Kathmandu, February 1:

The Law Reform Commission (LRC) has suggested redefining sexual harassment at workplace by going beyond its conventional definition of harassment only by men.

A concept paper on ‘Sexual Harassment in the Workplace’ prepared by the commission has brought up 29 points to be discussed and consulted with all stakeholders concerned before formulating laws on such harassment.

The LRC has pointed out the possibility of sexual harassment on men by women as well as sexual harassment between same sexes and suggested widening the definition of the same.

Citing lack of legal provisions to address sexual harassment in the workplace, the Supreme Court had directed the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare in February 2004 to draft a bill on such sexual harassment. The LRC is raising these issues after studying the draft law.

The paper also questions the compensation to be paid by the perpetrators to the victims who are physically, psychologically, socially and mentally affected. It also mentions the liability of an employer for maintaining fair environment at workplace and time limitation to lodge a complaint against the perpetrator.

It suggests bringing the issue of sexual harassment of women working in informal and unorganised sectors under the purview of the law. It also points out the need of stipulating a provision for counselling and medication for the psychological affects on the victims and the way to address them.

Nepal has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Platform for Action, and other international human rights instruments, which means the country has committed to stop sexual harassment of women at workplace and introduce appropriate laws. The international conventions also demand review of the various laws and policies on women’s issues.

“The issue of sexual harassment in the workplace has been raised to bring an end to discrimination between men and women in the workplace and to control the trend of acquiring and giving employment and promotion through sexual favours. It has also been raised to protect human and labour rights,” the concept paper says.

According to a study conducted by the International Labour Organisation and the Forum for Women, Law and Development, 48.4 per cent of working women in Nepal face sexual harassment at workplace. The 2001 Population Census showed women constituted 43 per cent of the labour force, out of which, 73 per cent were engaged in agriculture and 27 per cent in the non-agriculture sectors. Only one-fourth of the 27 per cent were employed in the organised sector.