By Ramaninder K Bhatia, The Times of India, 20 January 2013
VADODARA: In one of the discussions following the brutal Delhi gang rape, a sad truth has emerged – nearly 16 years after the Supreme Court (SC) issued guidelines for setting up a complaint addressing mechanism for cases of sexual harassment, 99% of government offices in Vadodara have yet to establish these committees.
Among the representatives of nearly 50 district administration offices, only one member – a woman employee of the local office of Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) said the Board’s headquarters had a committee. However, its constitution was also not found to be in accordance with Vishaka committee guidelines, which were issued following SC directions, sources revealed.
Disturbed by the development, district collector Vinod Rao has now given a 10-day deadline to all the departments to constitute committees to address complaints of sexual harassment in each department.
Members of women NGO, Sahiyar, who were invited by the district collector to address the representatives regarding the committee, then distributed guidelines about their composition.
“It’s imperative to have a woman as chairman of these committees and a member from an outside organization is also to be included. Fifty per cent of the members of these committees have to be women,” Trupti Shah told the government officials.
The offices should also prominently display the existence of such a committee on their notice boards along with details about the members.
“It’s mandatory to set up such committees in every office, whether government or private, and if the government does not take the lead, then who else will,” a woman NGO member pointed out.
NGO member said they were planning to approach the SC with a contempt petition if the complaint mechanism was to be ignored once again.
“We had filed an RTI applications after the Patan rape case and pointed out that none of the government offices in Gujarat had constituted these committees. The officials promised, but apparently nothing came out of this, as was evident from the interaction today. We hope that the recent awareness about sexual harassment of women would do the trick this time,” said Trupti.
In the wake of Vishaka committee guidelines, it was pointed out that present civil and penal laws in India did not adequately provide for specific protection of women from sexual harassment in work places.
It was then made necessary for the employers in work places as well as other responsible persons or institutions to ensure prevention of sexual harassment of women by setting up these committees.
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