Karnataka: No night shifts for women in IT, says panel

Karnataka committee's suggestion draws flak.

Bengaluru: There’s a fine line between gender discrimination and safeguarding women's rights, and Congress MLA N.A. Haris, however well meaning he may be, just crossed it.

A report tabled in the Assembly on Monday by the standing committee on women and child welfare that the MLA chairs, set off an uproar among women's rights activists and the IT-BT industry on Tuesday.

Disregarding the fact that more than half the workforce in the booming IT industry is made up of women, the 22-member panel, on Monday, recommended companies should employ men rather than women on night shifts and to ensure their safety and security.

"The IT and BT companies in Karnataka should to the extent possible avoid employing women on night shifts,' the panel said. Mr. Haris said: "It would be much better, safer and more secure for women if they work during the daytime." Coming on the heels of a wrong-headed maternity leave directive from the Centre, giving women 26 weeks off, that could see employers frown on hiring women, this move is seen as a further downer.

When approached for a comment on what motivated him to push for the no-night employment rule for women, Mr. Haris, told Deccan Chronicle that women must stay home at night to look after their children and household.

"Women have a much bigger responsibility in our society than men. They need to look after their children and families. Men cannot play the role of a mother," Mr. Haris said, apparently unaware that these days most young families see both parents sharing the burden of child-rearing.

Calling it a "very sexist" comment, a women's rights activist, Dona Fernandes, said that the MLA was legitimising gender discrimination. "He is perpetuating the stereotype that women are mothers, home- makers and meant only to look after their children," said an outraged Mrs. Fernandes.

She said that men must stop stereotyping women, pointing out that women were no safer during the daytime than they were at night, and the whole issue was not about women working in day shifts or night shifts but about providing a secure environment in the city, be it for men, women orchildren.

Ms Sangeeta Gupta, the vice president of the IT industry body, NASSCOM, said, "It's the women's choice if they want to work in the night shift or not. It is completely their right to decide where, when and how they want to work. The government and the companies need to do their duty and ensure that adequate safety is provided."

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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