The Government of India on Monday constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to strengthen the legal and institutional frameworks to deal with and prevent sexual harassment at the workplace.
The other members of the GoM are Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi.
The GoM has been formed over a week after MJ Akbar stepped down as the Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs after over a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
According to an official press release, the GoM will recommend action required for effective implementation of the existing provisions as well as for strengthening the existing legal and institutional frameworks for addressing issues related to sexual harassment at the workplace.
“The Group of Ministers has been constituted in view of the felt need for broader consultation on this issue, from the point of view of developing appropriate recommendations and laying down a comprehensive plan of action and for ensuring its time-bound implementation,” the press release stated, adding that the Centre is committed to ensure the safety and dignity of women in the workforce.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development has also launched an Electronic Complaints Box that enables women, irrespective of their work status, to raise their voice against sexual harassment at workplace.
Once a complaint is submitted to the ‘SHe-Box’, it will be directly sent to the concerned authority having jurisdiction to take action into the matter. A mechanism will be put in place to regularly monitor the action taken on the complaints.
The Group of Ministers will, within 3 months of its constitution, examine the existing provisions for the safety of women, including those mentioned above, and recommend further measures required to strengthen and make them more effective, the release added.
This development comes a week after the Ministry of Women and Child Development had announced that a committee comprising four retired judges will be formed which will look into the legal and institutional framework that is in place for handling complaints of sexual harassment and advise the ministry on how to strengthen these.
Maneka Gandhi had then told the media, “We have set up a group of judges who will examine some of the cases in an independent and a free-style manner, and advise us and them on where we should go from here,” she added.