Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi on Thursday said she has requested the heads of all national and regional political parties to constitute Internal Complaints Committees to deal with sexual harassment cases.
“This is in view of the fact that political parties employ a large number of personnel, including women, in their offices,” Gandhi tweeted. “It is our prerogative to ensure that women enjoy a safe working environment.”
Though political parties registered under the Societies Registration Act are mandated to have Internal Complaints Committees, functionaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress said that they do not have such panels, reported The Economic Times.
The BJP has a disciplinary committee to take up complaints, according to a party functionary. In the Congress, complaints are registered at the state level and then referred to the party headquarters.
Gandhi’s proposal came after MJ Akbar, who has been accused of sexual harassment by several women, resigned as the minister of state for external affairs on Wednesday. The president of the Congress party’s students’ wing, Fairoz Khan, has also had to step down from his post following charges of sexual harassment.
Gandhi is among the few BJP leaders who have announced unqualified support to the ongoing #MeToo movement in the country.
Last week, the Ministry of Women and Child Development said it will set up a committee to look into matters arising from the #MeToo campaign. Gandhi had said that cases of sexual harassment at work must be “dealt with a policy of zero tolerance”.
However, women’s rights activists are cautious about Gandhi’s proposed panel. “This is a fairly habitual statement from Maneka Gandhi,” said V Geetha, an activist and publisher from Chennai. “This is not to say she does not take these complaints seriously. She just has not thought through what has been coming out from the MeToo movement.”
Ammu Joseph, a member of the Network of Women in Media, India, also pointed out the lack of follow through when it comes to Gandhi’s announcements. “She has made the right gestures and noises since 2012, before she was a minister,” Joseph said. “The question is how effective are these schemes down the line? It is one thing to make announcements, but do you put it in place or fund it?”