Notice to governments on women's sexual harassment

New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Wednesday issued notice to the central and Delhi governments on a PIL seeking direction to take adequate steps to prevent incidents of sexual harassment of women in the city.

A division bench of Chief Justice D. Murugesan and Justice Jayant Nath issued notice to the home ministry, Delhi government and the capital's police commissioner and sought their response by Aug 14.

The public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Nandita Dhar through advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal said the governments have the duty to provide an atmosphere for the development of girl students and women in the city but they have failed to provide such.

Seeking direction to comply with the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court on the issue, the petitioner asked the court to direct governments and police to submit a report on the steps taken to implement the apex court's guidelines passed to bring the harassment of women under control till a suitable legislation is passed by the Delhi government.

It further sought direction for the government to pass an appropriate legislation on the issue in the state legislature.

The petition said: "The trauma of the eve-teasing is horrible and the same is of such kind that the girl students, especially, cannot reveal the same to their family members and as such the petitioner seeks liberty of this court to invoke its jurisdiction."

Saying even the Delhi Police in its report admitted that the cases of sexual harassment of women have gone up for the past few years, it sought the court's direction to governments to ensure safety of women.

In a press release dated April 22, 2013 and issued by the Delhi Police, it confirmed that till April 15, cases of molestation of women have showed an increase of 600 percent in the present year, the petition said.

"Respondents are responsible for the public health, welfare and security of the people residing within their jurisdictions and they are also responsible for protecting the lives, liberty and property of their citizens and promoting their well being."

"It is the duty of the respondents (government, police) to secure that the children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against the exploitation and against moral and material abandonment," the plea added.

The petition also cited a survey conducted by the United Nation Women with the Delhi government and an NGO, saying that as per the survey "95 percent of women and girls ranked public spaces in Delhi as being 'unsafe' in terms of sexual violence".

"Nearly 73 percent of women and girls said that they have faced sexual violence in their own localities/colonies, and around 80 percent of women and girls reported streets as most unsafe followed by markets, parks and bus stops," the plea said citing the survey report.

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