Tuesday May 8 2007 10:15 IST
Women find laws to protect them foolhardy
Two unrelated government departments in Karnataka have come up with two ideas that fly in the face of each other. The Tourism Department has suggested that the pubs remain open till 1 a m so that Bangalore will have a vibrant night-life. The Labour Department, on the other hand, has sought to ban nightshifts for women working in the old economy sectors. The move, Labour Minister Iqbal Ansari believes, will save women from crimes. If the Minister ever believed women groups will receive his announcement with glee, quite opposite is happening. They all want the Minister to drop his idea forthwith.
The Minister’s action, evidently, arises from his concern for the safety of women in Bangalore where criminals, often, have a free rein. But his ideas, if implemented without a proper study, are likely to do more harm than any good for the cause and welfare of women. In many new economy sectors, women are preferred to men considering their skills, especially the booming hospitality sector. Interestingly, the Minister has sought to discriminate between women employed in old and new economy sectors by seeking to exempt IT and BPO workforce from the proposed ban. It is not quite clear how IT and BPO professionals enjoy greater security at night than those in manufacturing industries.
While it is yet unclear whether the Labour Department’s move will increase the safety of women, what seems certain is that it can affect sections of women who badly need jobs for a survival. These are skilled and semi-skilled women with little or no English education. They work in all shifts for a fraction of salaries that IT companies are known to pay their employees. The Minister, arguably, sounds informed when he talks about the exploitation of women in factories and shops. But that calls for not a ban on nightshifts, but strict enforcement of the working hour conditions on the licensees. If labour inspectors do their job in all sincerity, the government can produce excellent results with the existing set of laws and rules itself. A foolhardy ban will only make the poor women employed in the manufacturing sector poorer and those in the IT & BPO sectors richer by the day. That is a cure worse than the disease itself.
The New Indian Express