“No law can actually solve a problem. It might prove to be a barrier but solution is yet very far off. The bill might wake up the companies and they can become vigilant so that before the law acts against them, they act against such people but change can never happen overnight as we all know,” Ms Chahal said.
In India, if we actually think, we do not remember a woman actually coming forward and declaring or complaining that she has been sexually harassed at her workplace. When asked for her reaction, Ms Chahal said: “We as a culture do not like to speak about anything. Be it money, sex, violence; we are a very hush hush culture. Thus to think that a women would actually complain against a patriarchal society is highly unlikely.”
When asked whether sexual harassment actually existed in companies or workplaces, Kaustav Rakshit, an Executive Manager in a Tata Enterprise said, “I am quite sure it happens. To be really honest men in India do not know how to behave with women. If a colleague is just being friendly, they take it as something else and this eventually leads to harassment.”
Coming back to the significant part of the bill i.e 'domestic workers', who are either employed full-time, part-time or temporarily for household work. The only grounds that they were kept out of the original bill was the fact that creating a redressal mechanism for their complaints of sexual harassment would not be easy.
I asked Sanjana Singh (name changed), a housewife whether the bill will address the complaints of domestic workers. “It's good that such a bill has been passed for women but where will domestic workers complain if they are harassed in a particular house? I am very sure the women of the same house would not believe them even if they gather the courage to speak at all," Ms Singh asked.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) bill initiated by Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath includes any one or more of unwelcome acts or behaviour like physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography. If found guilty of not complying with the act then a fine upto 50,000 is applicable.
Repeated offence can also lead to cancellation of the business license. The Bill makes it mandatory for all offices, hospitals, institutions and other workplaces to have an internal redressal mechanism for complaints related to sexual harassment.
Change is a long way to come but it would only come when there would be an all-round development. Starting from education to more women employment in every sector and also an increase in the number of women entrepreneurs would hopefully change the outlook of the men of the society. Having a law is good but changing from within is the mantra.
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