Too little too late? Indian government reacts to #Metoo by forming a panel to review sexual harassment laws

  • The government has constituted a group of ministers (GoM) to deal efficiently with the sexual harassment cases at the workplace.
  • The GoM will evaluate the existing sexual harassment laws within a stipulated time frame of three months.
  • Rajnath Singh-led GoM includes three more members - Maneka Gandhi, Nitin Gadkari and Nirmala Sitharaman
The #Metoo movement that provoked a war against sexual harassment cases at the workplace has now led the central government to examine the institutional framework by creating a group of ministers (GoM).

Contrary to the earlier buzz of having senior women cabinet ministers as members, it was decided that the group will be headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The other members of GoM include Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.

In the light of the complaints lodged by women through social media, the GoM will be working to implement the existing legal framework effectively. It also aims to assess the laws against sexual harassment at the workplace within three months. Media reports suggest that the Modi-government will then look forward to improving the legal process by executing a plan of action derived by GoM.

The GoM proposal was made following the decision of women and child development ministry to form a panel to scrutinise the after-effects of the #Metoo movement which turned into an open dialogue on social media.

The #Metoo movement has gathered much attention from people across India with many women coming forward to reveal sexual predators at workplaces. But the movement also revealed that a lot of cases are still unheard. The government, in order to curb such cases, has launched an electronic complaint system called the ‘She Box’. The complaint box will send the matters to the respective authorities as soon as an accusation is put down by a victim.

The #Metoo campaign gained momentum soon after a dozen female journalist supported the movement incepted by Bollywood actor, Tanushree Dutta who accused actor Nana Patekar of harassing her during a shoot in 2008. Besides pushing a number of people to step down from their posts, the campaign has also forced the Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar to put down his papers days after several of his former female colleagues accused him of sexual harassment.

This is not the first panel that the government has formed to firefight a situation, and much like all its predecessors, the odds are that this too might fall flat.
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