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  • 09 Dec 2020 GS Paper 2 Social Justice

    The issue of safety of women at the workplace has socio-economic implications in India. Explain. Also discuss some major legal initiatives taken by the government that can create safe working conditions for women. (250 words)

    Approach
    • Introduce highlighting the importance of safety of women at the workplace.
    • Discuss the major issues associated with creating working conditions for women.
    • Discuss some of the government initiatives.
    • Write a suitable way forward.

    Introduction

    • Safety of women at the workplace is important both socially and economically. Harassment of women is not just an affront to justice and human dignity. It also does economic harm to women and to the country. Workplace harassment, like other forms of violence, involves serious health, human, economic and social costs. It affects the overall development indices of a nation.

    Body

    Issues of safety of women at the workplace in India

    • As per a FICCI report, over the past three decades, the workplace has become a much more diverse environment. With women representing 24.4 per cent of the total workforce in India, personal security has become central to their physical, intellectual, emotional, economic and spiritual well-being.
    • Women in India face discrimination in all stages of their life: before birth (infanticide), as an infant (malnutrition, murder), as a child (education, domestic works, rape, child marriage), after marriage (dowry, economic dependence, security) and as a widow (outcaste, inheritance).
    • As per the UN Human Development Report’s (2016) Gender Inequality Index, India is at 125th position, out of 159 countries. In the Gender Gap index (World Economic Forum) 2017, India’s position is 108th out of 144 countries.
    • While the overall rate of conviction in the country was 46.2% in 2016, it was around 20% in cases of crimes against women as per the government data.

    Government Initiatives: legal and institutional framework

    • A safe workplace is a woman’s legal right. The doctrine of equality and personal liberty is contained in Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
    • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, built on the Vishaka Guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in 1997, is in place. The act was laid down to ensure that women in particular are protected against sexual harassment at all workplaces, be it in public or private.
    • It is mandated by law that every company with more than 10 employees have: a policy against sexual harassment, a trained Internal Complaints Committee with one external member, and mandatory training of employees on what is sexual harassment and how to seek help within the organization.
    • The National Commission for Women is the statutory body to review the constitutional and legal safeguards for women and recommend remedial legislative measures. It receives a large number of complaints and acts suo-moto in several cases to provide speedy justice.

    Way Forward

    • There is a need to mainstream gender concerns in Indian society. Education and sensitization is as much the need as the laws and their enforcement in a patriarchal society.
    • Women in India need economic independence, control over their reproductive health, a strong voice in family matters, and proportionate representation in legislatures. Government should consider giving reservation to women in the Parliament and legislative assemblies.
    • Criminals violate the laws for safety of women with impunity given the abysmal rates of conviction in crimes against women. The need is to improve the social atmosphere and perception on the effectiveness of the justice delivery system.
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