sub-divisional levels for deciding cases under the law. Dr Vijaylaxmi Sadho (INC) was of the view that the agricultural labourers working in rural areas faced maximum harassment and should be covered under the law. She requested the Minister to pay more attention to the mental and physical harassment of women in addition to sexual harassment. Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani (BJP) regretted that as far as violence against women was concerned, there were very few cases of conviction. The Bill spoke about


providing assistance to women in making complaints in writing if complainants were unable to do so, but made no comment on what would happen in cases where the ICC or the LCC did not provide support to the aggrieved women. With regards to settlement, the Bill made no mention of how the Committee was to conclude whether an aggrieved woman or her family had been pressurized to reach a settlement. The Bill also failed to mention repeat offenders who managed to reach settlement. Smt. Tirath was happy that all Members had supported the Bill. The District Magistrate would constitute the district level committee for the unorganized sector and there would be ICC for the organized sector. The aggrieved woman might opt for conciliation only if she thought the incident was of a minor nature. At the end of the debate, the Rajya Sabha passed the Bill.


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