NEW DELHI // India's parliament, which has been deadlocked for days because of opposition protests, used a brief interlude in the uproar yesterday to pass legislation protecting women from sexual harassment at work.
The lower house passed the bill before business was again abandoned for the day as MPs from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party shouted, stood in the well of the assembly and waved their papers.
Women's-rights activists said that sexual harassment is a rampant problem in India, where an increasing number of females are joining the workforce.
The legislation, which must still be passed by the country's upper house before becoming law, specifically includes protection for female domestic staff, one of the most vulnerable employment groups in India.
"I am glad that they cleared this crucial bill. Women have a right to feel safe wherever they are," said Raghavi Behl, a professor of women's studies at Delhi University.
The anti-harassment bill, which improves women's rights to take legal action against abuse at work.
The bill makes it mandatory that all offices, hospitals, institutions and other workplaces should have an internal redressal mechanism for complaints related to sexual harassment.
"Many women are scared to report sexual abuse as they want to keep their jobs," said RK Sethi, who runs Shakti, a women's-rights forum in New Delhi.
Studies have suggested that one out of five Indian women aged 35 and younger have suffered physical assault by a colleague or manager at work.
Supporters of the bill were fortunate to have it passed yesterday. In the current monsoon session of parliament, which ends on Saturday, 29 bills were listed for consideration and passing, but only four have been cleared.