#MeToo: Punjab Women's Commission issues guidelines to departments

A group of women come out from dark holding 'me too' placards

Chandigarh: Issuing strict guidelines for male officers and ministers on dealing with harassment of women at workplaces, the Punjab State Women Commission has said that any sexual overtures during and after office hours with women staff will not be tolerated.

"Any communication happening on mobile devices including mobile phones, tablets, computers, or even landlines are not limited by office hours and hence any objectionable content sent by a male colleague, junior or senior, to a female, even outside the office hours, shall not be tolerated by the Commission and be dealt with in lines with sexual harassment," commission chairperson Manisha Gulati said after issuing the guidelines.

The guidelines were issued by the Commission amid a controversy around Punjab Technical Education Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who is under fire from the opposition after reports of a complaint against him that he recently sent indecent messages to a senior woman IAS officer in Punjab on her mobile phone.

Gulati said that any jokes, photos, GIFs, videos, or even plain text sent to any female's mobile phone by a male colleague, junior or senior, shall be seen as sexual harassment of the female employee and shall be dealt with strictly.

"All male officers and ministers are required to understand that if a female employee is being called for any kind of discussion or meeting into a confined space, he needs to have a minimum of one other woman in the office for the entire duration of the meeting.

"No discussion which includes salary appraisals of the female junior or involving money shall be done with any indication of receiving any favour from the female employee," she said.

Gulati said the commission has decided to frame a policy for the entire staff, administrators, and elected officials "so that no one harasses a woman in future at workplaces."

"Under these guidelines, sexual harassment may occur not only where a person uses sexual behaviour to control, influence or affect the career, salary or job of another person but also between co-workers."

Gulati said that physical contact and advances shall be considered as sexual harassment and it was mandatory that no male employee shall behave in any manner which can be construed as sexual in nature.

"Sexually coloured remarks or remarks of a sexual nature about female's clothing or body are strictly prohibited at workplace. Indulging in any humour laced with sexual innuendos, sexual teasing, and sexual pranks are not allowed," she added.

Gulati said the Commission had announced the rules and regulations to prevent any kind of sexual harassment.

The commission, under the Punjab State Commission for Women Act 2001, has the powers of a civil court trying a suit.

It can summon people, examine them on oath, direct the discovery and production of any document, receive evidence on affidavits, requisition any public record from any court or office and issue orders for the examination of witnesses and documents.

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