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Anti-sexual harassment committees on a sticky wicket in Gujarat

The need to have in place mandatory sexual harassment committees at workplaces may have once again been underlined by the suspension of 28 junior doctors in the city for harassing nursing students...


March 25, 2009 3:29:56 am

The need to have in place mandatory sexual harassment committees at workplaces may have once again been underlined by the suspension of 28 junior doctors in the city for harassing nursing students,but thanks to differing interpretations,these committees continue to end up as a formality. In some cases,their constitution is faulty; in some,they are almost non-existent.

In Ahmedabad,a woman legal cell is working in NHL Municipal Medical College under Shobha Choksi but there is no committee in the V S Hospital. Municipal commissioner I P Gautam said,“There might be some committees following some circulars but it may not be functional.” Since a special committee had to be formed to probe into the Dhuleti incident,the one under Shobha Choksi seems non-functional,said Gautam.

According to hospital superintendents,there is no need for separate committees for each hospital and that one common committee formed at the medical college would serve the purpose. The B J Medical College has a committee in place for a year now,said Dr Asha Shah,additional dean and a member of the committee. Civil Hospital Superintendent Dr Manjula Anchalia said the committee is yet to come across a single complaint.

In Vadodara,no such committee exists at the SSG Hospital and the Baroda Medical College at present. There was a committee in 2002-03 but it was later dissolved. A former superintendent,Dr Kamal Pathak,said,“A cell was set up after a doctor attended a seminar on the need of sexual harassment committee as a preventive measure,but no case came its way.” But after its dissolution,no similar cell or committee was formed at the hospital.

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In Surat,a seven-member committee was formed in 2008 headed by Dr Malini Mehta of Government Medical College. “Our powers are limited to our institutions and we can only deal with the issues occurring in our premises,” said Dr Mehta.

Dr Mukul Choksi,an external member of the committee,said,“I have come across such incidents occurring in different institutions but I have not come across any such complaints from the committee. But all complaints come to us due to my personal contacts. We have not found a single incident of sexual harassment in the government medical college and hospital.”

Dr Choksi refused to comment if the victims avoided going to the committee with their complaints.

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