Minutes of the National Consultation held on April 03, 2003 to discuss the draft Bill on Sexual Harassment of Women at their Work Place (Prevention) Bill



A national consultation was organized by the National Commission for Women on 03.04.03 to discuss the draft Bill on Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention) Bill.

During the course of discussion the following points emerged.

  1. The proposed Bill should have a preamble and it must visualize ad reflect the spirit of the Vishakha Judgement, the provisions of the Constitution and CEDAW recommendations.

  2. The ambit and jurisdiction of the draft bill was discussed in detail. It was felt that the bill should be so drafted that it should not become couterproductive and affect women adversely. The jurisdiction should be clearly mentioned. A student, a client, a patient in a hospital should all be covered within the ambit of the Bill.

  3. It was also felt that the Bill should not dilute the Supreme Courts order on the subject.

  4. The Bill should address the preventive measures of sexual harassment at work place.

  5. It was suggested that the definition of the Sexual Harassment as given in the Bill may be substituted by the definition given by the Supree Court in Vishakha vs. State of Rajasthan.

  6. While discussing the definition of workplace it was felt that there should be a broad definition of workplace.

  7. On the issue of joint responsibility of employer in offence of sexual harassment it was suggested that the joint responsibility of the employer should be of civil nature and it should be collective responsibility of the employer. The employer should be held responsible in case no action has been taken on the complaint of sexual harassment. The Bill should have a provision to bind the employer to take the action against the accused.

  8. On the point of prevention of sexual harassment of women employees it was suggested to include the same in the preamble of the Bill.

  9. On the subject of punishment, it was suggested that the same should be enhanced to be exemplary. It was also suggested that provision of demotion may be incorporated as a civil remedy. It was also felt that the civil and criminal remedies should not be mixed up in the Bill.

  10. It was further suggested that while drafting the Rules and Procedures under the Bill, precaution must be taken to make it women friendly, and the procedures should be given in detail. It was also suggested that if the victim is unable to prove the offence of sexual harassment she should not be victimized at a later stage.

  11. On the aspect of trial to be held in camera it was agreed that it should be left on the choice of the victim.

  12. It was further opined that the "Complaint Mechanism" should be reworded as " Complaint Redressal Mechanism". It was also felt that a time frame of three months may be introduced in the Bill for the complaint committee to submit its report and the complaint committee must record the dissenting views if any.

  13. It was also felt that it was necessary to have a re-look into the provision of third party harassment in the Bill.

  14. It was also suggested that the provision of Special Officer to deal with the case in the Government Officers, be deleted as it was confusing. On the provisions and role of the District Level Officer, it was felt that after the enactment of the Act the same should be publicized for information of everyone. The provisions incorporating certain prevention aspects should also be included in the Bill. It was also felt that a provision must be in corporated in the Bill to deal with the non-compliance of the order of the District Level Office.

    Finally a need was felt to form a Drafting Committee to look into the suggestions received and to prepare final draft. It was also desired that the Committee should draft the Bill in three months time. The meeting ended with vote of thanks.

 


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