Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Women's group demands action in sexual harassment case of a junior woman advocate in Vadodara court

By Our Representative
Well-known Vadodara-based women’s group Sahiyar has demanded urgent formation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment Committee in Vadodara district and sessions court, which, it said, has not been done despite the fact that several representations by “concerned lawyers and citizens” on the matter have been made. In a statement issued by Sahiyar, the NGO has said, not only should the committee be formed but its announcement should be placed at a place where people are able to see that such a committee exists in the court. The statement was made in the context of a case of sexual harassment of a junior advocate by a colleague.
“Sahiyar raised the issue in writing to the Vadodara district and sessions judge and president of the Bar Association first on October 5, 2013. The letter was based on the Supreme Court judgment in the Visakha vs State of Rajasthan and others, following which Parliament passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2913. Under the Act, such a committee has to be mandatorily formed at workplaces and educational institutes”, the statement said, adding, a second complaint was sent on November 25, 2013.
Pointing out that failure to form such a committee is the violation of Sections 14, 15 and 21 of the Act as also of basic human rights, the statement wondered, “If the courts themselves fail to implement the Act and form such committees, how does one expect them to provide justice to those who suffer from sexual harassment?”
Referring to the case of sexual harassment to a woman advocate, following which the victim filed a complaint against a male colleague September 13, 2013, the statement said, “As it was sexual harassment case, the victim filed a complaint in the Vadodara district court as well as the Bar Association”, the statement said, adding, “Following this, Sahiyar asked the court and the association to form a committee and take action against the person against whom the complaint was made. However, no step has so far been taken in that direction.”
“There is a need to campaign for the formation of such committee under the law everywhere. We plan to do it so that such committee is formed in different organizations of the Government of India, Government of Gujarat, industrial and commercial associations, professional bodies, educational institutions, trade unions and other places”, said the statement.
The Sahiyar letter to the court and the bar association, written by Trupti Shah and Rita Choksi, said, “The complaint by the woman advocate requires criminal proceedings against the male lawyer, whom she has accused of sexually assaulting her.” It also demanded formation an “internal complaint committee under section of the Act so that all women employees working in the court can feel safe.”
Even as demanding formation of such a committee immediately, the letter stressed, “It has been found that women find it extremely difficult to file a complaint of sexual harassment. This is the reason why the Supreme Court in its judgment wanted that women should be treated as equal before law, so that they can work without fear at the work place and made it mandatory to form the committee.”

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