THE UNION Home Ministry has told all the states and union territories to “issue directions to police departments… to ensure that Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, are immediately constituted and notified to all the members of the police departments”.
In a letter to the chief secretaries, dated December 12, the home ministry has said that “sexual harassment at workplace is a violation of women’s right to gender equality, life and liberty. It creates an insecure and hostile work environment, which discourages women’s participation in work, thereby adversely affecting their economic empowerment and the goal of inclusive growth.”
The letter comes days after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh held the first meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) set up in the wake of the MeToo campaign. Besides Singh, the other members are Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi.
The GoM, set up in October, is examining the “legal and institutional framework for handling complaints” of sexual harassment at work. It is mulling amendments in the existing laws to penalise employers who fail to set up ICCs. The panel is expected to finalise its report by the end of this month.
“The Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013 upholds the women’s fundamental right to equality as guaranteed under Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India, right to live with dignity under Article 21, and right to practice any profession or to carry out any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to safe working environment free from sexual harassment as provided under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution,” the Home Ministry has said in its letter to the states.
“The Act covers all women, irrespective of their age of employment status, and protects them against sexual harassment at all workplace, both in public and private sector, whether organised or unorganised. The domestic workers are included under the ambit of the Act,” it has said.
The directives, officials said, was sent to sensitise states on the recent #MeToo movement.