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Report to change the legal framework that will help prevent sexual harassment

Report to change the legal framework that will help prevent sexual harassment

The Group of Ministers headed by the Home Minister Amit Shah on January 19, 2020 have finalized its recommendations which was constituted to strengthen the legal framework to prevent sexual harassment at workplace. The recommendations which include addition of new provisions to the Indian Penal Code, will be put up for comments from the public.

Key Points:

  • The Group of Ministers was constituted first in October 2018 in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement after many women shared their ordeal on social media. It was reconstituted in July 2019 under Mr. Shah.
  • The Women and Child Development Ministry had driven the Sexual Harassment of Women and Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act in 2013, which applied to government offices, private sector, NGOs and also the unorganised sector.
  • The proposed amendments would be based mainly on the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997, on which the 2013 Act was based. 
  • It made the employer responsible for preventing or deterring acts of sexual harassment at the workplace. 
  • The 2013 Act had shortcomings like giving the powers of a civil court to the internal complaints committee (ICC) without specifying if the members need to have a legal background. 
  • It only imposed a fine of ₹50,000 on employers for non-compliance. The Act said the employer should assist the woman if she chooses to file a complaint under the IPC “against the perpetrator after the conclusion of the enquiry”.
  • As per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) the number of sexual harassment incidents at “work or office premises” registered under Section 509 IPC (words, gesture or act to insult the modesty of a woman) were 479 and 401 in the years 2017 and 2018 respectively. 
  • Among the cities, the highest number of such cases were registered in Delhi (28), Bengaluru (20), Pune (12) and Mumbai (12) in 2018. 
  • The total number of sexual harassment incidents in 2018 including that in public places, shelter homes and others was 20,962.

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