Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010

Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010

The Union Cabinet today approved the introduction of the Protection of
Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010 in the
Parliament to ensure a safe environment for women at work places, both
in public and private sectors whether organised or unorganized. The
measure will help in achieving gender empowerment and equality.

The proposed Bill, if enacted, will ensure that women are protected
against sexual harassment at all the work places, be it in public or
private. This will contribute to realisation of their right to gender
equality, life and liberty and equality in working conditions
everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve
women's participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment
and inclusive growth.

Salient features of the Bill are as follows:

• The Bill proposes a definition of sexual harassment, which is as
laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Vishaka v. State of
Rajasthan (1997). Additionally it recognises the promise or threat to
a woman's employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment
as 'sexual harassment' at workplace and expressly seeks to prohibit
such acts.

• The Bill provides protection not only to women who are employed but
also to any woman who enters the workplace as a client, customer,
apprentice, and daily wageworker or in ad-hoc capacity. Students,
research scholars in colleges/university and patients in hospitals
have also been covered. Further, the Bill seeks to cover workplaces in
the unorganised sectors.

• The Bill provides for an effective complaints and redressal
mechanism. Under the proposed Bill, every employer is required to
constitute an Internal Complaints Committee. Since a large number of
the establishments (41.2 million out of 41.83 million as per Economic
Census, 2005) in our country have less than 10 workers for whom it may
not be feasible to set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), the
Bill provides for setting up of Local Complaints Committee (LCC) to be
constituted by the designated District Officer at the district or sub-
district levels, depending upon the need. This twin mechanism would
ensure that women in any workplace, irrespective of its size or
nature, have access to a redressal mechanism. The LCCs will enquire
into the complaints of sexual harassment and recommend action to the
employer or District Officer.

• Employers who fail to comply with the provisions of the proposed
Bill will be punishable with a fine which may extend to ` 50,000.

• Since there is a possibility that during the pendency of the enquiry
the woman may be subject to threat and aggression, she has been given
the option to seek interim relief in the form of transfer either of
her own or the respondent or seek leave from work.

• The Complaint Committees are required to complete the enquiry within
90 days and a period of 60 days has been given to the employer/
District Officer for implementation of the recommendations of the

• The Bill provides for safeguards in case of false or malicious
complaint of sexual harassment. However, mere inability to
substantiate the complaint or provide adequate proof would not make
the complainant liable for punishment.

Implementation of the Bill will be the responsibility of the Central
Government in case of its own undertakings/establishments and of the
State Governments in respect of every workplace established, owned,
controlled or wholly or substantially financed by it as well as of
private sector establishments falling within their territory. Besides,
the State and Central Governments will oversee implementation as the
proposed Bill casts a duty on the Employers to include a Report on the
number of cases filed and disposed of in their Annual Report.
Organizations, which do not prepare Annual Reports, would forward this
information to the District Officer.

Through this implementation mechanism, every employer has the primary
duty to implement the provisions of law within his/her establishment
while the State and Central Governments have been made responsible for
overseeing and ensuring overall implementation of the law. The
Governments will also be responsible for maintaining data on the
implementation of the Law. In this manner, the proposed Bill will
create an elaborate system of reporting and checks and balances, which
will result in effective implementation of the Law.

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