By Prarthana Mitra
In the wake of the #MeToo storm which spread to India’s political circuit and led to the resignation of senior lawmakers, the Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi directed all political parties to set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) last month, to investigate sexual harassment charges within their rank and file. A month later, only the CPI(M) responded to the Ministry’s demand for an update on the formation of the ICC.
Here’s what the party has done
In a letter to Gandhi, the Central Committee of the CPI(M) said it had constituted the ICC in 2013, when the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act made it mandatory for all organisations including political parties to form one.
The party has listed the names of its members on its official website, adding that the ICC was reconstituted after the Party Congress of CPI(M) every three years, with the last Congress held in April this year.
Others are yet to follow suit
Meanwhile, none of the major parties including those making the most headlines for harbouring sexual predators have provided any update on the formation of ICC. Currently, there are seven national, 59 state and more than 2,000 registered unrecognized political parties in India, according to the Election Commission. B
oth the country’s leading parties, the BJP and the Congress, have notably failed to respond to the WCD ministry’s official communication in the matter so far. The need for an internal committee became pronounced when several journalists accused former Union Minister MJ Akbar of systemic harassment, abuse and rape during his career as a journalist, that ultimately led to his resignation.
A ministry official announced Thursday that the next course of action has not been decided yet.
How does the ICC help survivors of workplace abuse?
Under the law, the ICC must be headed by a senior female worker, 50% of its members have to be women including one external member specialising in women’s issues. Its role is to register and inquire into complaints, and arrive at a conclusion regarding punitive action if the allegations are true.
This is a civil remedy available to all working women, besides legal recourse that any victim of workplace harassment can also seek. The failure to constitute the ICC or take relevant action can result in penalties up to Rs 50,000.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius