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Why is M’laya not implementing prevention of sexual harassment laws?

SHILLONG, Feb 5: The recent incidents involving the Governor and an officer of the Meghalaya government, has brought the focus on rampant sexual harassment which women workers face in Meghalaya.

“It is shocking that the Chief Secretary of Meghalaya has decided to set up merely an enquiry committee rather than setting up of an Interl Complaints Committee and Local Complaints Committee as mandated by the Sexual harassment Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013,” member of TUR Angela Rangad said in a statement issued here on Sunday.

“It has been three years since the passing of the law which now overrides the Supreme Court Vishakha guidelines and yet the Meghalaya Government has done nothing towards its implementation in the state,” she said adding maybe the government and its bureaucrats do not want to break the silence around one of the worst kept secrets that work places in Meghalaya are rife with sexual harassment.

She said by Law, Sexual Harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by implication), mely, physical contact and advance, a demand or request for sexual favours, making sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography and any other unwelcome physical, verbal, non verbal conduct of sexual ture.

Further, Section 3 (2) of the Act elaborates that if any of the following circumstances occurs or is present in relation to or connected with any act or behaviour of sexual harassment among other circumstances, it may amount to sexual harassment. These circumstances may be: Implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment, implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment, implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status, interference with her work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment for her or humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety.

According to her, it is mandated that every employer and that includes Meghalaya Government has to provide a safe working environment at the workplace which shall include safety from the persons coming into contact at the workplace, organize workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for sensitising the employees with the Act, treat sexual harassment as a misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for such misconduct etc..

She observed that the Meghalaya government and other employers have to constitute by an order a Committee to be known as the Interl Complaint Committee and Local Complaints Committee to enquire into the complaints of Sexual Harassment.

“The Interl Complaints Committee should be located at all workplaces including branch and sub offices and at all administrative units (Section 4(1)). As per law the the ICC should have as its members representatives from the office including women and also independent persons to ensure its transparency,” she said.