In the wake of the multiple sexual harassment cases involving several ‘priests’, ‘babas’ and self- proclaimed ‘messengers of God’, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme court to implement ‘Vishaka’ guidelines in religious places that could possibly prevent exploitation of women.
Vishaka guidelines were formulated in 1997 by the apex court making it mandatory for institutions across the country to formulate preventive measures for the protection of women from sexual harassment in the workplace.
The set of procedural guidelines came in force after a women’s group filed a PIL in the Supreme Court asking for Justice of the gang rape of a Rajasthan state government employee, Bhanwari Devi.
Bhanwari Devi, a worker of the Women Development Programme, who prevented child marriage, was raped by a group of protestors.
The guidelines were superseded in 2013 by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013.
Claiming that many women are employed at religious places apart from voluntarily working there, petitioner, advocate Maneesh Pathak, said, “religious places constitute part of workplace as many women are employed there, other than those working on a voluntarily basis.”
Mamta Banerjee, a 60-year-old devotee says that even women of her age are prone to sexual exploitation and harassment in the city.
“Our family is often worried when we go out not because we are old and feeble, but because we are women.
“After all the incidents recently, it is very difficult to trust the so called ‘people of god’. Even though it may seem strange to have security guards in a place of worship, it is required when some humans are worse than devils.
We bring our grandchildren with us to the temple to impart spiritual values in them, not to have them touched and harassed here,” Banerjee adds.
“It is high time women realise that your safety is in your hands,” shares Pratima Raj, an animal and social worker.
“If you are talking about women rights and feminism, then you have to first stand for yourself then only anyone else will back you up. However, the fear of law has to be omnipresent, since respect, humanity and brotherhood are not evaporating from the society.
Women working at temples voluntarily or as employees should get all the privileges and protection. Moreover, frequent audits and checks are mandatory to weed out any malpractices conducted in the name of God.
Women with opinions are voices are prone to just unjust and cruelty and their protection is the responsibility of the government and the law makers,” Pratima adds.
Ranjan Sharma, an entrepreneur, strongly believes that the Vishaka guideline should be implemented in all places where people are employed or work willingly.
“In temples and other religious places, people voluntarily come to work, due to their spiritual connectivity and often due to the fear of some superstitions.
In any case, there are very few salaried employees in small places. Hence, the exploitation level is huge at these spots.
Moreover, they do not feel the need to complain against a religious organisation and spoil the reputation of a shrine they have been a devotee of from ages.
Also, external pressures, the pressure that people might protest against them for pointing a finger ‘on their idols and God’ makes them worried. Hence, in such cases, a set guideline is mandatory to maintain the sanctity of a spiritual place,” adds Sharma.
#All views expressed are those of the respondent’s and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
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