Hey! We need harassment protection too, we’re men
New Delhi, July 28: Disclosure on its mind, an umbrella group of male rights NGOs has demanded that the sexual harassment at workplace bill be rewritten and made gender-neutral to protect men from harassment.
The Save Indian Family Foundation claims the bill has been prepared on the flawed premise that “women never lie and all the men are born a criminal” at a time men are also becoming victims of sexual exploitation.
The argument has echoes of the 1994 Hollywood thriller in which Michael Douglas’s character sues a colleague, played by Demi Moore, over sexual harassment.
The bill, prepared by the women and child development ministry and in the pipeline for the past five years, is to be introduced in the current session of Parliament.
The male rights NGOs under the foundation want the bill discarded and a fresh gender-neutral draft prepared. They have alleged that the women and child ministry, now headed by the Congress’s Krishna Tirath, is “sexist” and should be taken out of the picture. The new blueprint should be jointly drafted by a group of ministries, the NGOs have said and even demanded a separate ministry for men’s welfare.
“The bill must be reviewed and amended immediately to make it gender-neutral. In its present form, it is a violation of Article 15 (of the Constitution), which prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion or sex,” said foundation general secretary Niladri Shekhar Das. He plans to write to the Prime Minister with the demands.
The main grouse of male rights activists who are part of the foundation is that women have been given “unnecessary legal powers” and that the bill is in its current form is “unacceptable for a sane and just society”.
The bill says offices must have committees on sexual harassment, with the majority of their members women, including the chief. But the activists want such committees to have equal number of men and women. Such panels already exist but were set up following a Supreme Court judgment over a decade ago. The bill seeks to put in place the legal framework for the committees’ formation and functioning.
Students, research scholars, patients and women in the unorganised sector have been brought within the ambit of the proposed law. These segments were not specifically listed in the apex court order.
The activists have objected to one of the pre-qualifications required for a person to be a member of the office sexual harassment panels: that he or she shall be committed to the cause of women. “How can a male expect justice when he is being judged by a bunch of feminists,” asked Bishnu Pradhan, who is part of the foundation.
According to Pradhan, the bill overlooks the fact that women can be perpetrators too, and absolves them from prosecution for committing the same offence that it seeks to prevent men from committing.
Men are increasingly becoming victims of sexual crimes by women and drafting laws based on hallucinated assumptions can lead to disastrous social consequences, the activists have contended.
They have criticised the women and child development ministry’s stance that “the overwhelming nature of sexual harassment is against women and that the harassment of men cannot be put on the same footing, character-wise or incidence-wise”. “Since the laws drafted by the women’s ministry will only lead to gender imbalances, it must be removed from the process,” another activist said.