A Quick Overview on Sexual Harassment of Domestic Workers at their Workplaces

INTRODUCTION

Whenever we think or hear the term, domestic work or domestic worker, the very first thing that hits our mind is something related to the household work or the person engaged in the household works. Apart from this, we live in a society where importance is given to rich people, and the poor are considered animals.  In this modern era of the 21st century, the Constitution of India provides every citizen of India with basic rights to live a peaceful life. Despite such laws and regulations, some people are forced to live a miserable life. It is a bitter truth, but the people more prone to becoming the victims of domestic violence or we can term it as domestic exploitation is the women and children.

TODAY’S SCENARIO

Even today, the condition of women in society is not that good, after so many laws for the protection of women; they are not safe, whether in a house or even at the workplace. Now, moving forward with the legal definitions of the terms domestic work and domestic worker. According to the Article 1 of The Domestic Workers Convention, 2011:
  1.  The term “domestic work” means work performed in or for a household or households.
  2. The term “domestic worker” means any person engaged in domestic work within an employment.
The common, as well as the major problem that the domestic workers often face, is very low wages, excessively long working hours, no guaranteed day off and more to this, sometimes they become victims of physical, mental and sexual abuse. The exploitation of domestic workers can partly be attributed to gaps in national labor and employment legislation and often reflect sex, race, and caste discrimination. Now, let’s have a quick overview of the laws related to domestic workers. Most of the time, people remain vulnerable to remedies, the only reason being the lack of education,  proper guidance, and knowledge. According to the ILO Domestic Workers Convention:
  • Firstly, The domestic workers should be given daily and weekly hours of rest
  • Secondly, Their payment complies with the minimum wage requirement and,
  • Moreover, They shall be given liberty to choose the place where they live during the term of the employment.
  • Further, As per the ILO, the States which have ratified the convention must take protective measures against violence against these workers and must enforce a minimum age for employment.

The Domestic Workers Act of 2008

This act was introduced to regulate the payment and working conditions of household workers. It also addresses the issues of trafficking of women and the exploitation of workers. Also, this Act provides the provisions regarding registration, working hours, minimum wages, etc. Section 23 of the Act makes a person liable for punishment who knowingly sends, directs or takes a domestic worker to any place where she is likely to be morally or sexually exploited. The term of punishment for committing such offences is at least 6 months of imprisonment, which may be extended up to 7 years and also a fine up to Rs. 50000 or both, depending on the nature and the gravity of the offence so committed. Moreover, there are other acts that also provide protection to domestic workers in India. These are:
  • Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

This Act provides the formulation of suitable welfare schemes for unorganized workers. The issues that are covered under this act are related to the life and disability of any worker. Also, this Act provides the health and maternity benefits to the families of the domestic workers, old age protection and any other benefit as may be determined by the Central Government through the National Social Security Board.
  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act 2013 and its Relevance for Domestic Workers

The Act clearly defines and includes in its ambit both formal and informal workers. It mandates the constitution of an Internal Committee (IC) at the institutional level and a Local Committee LC) at the district level for prevention, prohibition, and redressal of sexual harassment. The Act also mandates the Local Committees to conduct regular awareness and sensitization sessions for the workers and the employers to make them aware of the issues prevailing, their rights remedies available in terms of the provisions of the act.
  • Domestic Workers Welfare and Social Security Bill, 2010

“Domestic Workers Welfare and Social Security Act 2010” Bill highlights the exploitative nature of spurious placement agencies’ domestic work. According to this bill, the Governments aim that all the domestic workers, employers or service providers shall be registered, within one month of the commencement of the employment of the domestic worker, in the household, with the ‘District Domestic Labour Welfare Board.
  1. It also states the provisions regarding the registration of part-time domestic workers and migrant domestic workers.
  2. This bill clearly states that no child shall be employed as a domestic worker or for any of the incidental or auxiliary activities.

Conclusion

Many women and girls employed as domestic workers around the world face an appalling array of abuses. Also, Sexual harassment against domestic workers is amongst these abuses. However, Acts like the Social Security Act of 2008 and Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act provide protection to domestic workers in India. Moreover, Yet, there is a need for comprehensive and uniform legislation for safeguarding the rights of domestic workers. Moreover, With provisions like setting up of welfare boards, registration of workers in welfare boards, accidental insurance coverage, health coverage and pensions, the draft bill is close to an ideal act. Hence, the government can also take the help of NGOs and domestic workers to get a better idea of their needs and provisions which can help them live a peaceful life.