People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 50

December 12, 2010



AIDWA Points Out Lacunae


THROUGH a statement issued from New Delhi on December 8, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has welcomed the introduction in Lok Sabha of the bill on the protection of women against sexual harassment at workplaces. This bill has been introduced after a consistent struggle by women’s organisations for several years.


However, the AIDWA felt deeply concerned about certain provisions in the draft. It is unfortunate that “false and malicious complaints” of sexual harassment have been made punishable in the proposed law. This is totally against the Vishaka Judgement which had clearly stated that no action should be taken against a woman for making a complaint. The entire civil law to deal with cases of sexual harassment was meant to be enacted to provide a conducive atmosphere in which women victims could make a complaint, because women employees are usually extremely hesitant to lodge a complaint for fear of reprisal. The AIDWA said its experience of dealing with cases and as members of complaint committees has shown it how accusations of false complaints are routinely made against the women victims. Though mere inability to substantiate the complaint or provide adequate proof has not been made punishable, the AIDWA felt that this is not good enough. It would be highly improper for the complaints committee to pronounce judgement on this matter. The fact that a she can be proceeded against will hang like a Damocles’ sword over the victim’s head.  The AIDWA has therefore demanded that there should be no such clause in the bill. Any person who feels that a false complaint has been made against him can always take recourse to the criminal or civil law in this regard relating to defamation etc.


Another complaint of the AIDWA is that unfortunately the proposed bill does not apply to domestic workers. This is despite the fact that the draft of the National Commission for Women (NCW) had specifically listed domestic work in its scheduled list of unorganised work. The organisation said leaving this vulnerable section of women workers out of the purview of this bill is unacceptable.  


The proposed bill lays down that the complaint committees with at least 50 per cent women members will be set up in institutions and a local committee will be constituted by a district officer for victims of sexual harassment in very small institutions or in situations where no complaints committee is there. However, since the discretion to appoint the committee members rests solely with the district officer, it is liable to be exercised in an arbitrary manner. A more transparent procedure should be prescribed under the proposed law. The AIDWA says it has also always demanded that all recommendations of punishment of the complaint committees to the employers or district officers must be accepted and implemented and no additional inquiries should be initiated.


The AIDWA has therefore demanded that the changes suggested above should be incorporated in the bill and thereafter that the bill be passed without any delay.