Venue: Conference Room 1, India International Centre, New Delhi
Martha Farrell Foundation (MFF), in collaboration with PRIA and Shaktishalini, successfully concluded a Delhi State Level Consultation on Implementation of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013 for Informal Sector Women Workers. Shri Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi presided over the event as the Chief Guest
Over 70 stakeholders from civil society, trade unions, academia, media, informal sector and Delhi State Government joined the consultation to help bring together a list of actionable points for the holistic and meaningful implementation of the Act in all the districts of Delhi.
To start the conversation, Ms. Nandita Pradhan Bhatt, Director, Martha Farrell Foundation (MFF) raised the crucial point of absence of data on prevalence of sexual harassment at workplace in the informal sector. MFF and PRIA, as a part of their ongoing study, have surveyed 291 domestic workers in Delhi-NCR to capture the extent of this problem in their everyday lives. Some of the key findings are as follows:
●Out of the 291 domestic workers surveyed, 29% admitted to being sexually harassed at the workplace
●19% of them chose to ignore the incident of sexual harassment at workplace
●20% complained to the police but there was no outcome
●Only 2.3% of them quit their jobs. They choose to tolerate and keep quiet due to their adverse socio-economic conditions
●100% of them were unaware about the redressal mechanisms available as per the SHW Act 2013.
(The report can be read here: http://www.marthafarrellfoundation.org/uploaded_files/pdf_files/1529667465_First%20report.pdf)
Rakhi, a domestic worker from Delhi, who has played an instrumental role in conducting these surveys with MFF and PRIA shared, “We are never able to do anything when we are sexually harassed or when our coworkers face the same predicament. Our employers never believe us. Even if we complain to the police, they never register our complaints and refuse to help us”.
Like Rakhi, many other informal sector women workers present at the consultation shared their experiences. Their experience clearly brought out the need for establishing a robust, sensitive, ground level redressal as well as prevention mechanism for sexual harassment at workplace. SHW Act 2013 mandates the constitution of Local Committees (LCs) at the district level for providing redressal to sexual harassment complaints in the informal sector. As per a RTI query filed by MFF, it came out:
●Out of 655 districts in the country, only 191 districts have setup a Local Committee (LC)
●Out of these only 18% had conducted orientation of members or awareness programmes
●97% did not respond about SC/ST membership,
●4 districts, one each in Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Punjab (2 district) had male Chairpersons
●11 districts had no NGO representative
●103 replied to say that they are yet to establish an LC
●In Delhi, out of 11 districts, only 3 have constituted LCs.
Absence of district level mechanisms, lack of clarity of powers of LCs, non-access for informal sector women workers and absence of any appellate authority for the LCs are some of the challenges that clearly stood out. Ms. Bharti Sharma from Shaktishalini, currently the Chairperson of LC, South-East Delhi shared some of the best practices of her committee, where frontline workers and CDPOs are being trained to support the LC to bring out cases of sexual harassment in the informal sector.
Based on the discussions and suggestions received from all the participants, the following recommendations were presented to Shri Manish Sisodia to seek his support for strengthening district level action in Delhi:
●Training of all district officials to make them sensitive towards the issue and make them aware about the provisions of the law
●Training of law enforcement agencies (significant because the law routes complaints of domestic workers to the police)
●The selection procedure for the members of the LCs should be very clear; nominations can be invited from public
●Local Committees to be established in all districts of Delhi. They should be trained and sensitized and should have a designated office/address/staff
●Nodal officers to be nominated and trained, at the ward level in Delhi
●Dissemination of information on sexual harassment and the redressal mechanism (LC) should be done widely. It can be through wall writings, posters in public places, radio, newspaper etc.
●Convergence with the labour ministry at the state and national level
●Make RWAs accountable and monitor their Internal Committees
●Data should be available for the general public through website, reports to check on the status of implementation of the Act
●A toll free Helpline number should be established which should act as one stop solution for legal, medical and psycho-social support
●Powers of LC should be defined clearly and budget allocated for all their activities
●Effective disciplinary action should be mentioned in the Act with clear mention of appellate authority for the LCs
●A survey of all informal establishments in Delhi should be conducted. All these establishments should be monitored effectively
●State support should be provided to Domestic Workers’ unions since their workplaces are more fragmented and individualized.
Shri Manish Sisodia, Hon. Dy CM of Delhi recognized the need for setting up a strong redressal mechanism and said that the LCs will be immediately set up in all the districts of Delhi. He has asked PRIA, MFF and Shaktishalini to support the State Government of Delhi to establish a standard operating procedure for all the LCs of the city and co-create IEC material, which will be disseminated through radio, newspapers and other visual media.
We thank Shri Manish Sisodia, all our partners and participants for making this event a success and concretizing and committing to the main action points of this consultation, which will strengthen this effort and scale its impact.
(To catch highlights from the address of Shri Manish Sisodia, please visit: https://youtu.be/AVguvZgH6PA)