KATHMANDU, April 23: There is no separate law in Nepal against sexual harassment at workplace as yet.
But the bill on sexual harassment at workplace, prepared by the ministry of women, children and social welfare, currently under discussion at the parliamentary bills committee, might soon end the free rein enjoyed by sexual harassers.
The bill proposes a maximum of 3 months imprisonment and certain fine on the guilty.
As per the bill, any kind of sexually motivated activity at workplace either by employers or employees would be considered legally punishable.
If anybody makes unwelcome sexual advances, requests sexual favors and indulges in verbal and physical conducts of sexual nature at workplace, and if the victim files either written or verbal complaints against the offenders within 7 days of the incident, the latter might be liable to a maximum of 3 months imprisonment or a fine of Rs 25,000 or both based on the severity of the misconduct.
If the guilty repeats the crime and is found guilty the second time, he or she will face double punishment.
The lawmakers at the bills committee also discussed the attitude and dressing style of an individual at workplace as well as in public.
The discussion particularly focused on dressing style that “might naturally draw unnecessary attention from others and lead to unwanted developments.”
“If one wears vulgar dresses and appears unnatural and gets stared at by people around, who is to be held guilty?” questioned lawmaker Sunil Prajapati. “First they attract and excite others and then if comments are passed they call it sexual harassment. It´s not fair. The outfits and behavior the society cannot digest should also be considered punishable as well,” he argued.
Prajapati´s arguments, however, drew counterviews from some lawmakers who said that curbing one´s freedom regarding how one dresses is not practical. The chairperson Yashoda Subedi then stated that though Prajapati´s views holds water, it is difficult to impose anything that goes against an individual´s liberty. She, however, assured that the bill will try to address the concerns of both sides as much as possible.
While the bill presented by the ministry only talked about violence at workplace, the lawmakers stressed that it should also cover public places where sexual harassment is rampant. Sixteen lawmakers sought to replace the term ´workplace´ with ´public place´.