Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012 or Sexual Harassment Bill
Expressing concern at the increase in sexual offences against women, the Rajya Sabha approved the amended Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, that seeks to protect women, including lakhs employed as domestic workers, from sexual harassment at workplace provide protection in un-organised and organised sectors including the private sector.The Lok Sabha had already passed the bill in the month of Sep 2012.
This will contribute to realisation of their right to gender equality, life and liberty and equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth.
Salient features of Sexual Harrasment Bill are as follows:
1- According to the act, sexual harassment includes unwelcome behaviour such as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography. It also has provisions for safeguard against false or malicious charges.
2- The Bill provides protection not only to women who are employed but also to any woman who enters the workplace as a client, customer, apprentice, and daily wageworker or in ad-hoc capacity. Students, research scholars in colleges/university and patients in hospitals have also been covered. Further, the Bill seeks to cover workplaces in the unorganised sectors.
3-The Bill provides for an effective complaints and redressal mechanism. Under the proposed Bill, every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee.Since a large number of the establishments in our country have less than 10 workers for whom it may not be feasible to set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), the Bill provides for setting up of Local Complaints Committee (LCC) to be constituted by the designated District Officer at the district or sub-district levels, depending upon the need.
4- Employers who fail to comply with the provisions of the proposed Bill will be punishable with a fine which may extend to 50,000.
5- Since there is a possibility that during the pendency of the enquiry the woman may be subject to threat and aggression, she has been given the option to seek interim relief in the form of transfer either of her own or the respondent or seek leave from work.
6- The Complaint Committees are required to complete the enquiry within 90 days and a period of 60 days has been given to the employer/District Officer for implementation of the recommendations of the Committee.
7- The Bill provides for safeguards in case of false or malicious complaint of sexual harassment. However, mere inability to substantiate the complaint or provide adequate proof would not make the complainant liable for punishment.
8- The State and Central Governments will oversee implementation as the proposed Bill casts a duty on the Employers to include a Report on the number of cases filed and disposed of in their Annual Report. Organizations, which do not prepare Annual Reports, would forward this information to the District Officer.