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A bill on preventing sexual harassment of women at the workplace is likely to be introduced in the monsoon session of parliament beginning later this month, Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath said Monday.

“We are expecting to table the bill in the coming monsoon session. The draft of the bill is ready and is in the final stage of consultations,” Tirath told IANS here.

The minister said that the legislation will put pressure on the private sector, which has so far not been prompt in taking steps to check harassment of women workers.

The Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at the Work Place Bill will be the first legislation addressing this area. Till now, all sexual harassment charges in India have been dealt with using guidelines set by the Supreme Court in a 1997 judgment.

It also includes a clause which brings students, research scholars, patients and women in the unorganised sector within the ambit of the proposed law.

“Many private organisations still don’t have a committee for addressing the grievances of women in sexual harassment cases. The proposed law will see that a committee headed by a women is present in every firm to address such cases,” she said.

“A penalty will be imposed on those who fail to follow the guidelines. If private organisations don’t meet the rules strict action will be taken against them,” Tirath added.

According to ministry officials, the legislation has been sent for consultations to all stakeholders.

“Once the draft is cleared by the stakeholders in other ministries and departments it will be sent to the cabinet for approval,” an official said.

The bill envisages that every workplace, whether in the organised or the unorganised sector, should have a forum to take up complaints pertaining to sexual harassment.

In the case of the organised sector, there will be internal complaint committees, in the absence of which a penalty, including deregistration of the institutions or a fine of Rs.50,000 for first offence, will be imposed.

The official added that the bill will have provisions to treat the cases of victims of sexual harassment at the workplace at par with rape victims and juvenile delinquents.

Under the provisions of the bill, the information about the complainant or the complaint will not be disclosed in any manner, even in response to RTI applications.

The monsoon session of the parliament will start July 26.

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