Society

The rights of a woman

Under the provisions of The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013, for a company with less than 10 workers there has to be a has to be a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) at the district level. For example, a domestic help can approach the LCC for complaints against her employer. Photo:CV.Subrahmanyam

Under the provisions of The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013, for a company with less than 10 workers there has to be a has to be a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) at the district level. For example, a domestic help can approach the LCC for complaints against her employer. Photo:CV.Subrahmanyam   | Photo Credit: C_V_SUBRAHMANYAM

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How much do you know about The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace Act, 2013? PANKAJA SRINIVASAN learns more about it from members of JWAALA, an NGO made up of advocates

Violence, day in and day out, strips women of their dignity, livelihood, health and peace of mind. Eleven advocates have got together to form an NGO called JWAALA to provide legal aid to such women. They want to create awareness about women’s rights and encourage them to thoroughly acquaint themselves with the mandatory provisions imposed by The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013. JWAALA makes it its business to inform as many people as possible about these provisions.

Says advocate Udaya Menon, one of the JWAALA members: “Post the Sexual Harassment Act, many companies and organisations have set up the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). Many have not done it yet. But even those that have are not fully aware of its components. Setting up inquiries without full understanding of the Act and its functioning is counter productive. A legal understanding is essential.”

That is what JWAALA provides through its workshops and orientation programmes. JWAALA has already helped aggrieved women got them justice. Udaya says it is imperative that Government departments and educational institutions must have a system in place to tackle sexual harassment. Women in these institutions are especially vulnerable.

K. Ambujam, another advocate, says: “We conduct these workshops for organisations as a whole, and for employers and employees separately. Most importantly, we train the members of the ICC on the inquiry process.”

Creating harmony at work

Mentioning a UN study that says that one in every five women in the world has been harassed in one way or another, Ambujam says, “I have been harassed too, and you and my colleagues…This harassment can be mitigated only if women are made aware of their rights.”

Women should know how powerful this Act is. The men as well. It is not about estranging men; it is about creating man-woman harmony at the workspace, building confidence amongst women and empowering them to stand up against sexual harassment.

Ambujam and Udaya say the ICC has as much power as a civil court. JWAALA’s aim is to bring that to the notice of employers and employees. And to ensure that all organisations put an effective and efficient complaint committee into place. “The law is empowering,” says Ambujam. “We want women to know that they can now insist on a safe working environment. It is their right.”

To know more about JWAALA (Justice for Women Aggrieved and Legal Aid), mail them at jwaalajusticewomen@gmail.com or call: 0422-2233177/4391375.

WHAT IS AN INTERNAL COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE?

Every employer has to form an ICC if they have more than 10 employees.

For those who have less than 10 workers, there has to be a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) at the district level. For example, a domestic help can approach the LCC for complaints against her employer.

Every employer has to create a workplace free from sexual harassment, failing which the employer will be liable to a fine of Rs. 50,000. The fine will double for subsequent violations, and the employer may end up losing the license or registration of the firm.

A sexual harassment complaint has to be filed within three months of the incident. The ICC/LCC can take steps to resolve the matter internally, only if the aggrieved woman wants to. Otherwise, an inquiry is to be initiated.

If the complaint discloses a criminal offence, the committee has to forward it to the police within seven days.

The committee has to complete the inquiry in 90 days. Within a further 10 days, the report has to be sent to the employer or District Officer. And, within 60 days, the employer has to take action.

The act prohibits disclosure of identity and address of the aggrieved woman, the respondent and the witness. Anyone who discloses the same will be fined Rs. 5,000.

If the organisation does not have its own rules of punishment, the complaint committee can recommend appropriate measures, ranging from a written apology from the perpetrator right up to termination of his service.

The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013

No woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace in India

The law is for every woman, irrespective of age or employment

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 11:54:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/the-rights-of-a-woman/article5729322.ece

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