Panel readies Bill to curb violence against women

BANGALORE Jan. 28. The Karnataka State Women's Commission has proposed legislation to enable commercial sex workers (CSWs) to live with dignity.

There is a proposal to check atrocities against CSWs in the commission's draft Karnataka Violence Against Women (Prevention) Bill. The draft is to be submitted to the Government on Women's Day (March 8), the Chairperson of the commission, Philomena Peris, told presspersons here today.

She pointed out that legislation was essential as every third CSW had HIV/AIDS. Besides, it would also prevent minors from being exploited, she said.

Though some NGOs did not want prostitution licensed, Ms. Peris said the commission's report was the result of a comprehensive study.

The Karnataka Violence Against Women (Prevention) Bill, 2003 has penalties for atrocities against women, domestic violence, female foeticide, child rape, and acid attack. It also addresses widowhood and its stigma, she said.

"Now only Maharashtra has a similar Bill. But their Bill is about domestic violence and sexual harassment at the workplace," she said.

Ms. Peris said child abuse, especially of girl students in government schools, was rampant. To prevent this, the commission had asked the Government to appoint only women teachers in girls' schools.

"The Education Department will do so in a phased manner," the Chairperson said.

"Over five such cases came to the commission's notice in the past one year. In Hassan District, a teacher raped a girl student in front of the other children during a study tour," she said. The commission intervened and got the teacher suspended, but the suspension was revoked by using political influence, she said.

After this incident, the commission wrote to the Chief Minister to ensure that its decisions were honoured, Ms. Peris said.

If a Government employee was found to be neglecting his family, the commission had suggested that half his salary be paid to his wife. The Law Department had approved the recommendation and it would become effective shortly, she said.

Other proposals in the Bill included setting up family courts in each district, ensuring proper toilets in girls' schools, sensitising the police, and training dowry prohibition officers, police, and executive magistrates on conducting inquests.

The commission planned to organise a sensitisation programme for the district police, especially women officers. It wanted NGOs working on women's issues to help women petitioners in police stations and offer free legal aid. "Mumbai has such a system," she said.

The commission and the National Council for Women would be holding a two-day workshop on "Atrocities on women and sexual harassment at the workplace", from February 4 at Hotel Chalukya here, Ms. Peris added.

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