The Honorable Chairman
Standing Committee on the Human Resources Development
The Council of States (The Rajya Sabha)
New Delhi – 110001
These questions were sent by the HRD Committee on the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill that had come up during the discussion and were left unaddressed due to lack of time. The reply that was sent from the men’s rights organizations.
In continuation with – Objections to the HRD committee on Sexual Harassment Bill
The genesis of the proposed legislation is:
- Sexual Harassment results in violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution and her rights to life and to live with dignity under Article 21 and right to practice any profession/occupation/trade/business which includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment.
- Guidelines providing protection to women against Sexual Harassment at workplace laid down by Supreme Court in the case of Vishakha & Ors. Vs. State of Rajasthan & Ors. [1997 (7) SC (323)]
- Article 11 of the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women to which India is a party requires state parties to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment
What are your views on the above facts? Is it not obligatory on the part of the Government to enact a suitable legislation based on the Supreme Court guidelines given in Vishakha case?
1a – Views on Constitutional provisions:-
It is pertinent to bring to the notice of the Honorable Committee an important aspect pertaining to the essence of the Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution here:
Article 14 provides, “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” The very essence of this article provides for equal treatment of both the genders before the law and thus prohibits the Govt. of India from formulating any law that violates the essence of this principle of Equality of all before law. Excluding men from this provision of “environment that is safe and free from any form of sexual harassment” is a clear violation of Article 14 for men.
Article 15 of the Constitution provides, “Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth”. Although sub-clause 3 of Article 15 enables the Govt. of India to form “Special Provisions” for women and children; however, it does not empower the Govt. of India to form gender-biased and anti-male laws under camouflage of this clause. This was never the intent of the makers of the Constitution, for had it been so, the Constitution of India would have become self-contradictory. Equality before Law is an extremely sacred concept and special provisions are meant to be only for providing preferential allocation/reservation of resources and not for gender biases in laws.
It will not be out of place to mention here that already there has been a lot of deeply felt grievance in the society and Govt. circles alike against the existing anti-male, gender biased laws like Section 498A of the IPC, the Domestic Violence Act and various other maintenance laws.
If we carefully observe, our demands are to ask for protection of both men and women in the law that is being proposed currently and since the current draft does not recognize either the need of protection to men or the existence of sexual harassment of men, this current draft violates both Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India for men.
1b – Supreme Court’s Observations:-
Even the Supreme Court judgment in the Vishakha case does not rule out protection of men. Hence, we see no need for denying men from protection against sexual harassment under this law and would like to re-iterate the need to re-draft the law and removing all provisions that are gender biased and replace the word “Women” with “Person” including the title of the Bill.
1c – CEDAW provisions and requirements:-
As far as the obligations of framing a law for the fact that India is a signatory to the CEDAW convention are concerned, the following points must be kept in mind:-
- It is a fact that throughout history only a very small percentage of men have concentrated all powers in the hand and these minority of males (which we can conveniently refer to as the Alpha Males) oppressed remaining 99% males (conveniently referred to as the Beta Males) and also women. The dalit movement in India, the civil liberties movements in the US and the socialist/communists movements around the world were as a result of massive social discrimination of men and male disposability. And once again, by either showing reluctance to the demands of the men’s rights organizations or to deny protection to men, this concentration of power is being displayed to which we have strong objections.
- It is also pertinent to mention that merely because India is a signatory to UN-CEDAW, it does not impede the Govt. of India from framing a law that the citizens feel they should have, for e.g., in case of the bill at hand. As per the responses collected by the Honorable Women and Child Development Ministry, it was a clear indication of having a a gender neutral law for addressing the issue of Sexual Harassment at Workplace. UN-CEDAW does not put an express bar on having a gender neutral law, if the need be so, as we see in about 25 countries that have gender neutral laws/policies for addressing the issue of Sexual Harassment, are mostly signatories UN-CEDAW. The legal protection to men or providing every information and support to men to complain/defend lies clearly well within the right of this country and the need of this country.
- The mere fact of India being a signatory to CEDAW cannot withdraw the country of this obligation to provide equality of law to men on the same footing as women.
Committee has been informed that the present bill has undergone an extensive process of consultations with various stakeholders including state governments, lawyers and civil society organizations/NGOs. Whether your organization was part of this consultation process? If so, whether reservations were voiced against the proposed legislation at that time? What was the outcome thereof?
It is pertinent to be brought to the notice of the Honorable Committee that men’s rights organizations have been in existence in India since almost 15-20 years; however, been a lack of keenness on part of the Govt. of India to make them part in the law-making process while drafting gender biased laws which openly target men.
It has also come to our notice that many surveys conducted by the Govt. of India, of the likes of those conducted by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) in the area of Domestic Violence do not include men as a part of the survey and only concentrate on women in the age range of 15-49.
