Women in law [India]

Kalpana Sharma – Hindu – Wednesday, 19 September 2012 (originally published 15 Sept)

Women in market place
Fighting back … Image: Hindu

Two weeks ago I had predicted that the wasted Monsoon session of Parliament would do no work at all. I was wrong. Apparently, it managed to do some work. At the very last minute, before our worthy Members of Parliament headed back to their homes, they passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill 2012.

Two cheers for that. But only two. Because although the Bill was passed, the MPs did not invest any time in discussing or debating a law that will impact the lives of millions of women. If they had, even for a short time, perhaps some of the lacunae in an otherwise good law could have been noticed and perhaps modified — such as excluding women agricultural workers or women in the armed forces and paramilitary forces. Fortunately, women domestic workers are now included, a change made in response to vigorous advocacy by several groups.

Also, if the law had been debated, the media would have paid some attention. When the media joins the debate, people learn about the law — not just its name but what it stands for. Knowledge about a law, what it can and cannot do, what kind of rights it gives the citizen, constitutes more than half the challenge of ensuring that it is implemented . . .

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