Inclusion of domestic workers in sexual harassment at workplace act & labour laws

National Consultation on Implementation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace called on policy makers and the citizens to create safe workplaces for all women domestic workers, and to ensure their coverage under the Minimum Wages Act.

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Martha Farrell Foundation and the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) recently hosted a National Consultation on Implementation of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013. Attended by several activists, civil society representatives and domestic workers, the Consultation advocated the inclusion of domestic workers in compensation schemes and demanded they be covered by labour laws and the Minimum Wages Act.

The Consultation called upon civil society, policymakers, the private sector and the citizens of India to create safe workplaces for all women domestic workers by demanding their inclusion under the purview of labour laws, such as Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

Since domestic workers are often not given much thought by the society and polity, especially under labour laws or the sexual harassment at workplace law, their safety can only be ensured if change is brought about at the grass-roots level.

Constitution of subcommittees of the local committees at the block, taluka or tehsil levels, appointment of representatives from the unorganised sector in these committees, imposition of penalties (financially, or otherwise) on the employers of the domestic workers, if proven guilty, provision of legal aid for domestic workers, and budget allocation by the Central government to ensure effective implementation of the SHW Act, 2013, were some of the points that were discussed.

As per a survey undertaken by the Foundation last year, over 29 per cent of women domestic workers have been sexually harassed at work. Twenty per cent of the sexually harassed domestic workers who complained to the police, received no support or help. Around 19 percent ignored the incident completely, while 15 per cent spoke about the incident only to their friends. Only one person reported the incident to the employer. The study also revealed that redressal mechanisms are missing in a majority of districts across the country.

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