The Goa State Commission for Women will be recommending amendments to the law against sexual harassment to bring religious places under its purview and ensure that they set up internal complaints committees (ICCs).
Advocate Shubhlaxmi Naik, the new chairperson of the commission, was speaking to reporters at the panel’s headquarters on Saturday. Ms. Naik said in the recent case of allegations of molestation levelled against a priest in Goa’s Mangeshi temple, the victims had no place to file complaints as the temple management failed to take action. She said, “Any girl who has a grievance has a right to lodge complaints. Religious shrines open to all members of society must be considered as a “place of work” and come under the ambit of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.”
Deadline to form committees
Ms. Naik said the commission has written to the managements of all religious shrines in Goa and asked them to set up ICCs by September 30.
She said the commission would also recommend amendments to the Goa, Daman & Diu Devasthan Regulation of 1933 and the Mazanias bylaws under which temples do not recognise women as members of its management. Ms. Naik said, “We will not allow anybody to make excuses over the composition of the ICCs. If you do not have appropriate persons within the organisation, then you will have to co-opt members for the committee.” She said regulations would have to be urgently amended to get women members on the board and ICCs should be formed in temples, churches and mosques.
Ms. Naik said most Goan employers have failed to form ICCs as per the Act despite the legal requirement that workplaces with more than 10 employees should have a ICC. Ms. Naik said many corporate houses, educational institutions and government departments are yet to form the ICCs and will face disciplinary action under the law if they fail to do so.
Marital discord on the rise
Ms. Naik said the number of cases of marital discord was also rising among young couples. She said the couples complained of obsessive use of social media and digital media by their spouses. She said, “This is not one-sided, both spouses complain against each other. What I find peculiar is that the traditional mindset of men that women should not be using so much social media or digital media persists. We have appointed a counsellor to speak to the couples, but they simply remain adamant and the discord continues.”
Increase in domestic violence
Ms. Naik said that cases of domestic violence and denial of property rights to women were also on the rise in Goa. She said, “Yes, domestic violence cases are not only among uneducated people. People from educated and elite families also come to us with complaints.”