New Delhi: Participants, most of them senior Government of India women officers, who attended a meeting convened recently under the chairmanship of the Government of India Secretary, Department of Personnel & Training, to review the progress of implementation of the guidelines on prevention of sexual harassment of women at the workplace stressed the need to increase awareness among the male employees on how the rules had been amended to prevent instances of harassment of women employees.
The meeting on sexual harassment of women at the workplace was held in New Delhi on April 16 to review the progress of implementation of the guidelines issued by the Apex Court.
The participants from various Ministries and Departments in Delhi and outside, who took part in the meeting, were told by the Joint Secretary (Establishment) in DOPT that the purpose of the meeting was that ever since setting up the Complaints Committees in all government ministries and departments in the wake of the historic Vishakha judgment of the Supreme Court in a matter relating to sexual harassment of women at the workplace, the issue had not been adequately discussed.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 [SHVVW(PPR) Act], had been promulgated on April 22, 2013 and the rules framed under this Act were notified in December, 2013. Thereafter, amendments were made in the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964 and the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control & Appeal) Rules, 1965 to align them with the provisions of the Act .
The Secretary, Department of Personnel & Training, who chaired the meeting said while results of most examinations at various academic levels show exceptional achievement of girl students, the percentage of representation of women in work force remains dismally low. He stressed the need for making the working environment more conducive to the women as their percentage of representation, though low at this stage, is likely to rise- in the coming years.
On the general observation made by the participants regarding increasing the ambit of the Internal Complaint Committees, Secretary (P) mentioned that the Committees which are supposed to meet on regular basis should also invite the women workers for general consultations. He suggested that the Committees could play an active role in making the working environment more conducive by looking into some general issues such as grant of child care leave, increasing the representation in training for women, looking at the status of availability of basic facilities such as toilets, creche, women staff room, etc. He said that it is time that the Chairpersons of the Committees realized that the Complaint Committees headed by them are fairly empowered and much can be done by them.
During the discussion, Director(DoPT), Chairperson of the Committee in DOPT, shared her experience as the Head of the Committee during the last few years. She mentioned that the Committee in DOPT is called as the Women Welfare Committee as it embraces and addresses concerns and complaints of all kinds from the women employees, including welfare.
On the issue of crèches, some participants requested Secretary (P) to direct DoPT officials to play an active role in setting up of creches in more buildings. Secretary(P) assured that the needful could be done, but proactive role has to be played by concerned departments. He advised them to explore the possibility of earmarking spaces in their buildings, so that crèches could come up at more places.
The participants favoured inclusion of this subject in training programmes run by The Institute of Secretariat Training and Management (ISTM) and other training institutes and that more and more male employees need to be put through gender sensitization programmes. JS(E) mentioned that gender sensitization was already a part of the training programmes and modules being conducted by ISTM and other training academies. She mentioned that the Committees should do their best to increase awareness by having regular interactions with the women employees, particularly new entrants in service, so that a feeling of confidence could be developed in them.