Sexual harassment at workplace Bill cleared

The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Sexual Harassment to Women at the Workplace Bill amidst calls by some MPs to make rape a crime punishable by death penalty.

The Bill, which seeks to criminalise sexual harassment at any work place, was passed by the Lok Sabha in September last year. The law seeks to give a legislative backing to the guidelines set by the SC in the Vishakha judgment of 1997.

In the discussion on the Bill, a few MPs, led by Prabha Thakur of the Congress, maintained that rapes, especially gangrapes and rapes of minors, were worse than murder and must be punishable by death sentence.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill makes it obligatory for employers, both in the organised as well as unorganised sectors, to take measures to ensure that sexual harassment of its female employees is prevented. It provides for a grievance redressal and complaint mechanism for victims of sexual harassment. The Bill covers educational institutions, patients at hospital and clients or customers that visit an office.

The government recently promulgated an ordinance to deal with sexual crimes against women and included provisions for death penalty in cases like rapes resulting in the victims' death or leaving them in permanent vegetative state.

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