AIDWA Press Statement on Bill for Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at the Workplace (11 May 2012)

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Date: 11th May2012
AIDWA Press Statement on Bill for Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at the Workplace.
AIDWA welcomes the Union Cabinet’s approval of the Bill on the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at the Work place, and the inclusion of certain important demands such as bringing domestic workers within its ambit. However, it is most unfortunate that the clause relating to so called “false and malicious complaints,” which would make complainants punishable, has been reportedly retained under the proposed law.

AIDWA reiterates that this is totally against the Vishaka Judgment which had clearly stated that no action should be taken against a woman for making a complaint. The proposed civil law to deal with cases of sexual harassment is aimed at providing a conducive atmosphere in which women victims come forth to make a complaint given the fact that women employees are usually extremely hesitant to lodge a complaint for fear of reprisal. Experience of dealing with cases as members of Complaint Committees has shown that accusations of false complaints are routinely made against women victims. Though in the proposed draft ‘mere inability to substantiate the complaint or provide adequate proof’ has not been made punishable, this is not sufficient. The fact that she can be proceeded against will hang like a Damocles’ sword over the victim’s head. It would also be highly improper for the Complaints Committee to pronounce judgment on this matter. AIDWA demands that this clause be removed from the Bill forthwith. There are rules and laws to deal with false statements and evidence-giving and these may be invoked when required, along with provision for filing of suits for defamation.
In fact it is notable that while no clear system of accountability of those responsible for acting on complaints of sexual harassment is spelt out in the proposed law, a lot of effort has gone into providing for an assumed scenario where the complainant is seen to be functioning with mala fide intent. AIDWA challenges this assumption and urges the government to address these concerns. The Bill must ensure that victims of sexual harassment are able to access justice without fear of victimization.

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Shyamali Gupta Sudha Sundararaman Kirti Singh
(President) (Gen. Secretary, AIDWA ) (Legal Convenor, AIDWA)