The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sex abuse cell mandatory

New Delhi, Sept. 26: Males who have found it difficult to keep their libido in check in office had better learn to do so ' especially if the place where they work has at least 50 employees.

According to the Protection Against Sexual Harassment of Women Bill, 2005, it will be “mandatory for every establishment” which employs or has employed in the preceding 12 months “more than 50 employees to constitute an internal complaints committee”.

In organisations that have less than 50 employees, it is up to the employer to set up such committees.

“If the establishment has more than one branch, it will be mandatory for the employer to constitute a committee in each of them,” the bill says.

“The continuance of the committee will be mandatory even if the mandatory number of employees falls after the committee has been constituted.”

The committee will have a minimum of three members and be headed by a woman. There has to be at least one external expert and not less than half the members on the panel have to be women.

The bill is ready to be introduced in Parliament’s winter session and final touches will be given at a two-day workshop of women’s organisations and the National Commission for Women in Delhi on October 6 and 7.

The Supreme Court had laid down guidelines for a complaints committee in 1997 but allegations of violations have prompted the government to press ahead with the legislation.

“We are very keen to pass this bill in the winter session,” said a senior official in the department of women and children in the human resource development ministry.

Sexual harassment has been defined as “unwelcome sexually determined behaviour such as physical contact, advances, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography (and) sexual demands, whether by words or action”.

The bill leaves it to the woman’s “perception”.

“It is clarified that it is the reasonable perception of the woman that would be relevant in determining whether any conduct was sexually coloured and if so whether such conduct was unwelcome or not.”

The bill says a sexually harassed woman must be compensated for “mental trauma, pain, suffering and emotional distress, loss in career opportunities (and) medical expenses”.

The procedure for seeking redress involves the aggrieved person submitting a report of the complaint to the internal committee. The panel will conduct an inquiry but it will be up to the management to decide whether or not to take action against the offender.

“We will try to move an amendment which will make it mandatory for the management to follow the judgment of the inquiry committee,” says the Lawyers’ Collective.

If the management wants to act, it can take up the case in court. “The court can then award compensation without requiring the person aggrieved to establish her claim of sexual harassment,” the bill says.

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