Such surveys clearly depict the bias that exists inside the Govt. against men and cast a serious doubt on the intentions of the law-making process in India to provide a safe legal environment for men.
Moreover, in the year 2007, the Honorable Ministry of Women and Child Development had received numerous representations from the civil society regarding the proposed law on Sexual Harassment. However, when an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 was filed before the Women and Child Development, there was a display of uncanny reluctance on part of the ministry to answer to the application. It was only after a long struggle that the application was replied to and it was extremely shocking to know that the ministry had dismissed concerns of making the law gender neutral and the need to prevent misuse of law as “Does not merit consideration.” A copy of the RTI reply is attached herewith as Annexure A.
Such a reply from a ministry of the Govt. does not inspire a very positive confidence of a law-making process that is intended for the welfare of all.
It has been alleged that the proposed legislation is gender biased although the offense affects men and women equally. Credible research shows that in India more men than women suffer sexual harassment at work. The Committee would like to be enlightened in this regard.
As has been already mentioned before the Honorable Committee on the 29th of September 2011, a survey conducted by the Economic Times clearly elucidated the need of protection of men against sexual harassment by women. The survey was named at ET-Synovate. The copy of the survey would be available with the Economic Times, which we believe; the Govt. of India is well equipped to access a copy thereof. Media report for the same is attached herewith as Annexure B.
Though it was a sample survey, nonetheless it gave some serious indications pertaining to the need of providing men a protection from sexual harassment and also respect the Constitutional rights of men under Article 14, 15 and 21 to live a life of dignity and be free to practice any profession/occupation/trade/business which includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment.
It also won’t be out of place to mention here that if a single judgment of Vishakha by the Supreme Court can inspire the Govt. of India to formulate a new law, we see no reason why a single sample survey cannot be inspiring enough to amend the proposed law to include men under the protection as well.
Misandry (male hatred) has been a cultural phenomenon since millennia. Males, as a gender, have always been considered as disposable and problems faced by men, in general, have always been of lesser significance to societies, cultures, and civilizations compared to those faced by women. And this inherent historical bias against men have also been a major reason as to why the societies are oblivious to the problems faced by men or are reluctant in providing even a semblance of a relief to men.
As a result, any attempt to create an environment that ensures safety to men is interpreted as an attempt to thwart women’s rights and is unduly suppressed. This undue suppression of men’s rights – interpreting it as an attempt to thwart women’s rights – is a clear violation of human rights. Hence, in light of the above discussion, allowing a gender biased law to be passed merely because we have only sample surveys indicating the need for men to require protection against feminine sexual aggression is nothing but again, a clear violation of the essence of equality of before law as per Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
It has been pointed out that the Sexual Harassment at Workplace policies prevalent in most of the European countries are gender neutral. USA and most countries in ASEAN region including Pakistan also have Gender Neutral Laws. Full details in this regard may be given.
As per media reports attached, according to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, complaints of sexual harassment filed by men have doubled (from 8% to 16%). Media report for the same is attached herewith as Annexure C.
It must be mentioned here that the inherent misandry of the society is still not cured properly and as a result the issue of sexual harassment faced by men currently is heavily under-reported. Yet, when given an opportunity, men did open up about the sexual harassment they undergo. Indian society is also no different in this regard and men’s rights activists have come across men who have faced sexual harassment from women and did not report such cases fearing ridicule. It was only, when they got an environment conducive to their emotions, did they open up.
As a sample, Section 2(e) of the Sexual Harassment law passed by the Parliament of Pakistan on the 11th March 2010, it clearly says,
““Complainant” means a woman or man who has made a complaint to the Ombudsman or to the Inquiry Committee on being aggrieved by an act of harassment;”
Full text of the bill is attached herewith for reference as Annexure D.
It has been mentioned that the proposed law is a money-making bonanza to complainants, women lawyers and women’s NGOs at the tax payer’s expense. What is the basis of these sweeping remarks? Don’t you think that NGOs and lawyers/legal experts are playing a constructive role in our society?
Lawyers are service providers as far as legal arena and litigations are concerned. They charge fees for the service they provide and in that sense they are business-persons. And it would be in their interest to create a fear-psychosis like situation in the society leading to hyper-litigation. When there are provisions of “settling” the matter as part of the law by words like “compromise”, there is a high risk that men accused of sexual harassment would be subjected to extortion by the mediators which will be comprised of women’s lawyers and women’s NGOs as per the current proposed draft of the bill.
As far as the role of women’s NGOs are concerned, we are very sure that they do not add any constructive value to the society as they operate from a single point agenda of spreading male hatred (misandry) in the society and any group that operates from a mindset of hatred towards a particular class/group cannot be assumed to be providing positive contribution to the society.
