More False cases blocking sexual harassment bill

Despite being a pressing problem, a handful of ‘false cases’ have made the passage of the bill on sexual harassment in workplaces difficult, experts said here Wednesday.

M.R. Mohanty of the women and child development ministry said: ‘I believe that every woman who enters a work environment has the right to be protected, hence we need the act in place. Unfortunately one or two false cases get more hype than the many genuine cases of harassment, making the passing of the bill difficult.’

He did not elaborate what these false cases were.

Organised by the Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), the seminar highlighted that sexual harassment is one of the biggest concerns for working women. Yet it has been a struggle to bring into force the 2007 bill for protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace.

Martha Farrell, PRIA director, said: ‘Learning self-defence mechanisms and carrying pepper sprays to work are not the answers to avoiding sexual harassment. What we want is a concrete act that can discourage men from sexually harassing women and wipe this problem out from its roots.’

She also said that implementation of the 13-year-old Supreme Court guidelines, commonly known as the Vishakha guidelines about making complaints committees on sexual harassment and preventive measures mandatory in all organisations across India has been poor.

Saying that there should be a provision to prevent registering of false cases, Meenakshi Lekhi, advocate of the Supreme Court said: ‘There should definitely be a provision against people registering false cases because what we don’t realise is that one false case against an employee can actually undo the years of service he has provided to the organisation and also tarnish his image for life.’

‘We have to thus make sure that this bill is not misused,’ she added.