Adherence to SC guidelines on prevention of sexual harassment at workplace

The State Department of Social Welfare will ensure that Internal Complaints Committees, as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act 2013, is in place in all government departments, Minister for Social Welfare M.K. Muneer has said.

He was inaugurating a national seminar on ‘Why should working women be aware of the Vishaka guidelines?’ here on Saturday. (The Vishaka guidelines were laid down by the Supreme Court in the Vishaka and others vs the State of Rajasthan case in 1997, regarding sexual harassment at workplace. The court stated that these guidelines were to be implemented until a legislation was in place to deal with the issue).

Though the process involved participation of various departments, the Social Welfare Department was responsible for its implementation, he said.

The seminar was organised by the women’s wing of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ).

Bhanwari Devi, who was raped by landlords in Rajasthan for trying to prevent a child marriage as a state government employee in the 1990s, was present. Also present were rights activist Kavita Srivastava and Anila George, the lawyer who appeared for the Suryanelli case victim.

Vishaka, a group for women’s education and research; Jagori, a women’s rehabilitation group; Jagori Kali; and the Rajasthan Voluntary Health Association took up the Bhanwari Devi case then and approached the Apex court.

Ms. Devi urged women to never give up their fight against injustice. She said women should unite as no woman could fight alone.

Ms. Srivastava said the Bhanwari Devi case was the ‘breaking of silence’ on such issues in Rajasthan. Proud of their achievement that eventually led to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act 2013, Ms. Srivastava said that courts and the Bar should also be brought under the surveillance of the law.

Lauding Anima Murayath, a lawyer in Kozhikode who raised her voice against sexist comments by male colleagues, she said internal complaints committees as per the Act should be set up in the judicial system as well.

Ms. George said Bhanwari Devi was an inspiration to all women.

Calicut Press Club president Kamal Varadoor presided over the function.

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