Sunday, June 23, 2024

‘Employers must ensure safe work environment’


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By Nawaz Yasin Islam

 SHILLONG: It is time for institutions to take a stand and enhance the visibility of women in decision making positions in higher education. This was the topic discussed at UGC sponsored Management Skills Enhancement Module Workshop, organized by the North Eastern Hill University from November 19 – 24 in St. Edmund’s College.

Participants discussed the growing incidents of gender discrimination and harassment at the workplace and felt that institutions of higher education should have active Women’s Cell following the landmark Supreme Court directive on the famous Vishaka vs Govt of Rajasthan Case.

The discussion also focussed on the need for a gender sensitive society.

Two modules were discussed during the six-day programme. The first module dealt with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the use of ICT tools to create awareness on gender issues and to empower women managers.

The second module put forward by Prof Reicha Tanwar, Director of Woman’s Studies Research Centre, Kurukshetra University, dealt with the issue of elimination of sexual harassment in Institutions of Higher Education.

“There is a Supreme Court judgement that a Women’s Cell must be formed in every institution to tackle issues of harassment of women and to ensure their safety,” said Prof. Susheela Kaushik, Co-chair, National Consultative Committee of UGC. “We are equipped to inform all the participating teachers from various states about the various judicial judgements in this regard,” she added.

There was a consensus that sexual harassment occurs in different forms and in subtle ways and can be different in different cultural contexts. The problem is both at the individual and societal level, the participants felt.

“This workshop is of utmost priority since awareness of rights is a major factor hampering women from addressing their grievances,” said Prof Streamlet Dkhar, regional co-ordinator of the event adding that the presence of a legal expert in the Women’s Cell is essential for a faster disposal of cases of sexual harassment within educational institutes and workplaces.

Prof Suman Gupta, a legal expert from Kurukshetra University also proposed the need for a legal expert in such a cell. Besides existing constitutional provisions relating to gender equality, various cases of sexual harassment so far filed in different states were also discussed. The case, Vishaka and others vs State of Rajasthan and others (AIR 1997 Supreme Court 3011) featured significantly.

“In many cases, women are not aware of their rights and what makes matters worse is that District Judges at times are also not gender sensitive,” remarked

Prof Kaushik who, however, lauded the judiciary for its efforts so far.

The consultation also looked at women approaching the courts through legal aid cells to lodge cases of sexual harassment based on the Legal services authority act 1997 in which a woman victim is entitled to free legal aid if her case moves to the court.

This workshop was part of the implementation process of the Supreme Court judgement in which teachers have been made aware of various provisions relating to women’s rights so that an effective implementation in the respective committees could be carried about.

The workshop resolved that the culture of silence relating to sexual harassment of women at the workplace must be broken and a congenial working environment among the genders needs to be encouraged, stating that a decent working environment is the primary responsibility of every employer.


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