Did you think women lawyers, because of the power they wield, did not face sexual harassment? Think again. It took a powerful delegation of some of the most prominent women lawyers like Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, Kamini Jaiswal, Indu Malhotra, Meenakshi Arora, V. Mohna and others to finally convince the Supreme Court that the law born out of guidelines it issued as far back as 1997 should also apply to courts. Shockingly, despite the long-standing Visakha guidelines on sexual harassment issued by the apex court, women lawyers have only just managed to convince it that sexual harassment is also a reality that they face, and as their workplace is the court, the provisions of the law should apply there.
For all practical purposes, the Visakha guidelines were the law until February 26, 2013 when the Rajya Sabha passed the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2012. The Lok Sabha had cleared it on September 3, 2012 with practically no debate, as members were more interested in the so-called Coalgate scam than an issue that affects the lives of millions of women. In one way, I suppose we should be grateful that the law passed without too much discussion given the tone of the discussion in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha around the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 recently. We saw on full display the deep-rooted misogyny of male members of Parliament and the conservatism of some female members.
So will this law actually succeed in curbing the incidences of sexual harassment? Will women who suffer in silence now find the courage to register complaints? And when they do, is there any chance that they will actually get justice instead of losing their jobs, something that happens all too frequently where companies dismiss the complainant rather than looking into her grievance.
This law, flawed as it is, could help. It clearly lays down what constitutes sexual harassment, it covers women in the...
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