Me too movement: NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said that the review of the law is required.
Me too movement: Terming the existing Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is flawed, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has called for reviewing the Act, according to Indian Express report. In the wake of series of shocking revelations of cases of sexual harassment and sexual assaults and a movement called #MeToo, the NCW will hold consultations and meetings with stakeholders to discuss the lacuna of the existing Act and seek suggestions on amendments if needed.
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said that the review of the law is required. The NCW’s mandate includes reviewing laws pertaining to women. “We will be holding a review meeting in November that will be attended by former judges and other legal experts, academicians, and NGOs working on women’s issues,” Sharma was quoted as saying. The NCW Chairman said that the suggestions for amendment will be sent to the Ministry of Women and Child Development or directly to Parliament, as pe IE report. The crucial meetings will be held in next month. The provisions of the present law are not enough to tackle the nature of sexual harassment that were coming out recently, according to NCW officials.
The draft for the existing Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, was prepared by the NCW in 2010. It was based on the Supreme Court’s 1997 Vishaka judgment on measures to be adopted by employers to address workplace sexual harassment. The employers need to constitute an Internal Complaints Committees (ICC) at all workplaces that employ 10 or more persons. In cases of for workplaces with fewer employees or for women in informal sector including domestic workers and daily wage labourers, the Act provides for constitution of Local Complaints Committees (LCC) under the district collector.
The NCW officials have pointed out a few issues with the current Act. They said that there is a provision that the complainant can be penalised. As per Section 14 of the Act if the ICC or LCC “arrives at a conclusion that the allegation against the respondent is malicious or the complaint (is made) knowing it to be false, forged or misleading document” is produced, they can direct the employer or district officer to take action against the complainant.
According to an NCW official, the most glaring problem with the law is the provision that allows the complainant to be penalised thus creating a fear of retribution. Section 14 of the Act states that where the ICC or LCC “arrives at a conclusion that the allegation against the respondent is malicious or the complaint (is made) knowing it to be false, forged or misleading document” is produced, they can direct the employer or district officer to take action against the complainant. “Even in worst kinds of crimes, the courts merely dismiss a petition if it is found to be false. Here, the complainant faces threat of action against her if the ICC declares that her case is not genuine,” an official told IE.
Another key issue pointed out by the official is “The ICC / LCC should comprise external women members who work on gender issues with just one member from the workplace meant to assist them. This is especially important since in many cases, the perpetrators are powerful senior-most officials and a committee comprising subordinate employees cannot be expected to be fair,” said the official.