World Bank report says widespread job restrictions on Indian women

The report also says that there are no laws to protect women against sexual harassment in public places


File photo. The report says the law also prohibits women from jobs ‘involving danger to life, health or morals’. Photo: AFP
File photo. The report says the law also prohibits women from jobs ‘involving danger to life, health or morals’. Photo: AFP

Washington: Women in India face widespread restrictions for jobs and there are no laws to protect them against sexual harassment in public places, according to a new World Bank report on South Asia’s largest economy.

In a report released on Wednesday, the World bank said that in India job restrictions remain widespread, with women not allowed to work in mining or in jobs that require lifting weights above a certain threshold or working with glass. The law also prohibits women from jobs “involving danger to life, health or morals”.

In addition, there are no laws to protect women against sexual harassment in public places, protections which exist in 18 other economies around the world, the bank said in the report Women, Business and the Law 2016.

At the same time, the bank said that in the last two years, India undertook one reform in the areas covered by the report. By introducing a law mandating at least one female member on the board of publicly-listed companies, India became the only developing country and one of only nine in the world to mandate female inclusion on corporate boards, it said.

“I would say, on the question of where some of the job restrictions are coming from in India, actually, one of the main sources that we see is legacy legislation. And by that, I mean something like the Factories Act, which actually came from the British,” said Sarah Iqbal, the report’s lead author.

“You see the same act in India, you see it in Pakistan, you see it in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and it basically restricts the type of work that women can do. And what’s even more interesting is Jamaica has almost the same act, the Factories Act, which they just reformed in the last two years, and they removed the restrictions on women’s work in certain jobs and factories,” she said.

In India, while they’re debating it at the state level in certain states, it still exists, the World Bank official said. “But one thing that India has done in the past few years which we found very heartening is India is the first developing economy that has a quota for women on corporate boards for publicly-listed companies,” Iqbal said.

“The quota in India is at least one woman has to be a member of the corporate board. Every other economy that we see is actually a developed economy. So, India is the first developing economy to do this,” she said. PTI