Workplace Sexual Harassment: New Indian Law

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The Indian cabinet just approved the introduction of the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010. Law Resource India describes the proposed bill here, and provides links to related articles. So far, action in workplace sexual harassment cases has been governed by the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India in the Vishakha case in 1997.

 

In the news: stricter laws against honour killings?

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Stricter law against honour killings coming: Moily

Union Minister for Law and Justice M Veerappa Moily says the Centre is coming up with a stricter provision in the law to stop honour killings

Alarmed by the steep rise in suspected honour killings, the central government has decided to bring in a Bill providing for prosecution of the entire khap panchayat for ordering violent punishment for young couples marrying against their diktats.

The central government will soon come out with a law against honour killings, and a draft has already been prepared, Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily said on June 27, 2010.

“Several incidents of honour killing have been reported recently, which stunned the people. And I am also concerned and worried about the rise in such incidents,” said Moily after attending a regional meeting with chief justices of the Calcutta, Patna, Orissa and Jharkhand high courts and the law ministers of the four states.

According to Moily, under the new law members of khap panchayats who order the killing of couples who dare to go against the dictates of these panchayats will be treated as accomplices in the crime. Such cases will be tried by fast-track courts to provide speedy justice to the victims.

The Supreme Court too has taken serious note of the so-called honour killings and has sought the response of the central government and eight states including Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. It has directed the authorities to explain measures being taken to prevent such terrible crimes.

Source: The Hindustan Times, June 28, 2010
The Indian Express, June 28, 2010

Kalpana Kannabiran, “Rethinking the law on sexual assault”

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“Human rights groups combating sexual assault, women’s groups and groups working on child rights have come together to reflect on the extent to which the proposed Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2010 addresses concerns on the ground.”

…”Broadly, rather than viewing ‘sexual assault’ as a mechanical substitute for ‘rape’ under Section 375 of the IPC, the effort of rights groups has been to think through the feasibility of formulating a chapter on sexual violence/atrocity that will define a range of such violence in a manner in which the focus shifts from the penetrative logic of definitions hitherto used to the assaultive nature sexual violence. Effecting this shift has implications for procedural law and the law of evidence as well — carefully calibrating the shift in burden of proof and eliminating the two finger test, for instance — both of which are being examined alongside the penal code provisions, with a clear understanding that procedural and evidentiary guarantees upholding universal human rights standards will not be derogated in the course of redefining the law on sexual assault.”

Kalpana Kannabiran, “Rethinking the law on sexual assault,” The Hindu, June 3, 2010.

How to end gender violence: Article in “Pragati”

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Swarna Rajagopalan, Ending gender violence, Pragati, June 2010.

“Ending gender violence begins with acknowledging that there is a problem, and it is not a “ladies’ problem.” Zero-tolerance for violence is the true mark of civilisation, especially when backed by initiatives to create awareness and change attitudes, in government and society.”

Where would one begin?

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Rajesh Sinha, “Bigamous Baalu drops a gas bomb”, Daily News and Analysis, April 25, 2008.

“Baalu’s two wives are shareholders in the companies. His being bigamous does not attract penal action but his admission that he pressured officials invited protests.”

But were one to wish to comment or take penal action, would there be a protocol and hierarchy as to who should be arrested first? Would people be offended that their violation of the law was noticed first or last, or worst, insignificantly in-between? Would there be class-caste outrage over the sequence of arrest and action? Would politics trump cinema  and cinema industry, or would the common  bigamist trump them all? Do we have jail-space and court time enough?

I am sure it is these questions that deter public commentary and penal action, and not the patriarchal view that boys will be (bad) boys. And good girls shouldn’t bat an eyelash.