Harassment bill may cover domestic helps

The government is likely to decide in favour of including domestic helps under the proposed Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010.

A proposal in this effect by the ministry of women and child development (WCD) is high on the agenda of the Union Cabinet, which will meet on Thursday.

The move, if approved, will benefit about 47.5 lakh women registered as domestic workers in the country.

“As suggested by the parliamentary standing committee to include domestic help too in the bill, the government has agreed to incorporate the suggestion as an official amendment in the bill which was first introduced in Parliament in 2010.

The original bill did not have this provision. Now the proposal is high on the agenda of the meeting of the Union Cabinet, which will be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” sources said, adding that it is likely to be cleared as the government intends to introduce the amended bill for passage in the ongoing session itself.

Sources revealed that the proposed legislation is aimed at ensuring safe environment for women at workplace — be it public or private, organised or unorganised sector.

Giving reasons for inclusion of domestic help under the ambit of the proposed law, they said it would allow them to have access to an efficient redressal mechanism which is currently not available to them.

As per the provisions of the bill, the authorities would be obliged to set up local complaints committees (LCC) at the district level, where the victims of sexual harassment can lodge their complaints.

It will then be the committee’s responsibility to look into the complaints and take action. Under the amended bill, it would now be obligatory on the part of the LCCs to receive complaints from domestic worker.

Earlier the ministry had kept domestic workers out of the proposed law on the grounds that it will be practically difficult to enforce the provisions of the law within the confines of a home.

However, the parliamentary standing committee on HRD recommended the inclusion of domestic workers under the proposed legislation. The panel had submitted its report in December last year.

The bill provides protection not only to women who are employed but also to any woman who enters the workplace as a client, customer, apprentice and daily wageworker or in ad-hoc capacity. Students, research scholars in colleges and universities and patients in hospitals have also been covered.

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