ndia’s government is tackling criticism on all sides while trying to create its first-ever legislation to stop sexual harassment at work.
The proposed law aims to put an end to everything form dirty jokes to physical abuse. However, some critics say the law is too flimsy while others say it’s open to abuse.
The proposed law, which parliament will review when it resumes later this month, states “gestures of a sexual nature whether verbal, textual, physical, graphic or electronic” are “unwelcome conduct.”
However, the law would only apply to women working in the organized sector, which includes factories, hotels, airlines, textile mills, parts of the farm sector and offices.
Of India’s hundreds of millions of working women, only 1.5 million are considered part of this formal sector.
The majority (89 per cent) of the 270 million workers in India’s unorganized sector are women and this law wouldn’t afford them any protections, said Jaya Arunachalam, a prominent Indian feminist.
While the law won’t cover all working women, sexual harassment is rife in India’s organized sector. In 2005, Indian air force pilot Anjali Gupta was court-martialed for misconduct after she accused three superiors of sexually harassing her. The year before, three trainees were fired when they levelled similar charges.
The proposal would offer victims leave from work, transfers if they wish and compensation from money deducted from the salaries of their abusers.
Men’s rights groups, including the Save Family Foundation and the Protect Indian Family group, say that the law would open to rampant misuse and that some women would exploit the legislation to further their career.