The All-India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has welcomed the “long-overdue passage” of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2010, in the Lok Sabha, on Monday.

AIDWA general secretary Sudha Sundararaman said: “It has taken 15 years for the formulation of a legislation to define sexual harassment at workplace and make legal provisions for its prevention and for expediting disciplinary action against offenders, as laid down by the Supreme Court under the Vishakha guidelines (1997).’’

A release issued by AIDWA noted that the Bill was comprehensive in its definition of sexual harassment, as well as in other areas it seeks to cover. Ms. Sundararaman added: “While the demand for inclusion of domestic workers has been accepted, there are some glaring lacunae and gaps in the Bill that are still to be addressed. The Bill leaves out women agricultural workers who form a large segment of the unorganised labour force. Also women working in fisheries, forests, or in construction work sites, roads, stations, trains, etc, must be brought under its purview. The women employees in the armed forces must also be covered under the Bill. In the unorganised sector, the restriction in the number of workers to less than ten should be done away with. The Bill needs to be amended so as to rectify these weaknesses and loopholes.’’

Stating that the Association strongly objects to the inclusion of the clause which allows for penal action against the complainant in the Bill, which will defeat its very purpose, Ms. Sundararaman said: “We had repeatedly asked for the removal of the “complaint with malicious intent” clause. This not only goes against the Vishakha guidelines, which explicitly state that the complainant should not be victimised in any way, but also completely undermines the victim’s ability to file complaints of sexual harassment.’’

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