Parliament on 26th February, 2013 passed a law, providing for protection of women, including domestic helps and agricultural labourers, against sexual harassment at workplace.
The new legislation, seeking to provide a secure and enabling environment for women employees, will make it mandatory for all workplaces including home, universities, hospitals, government and non-government offices, factories, other formal and informal work places to constitute an internal committee for redressal of complaints.
Under the law, such cases of harassment will have to be disposed of by in-house committees within a period of 90 days failing which penalty of Rs 50,000 would be imposed. Repeated non-compliance will even lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha, was unanimously passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, with women and child development minister Krishna Tirath promising to follow up the legislation with strict rules for its implementation.
Sexual harassment, which will be covered under the law includes any one or more unwelcome acts or behaviour like physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography. The acts whether directly, or by implication, include any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
It has also provisions for safeguard against false or malicious charges. If it is found that a woman had filed complaint against someone with mala-fide intention, there is a provision for some punishment for her. The failure to prove charges against the person will, however, not be construed as mala-fide intention.
The Bill makes it mandatory that all offices, hospitals, institutions and other workplaces should have an internal redressal mechanism for complaints related to sexual harassment.
The Act defines domestic worker as a woman employed to do household work in any household for remuneration whether in cash or kind, either directly or through any agency on temporary, permanent, part time or full-time, but does not include any member of the family of the employer.