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LS nod to anti-sexual harassment at workplace bill

Last updated on: September 03, 2012 18:02 IST

Amid din over the coal block allocation issue, the Lok Sabha on Monday passed a bill which seeks to protect women, including lakhs employed as domestic workers, from sexual harassment at their workplace.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2010, piloted by Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath, was passed without discussion amid uproar with Bharatiya Janata Party members storming the well.

Under the Act, the sexual harassment includes any one or more of unwelcome acts or behaviour such as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography.

The acts or behaviour whether directly or by implication, include any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to Rs 50,000.

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, but  does not include any member of the family of the employer.

A Parliamentary Standing Committee, which had examined the Bill, had held the firm view that preventive aspects reflected in it has to be strictly in line with the Supreme Court guidelines in the 1997 Vishaka case.

The apex court's judgment in the case not only defines sexual harassment at workplace but also lays down guidelines for its prevention and disciplinary action.

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.

In other business, a bill to eliminate dry latrines, manual scavenging and rehabilitation of manual scavengers was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

Besides recommending prohibition of persons from engagement or employment in hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks, the bill provides for several stringent measures to stop the practice of manual scavenging.

The bill also seeks to empower an executive magistrate to issue a summary trial of the offenders of the proposed Act.

Introducing the bill, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik said, "Despite the concerted efforts made in the past to eliminate dehumanising practice of manual scavenging, it still persists."

Observing that the existing laws are not stringent enough to eliminate the evil practice, Wasnik said, "A multi-pronged strategy has been worked out in the bill."

The bill also empowers the local authority to carry out survey of insanitary latrines existing and give notice to the occupier to either demolish it or convert it into sanitary latrines within six months.

Failure to comply with orders will invite imprisonment which may extend to one year or with a fine which may extend to Rs 50,000 or with both.

For rehabilitation of manual scavengers, the bill provides for their entitlement for residential plot, assistance to their children's education, training in a livelihood skill and monthly stipend of not less than Rs 3,000 during such training.

The responsibility for rehabilitation of the manual scavengers will be on district magistrates.

The Lok Sabha on Monday also passed a bill that seeks to bifurcate the civil services cadres of Manipur and Tripura, meeting a long standing demand from the two northeastern states.

The North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Amendment Bill, 2011, was passed by the Lok Sabha by voice vote amid sloganeering by opposition members who were demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the coal block allocation issue.

The Bill was piloted by Minister of State for Home Mullapally Ramachandran.

Currently, the states of Tripura and Manipur have a joint cadre of the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service, and the Indian Forest Service.

The Bill bifurcates each of these three cadres for the two states of Manipur and Tripura.

The demand for bifurcation of the joint Manipur and Tripura cadre in respect of the three services was raised by Tripura in 2004.

After a meeting of the cadre controlling authorities of the All-India services -- the department of personnel and training, the ministry of home affairs and the ministry of

environment and forests -- in January 2009, it was recommended to split the joint Manipur and Tripura All-India service cadres into two independent state cadres.

The proposal for splitting the joint Manipur and Tripura cadre of the All-India services was considered by the central government after consultation with all stakeholders.

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