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Make workplace harassment laws gender neutral: NGOs

December 03, 2012 10:24 IST

The Save Indian Family Foundation, a non-profit organisation, promoting the cause of men's rights and gender equality has alleged that the Women and Child Ministry is desperately trying to sneak in a highly anti-male bill any which way. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

The fact that in India the definition of sexual assault incorporates males but the definition of sexual harassment refuses to consider men as victims.

When challenged with facts, WCD Minister Krishnja Tirath says that they will conduct a survey of men later.  This survey has not been conducted for the past 15 years.

A source said that the WCD's internal committee, which is expected to conduct the survey is nothing more than a 'kangaroo court' when they promise to address men's issues, and say that they will conduct a survey if men are being harassed at the workplace.

As part of this very credible and extensive research 527 people were queried in the survey across -Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Pune.

Below are excerpts from the report to expose how often males are sexually harassed.

a) Bangalore: Half of who agreed that they have been sexually harassed at their workplace said they have been harassed by their female colleagues. Only 32 per cent  said that they were harassed by male colleagues.

b) Hyderabad: Twenty-nine per cent of said they have been sexually harassed by their female bosses while 48 per cent accused their male bosses.

c) Delhi: Numbers are even, with 43 per cent pointing a finger at their female colleagues and an equal number accusing their male colleagues of sexual harassment.

d) Thirty-eight per cent of the respondents agreed that in today's workplaces, even men are as vulnerable to sexual harassment as women. In Hyderabad and Mumbai, 55 per cent of the respondents agreed to this point.

From the above facts of the report it can be concluded that Sexual Harassment of Males at Workplace in India is more than that of women and often hidden since in most cases males do not even file complaints for the fear of social ridicule.

The Indian industry, media and people alike have overwhelmingly demanded a gender neutral workplace harassment bill and country's gender laws cannot be determined by a few radical feminist organisations in collusion with the WCD.

The bill was gender neutral to begin with until the intervention of the WCD and militant   women's Non-Govermental Organisations after which the name of the bill was changed to The Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010.

WCD Ministry which stated in 2010 that "Protection of men is also not the mandate of Ministry of WCD" as the justification for not to include men under the ambit of the Sexual harassment bill now states that it will conduct a study on men's sexual harassment.

This clearly points to the severe desperation and the dubious nature of gender lawmaking in India. Removal of WCD of law making is now extremely urgent given the extremely poor credibility of this organization as a gender law making body.

Over 35 countries in the world have gender-neutral sexual harassment policies, a fact that was presented many times to the WCD only to be dubiously ignored each time.

It out-rightly violates the essence of article 15 of Indian constitution, which prohibits discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of religion and sex. Positive discrimination of women does not mean absolving them for punishment for committing offences because of their gender.

It has been acknowledged the world over that workplace harassment is a gender neutral crime and women have equal or more propensity of committing it.

The judgment nowhere mentioned that women must be absolved of the offence of sexual harassment because they are women.

The drafting committee arrogantly ignored overwhelming public opinions asking for the bill to made gender neutral and thereby exposed the fascist law making attitude with which gender laws are drafted in India.

Demands 

The coalition of multinational NGOs strongly opposes the bill in the present form and demands that the current draft prepared by the WCD be discarded and a fresh draft be created taking into consideration the following points.

  • The Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill must be reviewed and amended immediately to make it Gender Neutral.
  • The word Men/women to be replaced by person or employee.
  • No direct money should be given to the person who has complained; all fines must go to an employee welfare fund. This will reduce the instances of misuse and extortion.
  • If the case is found the false/fabricated or filed with an intention to derive personal benefit, the person should be fined or sacked summarily without any discretion.
  • No outsiders must be allowed into the committees. No women's rights NGO's or NGO working for the cause of women must be allowed to earn revenue from sitting in these committees and converting benign cases into cases sexual harassment.
  • The offence to be categorised into to five levels, and the fine or disciplinary action should be as per level of the offence found in enquiry.
  • If any person is not satisfied with the committee's findings and conclusions they will have the right to approach the court, but no way the employer or enquiry committee member should be involved in that case to defend the accuser.
Vicky Nanjappa