Saturday, July 25, 2009
THE government has reminded officials and other staff of existing guidelines regarding prevention of sexual harassment of working women and said in a recent office memo that it is necessary to have in place at all times an effective Complaint Mechanism for dealing with cases of sexual harassment of working women and to create awareness in this regard. Rule 3 C of the CGS (Conduct) Rules, 1964 provides that no government servant shall indulge in any act of sexual harassment of any women at her work place, the office memo issued by the department of personnel and training (DoPT) said. There is no available data of such incidents taking place in power corridors, or whether cases of sexual harassment in government offices have actually risen in the recent past. But the timing of the Memo is significant as defence minister A K Antony said in Parliament just three days ago that sexual harassment cases of women officers in armed forces would be viewed seriously and investigated. (Read babu blogger’s post on July 23) In fact, the DoPT mentioned what constitutes “sexual harassment”. According to the Memo, “Sexual harassment” includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour, whether directly or otherwise, as -- a) Physical contacts and advances; b) Demand or request for sexual favours c) Sexually coloured remarks d) Showing any pornography, or (e) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature The Memo has also included the salient features of the compliant mechanism and the inquiry procedure. It also said that the complaints committee should be headed by a woman and not less than half of its members should be women. Further to prevent the possibility of any undue pressure or influence from senior levels, such complaints committee should involve a third party, either NGO or other body who is familiar with the issue of sexual harassment. The Memo has further said that the Complaints Committee in terms of Cabinet Secretariat’s Order No 1 dated September 26, 2008 will inquire into complaints made against officers of the level of secretary and additional secretary and equivalent level in the government of India in the ministries/departments and organisations directly under the control of the Central government, but other than the Central PSUs.