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US: House of Representatives bill targets lawmakers for sexual harassment

01 Dec 2017 | By Anupama Vijayakumar

A new bill aimed at tackling sexual harassment within Congress has been introduced in the US House of Representatives.

The legislation, introduced by a group of bipartisan lawmakers, mandates disclosure of settlements in sexual harassment cases involving members of Congress and their staff.

This is happening amid multiple sexual harassment allegations against prominent figures within Congress, entertainment and media industry.

Here's more about it.

In context: US: Lawmakers introduce new bill to tackle sexual-harassment

01 Dec 2017US: House of Representatives bill targets lawmakers for sexual harassment

ContextThe Weinstein effect: What context is this happening in?

At least 80 actresses accused Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. As allegations piled up, Weinstein was fired from the board of his company and from the Oscars board.

It spiraled into a powerful social-media movement with women using #MeToo to share their experiences.

Allegations have also been raised against those, including former-US president George Bush Sr. and serving Democrat senator John Conyers.

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What does the bill aim to do?

DetailsWhat does the bill aim to do?

Under current practices, lawmakers are not required to divulge the details of taxpayers' money spent on settling sexual harassment claims.

The "Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Act," sponsored by 21 lawmakers requires particulars including the amount paid and nature of allegations in such settlements to be disclosed within 30 days.

The bill pins the responsibility for such payments on Congressmen and their staff.

MeasuresSexual harassment: What other measures has Congress taken?

Congress finds the recent sexual harassment allegations against Conyers troubling.

In this context, the House committee has scheduled a hearing on overhauling existing procedures dealing with such cases on December 7.

Additionally, it has introduced a separate legislation to tighten procedures on sexual harassment cases involving Congressmen and approved a resolution introducing courses for lawmakers to prevent sexual harassment.

ConclusionWhat does this mean?

Republican Senator Ron DeSantis, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, notes that congressmen have spent a whopping $15mn of taxpayers money on various settlement claims over the past few years.

If the bill does go on to secure enough votes to become a law, it can help bring in more transparency and accountability.

These disclosures may have a decisive impact in improving accountability.