By Ila Ananya
Remember when the Karnataka government removed restrictions on working women in all sectors in December 2016, telling them they can finally work night shifts? That time the government had amended the Shops and Commercial Establishments Act of 1961 and the Factories Act of 1948 to make provisions for women working night shifts and ways to ensure safety.
Now, three months later, a joint legislature panel thought it important to recommend on 27th March, that IT and BT companies in Bangalore should avoid assigning night shifts to women. Because evidently they can’t stick to decisions.
According to the report, this benevolent recommendation is in the interest of ‘women’s safety’ and ‘privacy needs’. Hilariously, Congress MLA NA Harris added that IT and BT companies should hire more…men. You know, to work night shifts, since apparently there aren’t already so many men working. NA Harris is the chairman of the Legislative Assembly’s Women and Child Welfare Committee. Now we know why.
Reportedly, the legislature’s recommendation was based on an inspection by 21 committee members in Infosys and Biocon companies in November 2016. The committee inspected the working conditions of women employees, and decided that they should make the effort to assign only morning and afternoon shifts to women. It seems like quite a convenient way to avoid actually dealing with any problems women might be facing at work—we can only imagine what kind of working conditions they saw there, since it prompted them to take this decision.
Thankfully, the IT industry body Nasscom responded to the report immediately, stating that it denies women an opportunity to work. According to Nasscom, if the IT industry wanted to create more work opportunities for women in the BPO sector, night shifts were unavoidable. “If we want to reduce women workforce then it would technically mean denying women job opportunities,” Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice-president of Nasscom reportedly said.
And this is exactly what the legislature’s recommendations are doing. When are we ever going to stop pushing women out of spaces—whether work or otherwise—in the name of safety?