Thursday, July 28, 2011
Senate Backs Bill To Criminalise Sexual Abuse Of Female Employees!
The Act makes it compulsory for pregnant women and nursing mothers to be re assigned from jobs that expose them to hazards, without suffering any disadvantages. For younger women, it adds, employers are barred from deploying them to jobs that put them at risk of physical, psychological and sexual torture.
Senators say the Act, reintroduced after a failed attempt to pass it during the last legislative session, will be "good news" for women, "especially the abused marketing girls of the banking sector." "The law has been given sharp teeth to ensure it will not be another law gathering dust on the shelves of law libraries," said Chris Anyanwu (PDP, Imo State). A similar bill awaits passage at the House of Representatives.
When the document came up for consideration on Wednesday, senators narrated their experiences and reports of fatal job-related neglect by employers; including the burning to death of several workers at a factory in Ikorodu, Lagos State, after they were locked in by their foreign employers.
"Such audacity will be met with the hammer of the law hereafter," Ms Anyanwu, who is the sponsor of the bill, said of that incident.
The Senate yesterday gave a speedy second reading of the bill, pushing it towards committee considerations and a final passage. As a repackaged bill, the lawmakers say, its passage will not be long.
Under the Act, an Occupational Safety and Health Council is to be set up with inspectors empowered to enter work places, without notice or warrant, to examine the condition of equipment used by staff, their protective cover for hazardous assignments, disposal of hazardous materials, emergency systems as well as lighting and sound equipment.
Sanctions range from heavy fines to a shutdown of the defaulting office.
The Council will replace an existing factory's inspectorate in the Ministry of Labour, set up by the 1990 Factories Act, which the lawmakers say is now moribund.
But critics of the legislation have pointed out that a new council, estimated to cost over N2 billion, will further raise cost of governance in an economy already blighted by skyrocketing recurrent expenditure.
Again, some lawmakers questioned the possibility of clearly ascertaining when an employer deliberately places his/her female staff in a position where she is exposed to sexual abuse and torture.
Its defenders say the bill is designed to be self-sustaining in the long run, with all offices, except diplomatic establishments, required to make mandatory registrations after every two years. Also, each office with more than 10 personnel is compelled to name a Safety and Health committee of three employees who would be expected to file reports to the Council