Include gender bias in scope of law to curb sexual harassment, says Congress member Rajeev Gowda

It does not cover denial of promotions and exclusion from important tasks: Rajeev Gowda

February 07, 2020 09:53 pm | Updated 10:43 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress member Rajeev Gowda.

Congress member Rajeev Gowda.

There is an urgent need to widen the scope of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act to include gender bias, Congress member Rajeev Gowda said in the Rajya Sabha on Friday. His point is that the Act does not cover the other kinds of harassments, including denial of promotions and exclusion from important tasks.

The recent Economic Survey pointed out that the female labour force’s participation had dropped from 33% in 2011-12 to 25.3% in 2017-18 in a sign of an acute problem.

The 2013 Act provides a mechanism for protection against sexual harassment in the workplace and for redress of complaints of sexual harassment in private institutions and government organisations. But there is no legislation that explicitly prevents or redresses gender bias, harassment and discrimination.

Mr. Gowda said gender bias refers to discriminatory acts against women that may not be of a sexual nature. “It can take the form of humiliation, it can take the form of exclusion from important tasks, it can take the form of removal of responsibilities and withholding of resources. There are numerous ways in which women are harassed at the workplace, and their promotion is prevented,” he said.

Citing the instances from multinational corporations, he said the cases were heard and passed on to foreign committees, and there is no system within the country to help women handle the challenges. “There are often the other problems, there are false accusations, there are whisper campaigns, subtle rumours passed on to other companies: ‘This is a troublesome person and do not hire her’.”

He suggested that the Ministry of Women and Child Development include a new provision in the Act to prevent of harassment and discrimination stemming from gender bias. He said the jurisdiction of internal complaints committees should be widened. They should have an NGO member and half of their total members should be women, and in the case of multinational companies, they should include members from the Indian branches. He also demanded that the companies publish the number of complaints of gender bias in their annual reports and increase the awareness of the Act among their employees.

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