October 25, 2018 3:07:14 am
The chairperson of the local committee created under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act, 2013, for the Mumbai City District said on Tuesday that not a single complaint has been received in the past three years from women working in the unorganised sector. Doctor Anagha Sarpotdar, who heads the committee, said this during a discussion organised jointly by the Network of Women in Media, India, and the Mumbai Press Club on the #MeToo movement.
The local committees work with the office of the collector in each district and are set up primarily for women working outside the organised sectors, which tend to have Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs) as mandated by the Act.
“The aim is to reach domestic workers and construction workers, women working in small units. Between 2015 and 2018, we haven’t got a single complaint from the unorganised sector. We are thinking of reaching out to trade unions and associations so that women can get access to us,” she said. Sarpotdar, who did her doctoral research on social aspects of sexual harassment at workplace and serves as an external member on ICCs of several organisations, said implementation of the Act is poor in the private sector. “The 2013 Act is failing largely due to the attitude of employers. This is an employer-driven legislation. It is completely the prerogative of the employer to drive the law,” she said.
Sarpotdar was in conversation with cyber crime lawyer N S Nappinai and Audrey D’Mello, advocate and director of NGO Majlis.
They addressed an audience comprising journalists and senior editors on laws related to sexual harassment and the way ahead. D’Mello said private sector firms set up ICCs in a “clandestine manner” because they do not want to be burdened with cases.
She added that 95 per cent cases can be resolved by sensitive ICCs if they help the women come to a conciliation and men accused of harassing them apologise. Nappinai added that reports prepared by ICCs after the end of an inquiry into complaints should be good enough to be treated as basis for filing police complaints.
While applauding women coming out with stories on social media about being sexually harassed and abused by men in the past three weeks, Nappinai cautioned that the #MeToo wave also faced threats. “The first threat to the movement is opposition, mainly from some women who want to distance themselves from it saying that they are not victims. There is also the fear of possible false cases. But abuse of law should not dilute its need,” she said.
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