30 Sep 2008, 0430 hrs IST,
NEW DELHI: With complaints pouring in against pro-women legislation like the Domestic Violence Act and more recently Section 498A, the law ministry has returned the 'Protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace' bill asking for a provision on 'misuse' to be added to the legislation.
The bill — that has been doing the rounds between the two ministries for over two years — is now back with the women and child development ministry. The law ministry has also asked the legislation's ambit to be widened to include the unorganized sector.
"The law ministry has asked us to include checks and balances in the law so that it does not harass men," a WCD ministry official said.
The ministry will be forwarding the legislation to the National Commission for Women that will have to make the necessary arrangements to include a grievance redressal mechanism for the unorganised sector.
The proposed legislation is expected to provide redressal for women plagued by sexual harassment not just in government and organised private sector companies but industries that have so far managed to stay out of the loop like hospitality industry, including catering services, restaurants, professions like NGOs, health services and coaching centres, domestic helps, women working in tailoring, or beauty parlours.
Under the bill, an employer must constitute an internal complaints committee where the majority members should be women. In cases where an internal committee cannot be set up or if the complaint is against the employer himself, the aggrieved woman can approach a local committee set up by the government under a district officer.
The penalty, if harassment is proved, will be levied keeping in view the victim's mental suffering and trauma, income and financial status of the woman, medical expenses incurred by the victim and loss in career opportunity because of the incident.
The bill also prohibits publication or making contents of the inquiry or the aggrieved woman's details available.
The employer will also be expected to provide a safe, working environment at the work place, organise sensitisation workshops and create awareness regarding the rights and penalties under law.