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Indian parliament passes anti-sexual harassment bill

Publication Date : 04-09-2012


Amid continuous din and uproarious scenes over coal block allocations, India's Lok Sabha (Lower House) yesterday passed a bill which seeks to protect women, including thousands of them employed as domestic workers, from sexual harassment at workplaces.

The Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Work Place Bill, 2010, piloted by women and child development minister Krishna Tirath was passed without discussion as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members stormed the well raising slogans against  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress.

As per the new bill, the definition of sexual harassment would include any one or more of unwelcome acts or behaviour like physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges and makes it mandatory for every employer to constitute an internal complaints committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.

Penalties have been prescribed for employers, and non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to 50,000 rupees (US$900). It also says that repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.

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 basis.

The House also managed to pass the Northeastern Areas Reorganisation Amendment Bill and the National Highways Authority of India Amendment Bill.

The North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Amendment Bill, 2011, introduced in the Lok Sabha last year establishes a common cadre of the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service, and the Indian Forest Service for Manipur and Tripura.

The Highway Authority legislation moved by C P Joshi expands the authority. It will now consist of a chairman, up to six full-time members and six part-time members.

Amid the din, a Bill to eliminate dry latrines, manual scavenging and rehabilitation of manual scavengers was introduced in the House.
Introducing the Bill, social justice and empowerment minister Mukul Wasnik said: “Despite the concerted efforts made in the past to eliminate the dehumanising practice of manual scavenging, it still persists”.


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