We would like to take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the Honorable Committee about a few instances of the ill-effects of the activities of women’s NGO.
- The link provided below is the interview of an auto-rickshaw driver from Bangalore, who attempted to commit suicide as he was constantly harassed by women’s NGOs and at whose behest; the police was also torturing him. The video is also available in the accompanying CD. Link – www.wemen.us/index.php/menz-corner/videos/800-poor-man-thrown-out-of-house-by-womens-ngo-and-he-attempts-suicide.html
- The reportage in the matter of famous Pakistani cricket player Shoaib Malik being framed under Section 498A case is illustrative. There were reports of a final settlement of Rs. 15 crores wherein Shoaib allegedly paid Rs. 15 crore to his ex-wife (maybe) Ayesha. Shiraj Sareen Khan, president of the United Women’s Front, the organization, that allegedly helped Ayesha file a 498A complaint against Shoaib Mallik, allegedly demanded Rs. 1.5 crores (10% of the settlement money) for helping out Ayesha. As further reported in the media, Shiraj, also allegedly threatened Ayesha’s family of going public with the evidence of a recording of the family receiving Rs. 15 crore from Shoaib. Media report for the same is attached Annexure E.
Hence, when we have instances of women’s NGOs cornering men to attempt suicides or forcing settlements in criminal cases and eyeing a cut in the final settlement money, we have serious reservations to the statement that they may be adding any positive contribution to the society. And therefore, this proposed law also should not have any provision for including women’s NGOs as part of the inquiry committee or providing any sort of remuneration to the women’s NGOs (albeit at the expense of tax payer’s money) or monetary benefit of any kind to the complainant. Both of these provisions will merely pave the way for hyper-litigation and the volumes of cases would become a matter of survival instinct for most of the women’s NGOs which would be unhealthy for the harmony of workplace.
It has been emphasized that the proposed legislation should be made gender-neutral. Is it not a fact that in our society, women employees need special protection? In view of specific provisions relating to false complaints procedure of inquiry and appeal envisaged in the Bill, there should be any cause of worry. Please comment.
The very proposition that – “Is it not a fact that in our society, women employees need special protection?” smacks of male-hatred and casts reasonable doubts on the genuine intentions of the law-making process and it will be an extremely sad day to be observed, if, we as a country do not feel even an iota of reservation in dismissing the need to protect men from sexual harassment and to protect innocent men at the same time.
As it was mentioned during the meeting on the 29th of September 2011, that abuse of men by society, cultures and civilizations is not a new fashion but an age-old phenomena dating back to pre-historic times, we would like to re-iterate this fact that men have been exploited since millennia by burdening them with the mundane role of an PROTECTOR (UNPAID BODYGUARD) and a PROVIDER (FREE ATM MACHINE). Our inherent misandry has contributed to men losing their lives and limbs in wars since ages and yet we feel glorious about the same.
When, it does not even strike a talk about the disparity in Income Tax provisions – wherein women with same salaries pay less tax compared to their male counterparts – it is completely wrong to create gender biased legislations which only provide a legalized channel of extorting innocent men and justify the same as the need to provide special protection to women.
On the contrary, we feel, it’s the men who should be provided with special protection because it’s not only that historically men have been treated as the disposable gender but also because of the fact that men are more vulnerable than women. A look at the suicide statistics clearly shows that every year double the number of men commit suicide compared to women. The source of the data is National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) – a unit of the Honorable Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
Every year close to 58000 husbands commit suicides compared to 30000 wives. Almost 65% of total suicides are committed by men and yet we do not have even a single law that protects men explicitly. A copy of the suicide statistics for the year 2009 is attached herewith as Annexure F. In the last 64 years of Indian independence, not a single rupee has been allocated for men’s welfare, in the annual budget, rolled out by the Govt. of India, nor has a single study been conducted to understand the problems faced by men.
The provision for handling false complaints in the current proposed bill is a very inefficient one and cannot be used as an excuse to deny protection to men. The current bill does not speak anything about the rights of someone innocently accused. Until and unless we do not have provisions to form a separate committee of innocents that has the powers to intervene even if a danger of a complaint being filed is sensed, the law cannot really claim as being fully misuse-proof.
We are clearly distressed and dismayed that there can even be a question that we should have the same protection and expectations of men and women in this law.
We are also completely skeptical that when the misuse provision is left at the hands of those who have superciliously dismissed the expressions of concerns for the men as “Does not merit Consideration”, and such a provision is being used as a cover to deny protection to men.
Hence we have to express our full dissent to the current proposed draft of the Sexual Harassment Bill as it stands as it does not provide any support to abused men and does not provide the minimal requirements of safety of monetary demands from innocent men.
We would urge the members to shed every inhibition and reluctance towards looking for welfare and well being for the male gender and providing them with equal protection for complaint and support for innocents.