The 10th National Women's Conference took place at Chennai, Tamil Nadu State on 30 July 2019 with more than fifty women leaders representing BWI affiliates from India present. This year’s conference focus was on the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act), which is designed to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace.
The BWI Sexual Harassment Policy was read out by the BWI National Women Committee (NWC) Chair Kulwant Kaur at the opening of Conference. The new ILO Convention (190) concerning elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace was also highlighted.
Legal experts from Madras High Court and also Supreme Court of India shared various legal provisions as well as their legal perspectives on the POSH Act. The challenges of the Act including its reach and coverage of workers in the unorganised sector and remedies available to women who face harassment at workplace were deliberated at length. Apart from the Act, the women leaders were also briefed on various provisions under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that could be additionally utilized. The Conference captured various forms of sexual harassment faced by women in the workplace, in the union and in the community level.
The NWC also reviewed, finalised and endorsed representation to the Prime Minister of India demanding 30 percent reservation for women under Skill India Mission. In addition, Apolinar Tolentino, Regional Representative of BWI Asia-Pacific region informed the committee members of the changes in BWI global and regional structures including country groupings, youth and women structures. The NWC unanimously backed the proposed changes which will be further addressed at the upcoming Regional Conference at Perth in November 2019.
Kulwant Kaur, NWC, Chair applauded the efforts of the BWI in promoting women and youth and called on the women leaders to ensure “zero tolerance” to sexual harassment at workplace. She stated in her closing remarks, “This has been an important year for women. As the ILO turned 100, we saw the adoption of ILO Convention 190 to end violence and harassment in the world of work. The NWC actively supported the BWI’s global campaign for this adoption. Now we will work with our unions calling for the Indian government to ratify and implement ILO convention 190.”
Following the conference, the NWC Core Committee met to take stock of various developments on the work of BWI affiliates in India regarding gender-related issues.