Open Letter to the President of India against the Workplace Harassment Law

From,                                                                                                          Date:-

To,
His Excellency, The Honourable President of India

Shri Pranab Mookherjee
Rashtrapati Bhawan
New Delhi – 110 004

Sub : Requesting to deny assent to Protection of women from sexual harassment bill 2012

Respected Sir,

My letter is to express my very strong concerns and anger on the major scam and farce in framing of Protection of women from sexual harassment bill 2012. The blame of this farce lies squarely on the Women and Child development ministry which arrogantly and blatantly ignored legal recommendations, public opinion, press opinion, international regulations and even common sense while sneaking in this law in both houses of parliament amidst shouting during corruption scandals and getting it passed with no discussion or debate whatsoever in either houses.

WCD minister arrogantly ignored the fact that Indian women can commit sexual assault but cannot commit sexual harassment! WCD minister ignored the fundamental fact that sexual harassment is a crime of power and not a crime of passion. Indian women can today face punishment for sexual assault, rape, murder, kidnapping, forgery, but not sexual harassment at workplace. This is utter nonsense.

WCD Minster ignored the fact despite point out that  over 35 countries including USA, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, The Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom have policies for Sexual Harassment that are gender neutral. Even Pakistan has a gender neutral sexual harassment law.

WCD minister has created an option for “Settlement” in the law and this in Indian legal system points towards only one thing. Payment of Money! Instead of appointing people who have demonstrated a track record of high integrity and sound judicial approach, the bill rather intends to appoint people who “shall be committed to the cause of women”. NGO’s like Shakti Vahini which are now being investigated by Delhi courts for tutoring women to  file over scores of false sexual cases against men[1] will act as the judge, jury and executioner in the future in sexual harassment cases. The law also creates a source of income for such dangerous NGO’s.

WCD cunningly worded the law to exempt misusers from real punishment. If the statistics from the Indian Government related to section 498a and Domestic Violence legislation is anything to go by it is clear that Indian Gender laws are phenomenally misused in India to achieve ulterior motives.

However In section 12(1), the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill states that if a complaint is found to be false, the committee “may recommend to the employer or the District Officer to take action against the woman or the person who has made the complaint”. Or in other words, the punishment for making a false Sexual Harassment in not mandatory but discretionary and would depend on the recommendation of members of such NGO who sole selection to the committee was dependent on their level of being “committed to the cause of women”. This will lead to misusers walking scot free in most cases and if at all punishment is recommended it will be nothing more than a rap on the wrist.

WCD also included provisions so that news of misuse does not reach the media or the public. Alarmed at the burgeoning reality of the misuse of section 498a and DV act this draft for the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill has a unique approach to keeping the false cases under wraps. Special provisions have been made in this bill so the RTI Act cannot be used to unearth cases of false allegations and misuse of this legislation. Only cases which are genuine shall be opened to the media and information seekers. This is another very ingenious attempt to strangle the news of misuse itself since now the public will be exposed only to news of successful cases and stories of false cases will be legally prevented from leaking. This will also give complete deniability since now the Indian government will be able to say that since there is no news of misuse at all in this law and consequently it is a very successful piece of legislation.

When questioned on why the bill was not made gender neutral, the WCD ministry vide an RTI response stated the below without having any facts and data to back their claims.

The overwhelming nature of sexual harassment is sexual harassment of women on account of their female sex. Harassment of men cannot be put on the same footing character wise or incidence wise. Protection of men is also not the mandate of Ministry of WCD”. 

However data gathering surveys recently conducted in corporate India by the Economic times, and Synovate across 6 Indian cities exposed the fact that men face more sexual harassment than women and must also be given protection.  As part of this very credible and extensive research 527 people queried in the survey across seven cities in the country -Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune.

a) Bangalore: – Half of who agreed that they have been sexually harassed at their workplace said they have been harassed by their female colleagues. Only 32% said that they were harassed by Male colleagues.

b) Hyderabad: – 29% of said they have been sexually harassed by their female bosses while 48% accused their male bosses.

c) Delhi: – Numbers are even, with 43% pointing a finger at their female colleagues and an equal number accusing their male colleagues of sexual harassment.

d) 38% of the respondents agreed that in today’s workplaces, even men are as vulnerable to sexual harassment as women. In Hyderabad and Mumbai, 55% of the respondents agreed to this point.

e) Many of the corporate and PSUs, ET spoke to, agree to this new trend and point out that many male employees do not come out in the open and file complaints because they feel they will not be believed, considering India’s social beliefs. They usually seek a transfer to get out of the situation or find a new job.

I hereby state that it leaves no doubt that the WCD minister has acted in a undemocratic manner and ignored all facts, figures and data and has acted in a completely arrogant manner demonstrating ministerial arrogance. I hereby demand that the law should NOT be provided with presidential assent and must be sent back for review.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully

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