PUDUCHERRY: The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 insists that all workplaces should have an appropriate complaints mechanism with a committee, special counselor or other support services.
The Act requires all workplaces to set up Internal Complaints Committees to address the issue of sexual harassment, said Chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Dr Vidyaa Ramkumar, explaining the Act at a training programme organized in the Pondicherry University.
She said a woman must head the complaints committee and no less than half its members should be women and the committee should also include an NGO/individual familiar with the issue of sexual harassment.
She said the complaints procedure must be time-bound and confidentiality must be maintained. “Complainants/witnesses should not experience victimization/discrimination during the process,” she added
Explaining the Act, she said an aggrieved woman can file a complaint within 3 months of the harassment incident (or later if allowed by the committee) and the inquiry should be completed within 90 days.
She said the Act provides the option of a settlement between the aggrieved woman and the responded through conciliation but only on the request of the woman. However, money compensation cannot be a basis for the settlement.
Dr Vidyaa said it is the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in the workplace or institution to prevent sexual harassment provide mechanisms for the resolution of complaints.
She said the employer is expected to set up an 'Internal Complaints Committee' ("ICC") and the government should set up a 'Local Complaints Committees' ("LCC") at the district level.
As per the recommendations of National Commission for women, there is a need to improve relationships between the police and educational institutions.
If a case is reported from an educational institution, the case must be entrusted with a woman police officer for inquiry and to initiate further proceedings in the case.
The educational institutions should have an internal security committee, which should meet monthly or bi-monthly.
Experts should be invited to inspect the college area to assess the security needs and arrangements on campus. Educational institutions must perform their administrative role for the security of the students, she said and added that students must be given proper training in self-defense.
She said the law applies to women harassed in the workplace including women working as domestic workers, daily wagers, temporary or permanent, full-time or part-time, as well as volunteers.