The National Commission for Women (NCW) has decided to form an exclusive expert panel, to help institutions deal with cases of sexual harassment happening within the organization. This decision comes after many organizations have conveyed their difficulty in finding a trained outsider to be a part of their Internal Complaints Committee.
According to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, all organizations, governmental and non-governmental are required to form an Internal Complaints Committee to deal with cases of sexual harassment, and one of the members of this ICC needs to be an outside expert, an NGO employee.
During the Budget session of the Indian Parliament this year, women and child development (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi had told the Rajya Sabha that almost 90% of governmental and non-governmental organizations do not have an ICC in place. Many organizations cite the non-availability of trained outside experts. They state that there is no clear way of knowing who is trained, certified and well equipped to handle sensitive cases of sexual harassment, and this way, there is a certain level of credibility which comes with an expert sent by the NCW.
The Gender Training Institute at CSR, has been a part of many ICCs and continues to be so. Dr. Rajini Menon, Program Coordinator at GTI, says “As the credibility of the external member seems questionable to the companies, the decision of NCW to form an expert panel is most welcome. Membership in ICC will only cater to redressal of the issues; for preventive measures, it is important that the employees should be sensitised and made aware of the legislation. Hence it is advisable if NCW can identify members from NGOs (with expertise on gender issues) who can cater to ICC membership as well as sensitise the employees.”
Mr. Amitabh Kumar, Head of Media and Communications, had this to say: “This move is definitely a positive step towards creating a safe working environment for women, though there needs to be strict implementation of the law. The NCW should ensure that all companies and organizations have a functioning ICC, as the present state of affairs is rather appalling!”