If you are a woman government employee facing sexual harassment, soon there will be a portal where you can register your complaints with the Women and Child Development Ministry. WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi has indicated that she means business as far as women's protection from sexual abuse is concerned across central ministries and government departments.
On Wednesday, the minister held a meeting with representatives of the Department of Personnel and Training and ministries of sports and railways to take stock of the measures being adopted by them to implement the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. The act makes it mandatory for the ministries to monitor and maintain data on the number of cases filed and disposed of.
Sources privy to the meeting said that the ministry of railways had reported around 15 cases of sexual harassment where inquiries were at various stages. The complaints were made by women employees across various departments and holding senior as well as junior posts. It is learnt that Gandhi expressed displeasure at the fact that only a small number of cases are being reported, and asked all the internal committees dealing with the implementation of the act to beef up their mechanisms to effectively monitor such cases.
The minister also indicated that soon there would be a portal of the WCD Ministry where women employees could register their complaints without going through any tedious process. Such complaints will be taken note of by the WCD ministry which will flag them to the ministries concerned. As of now, there is no centralised mechanism in place to collect such data.
Since 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has been collecting data under the IPC section 509 which deals with ''insult to modesty of women.'' Since the legislation has come into force, various ministries had put in place committees to deal with internal complaints, mostly led by a woman officer in charge who would take note of such complaints. Sources said such mechanisms had not yielded the desired results with women employees knocking the door of the WCD ministry and some directly approaching the minister herself.
As per the provisions of the act, the inquiry into a complaint has to be completed within 90 days. If any organisation fails to comply, it is liable to pay a fine of Rs 50,000. The act mandates that every employer is required to constitute an internal complaints committee at each office and branch with 10 or more employees.