Despite Law, 70% Working Women Don’t Report Sexual Harassment At Workplace, Shows Study

Women said they did not report sexual harassment by superiors because they feared the repercussions. (Representational Image)

Manisha Chachra/ IndiaSpend

Ridhima Chopra, 25, once with a NGO in New Delhi is among the growing number of Indian women encouraged to complain — without an end-result — about harassment at work by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, promulgated in the wake of the 2012 Delhi gangrape. Yet, 70 per cent women said they did not report sexual harassment by superiors because they feared the repercussions, according to a survey conducted by the Indian Bar Association in 2017 of 6,047 respondents.

An IndiaSpend analysis of available data and conversations with working women showed there was an increase in reported cases of harassment-to 2015, the year for which latest data are available.

Between 2014 and 2015, cases of sexual harassment within office premises more than doubled — from 57 to 119 — according to National Crime Records Bureau data. There has also been a 51 per cent rise in sexual harassment cases at other places related to work-from 469 in 2014 to 714 in 2015.

In the year before, between 2013 and 2014, the National Commission for Women reported a 35 per cent increase in complaints from 249 to 336, according to a December 2014 reply filed in the Lok Sabha.

Despite the rise in numbers, women, like Ms Chopra, are finding that their complaints are not redressed effectively by employers. Employers are either unaware of the law’s provisions or have implemented them partially and even those that do set up internal panels have poorly trained members.

Above all, there is little gender parity in organisations even today. The high profile case of the woman employee at The Energy & Resources Institute who had to fight a case of harassment against its then director general, RK Pachauri, for two years despite clear evidence illustrates this inequity.

As will become clear in later sections, these problems apply not just to private and public sector establishments but also to relatively younger information technology (IT) companies.

Why Riddhima failed to get justice: Redressal system is still flawed

An internal complaints committee (ICC) is mandatory in every private or public organisation that has 10 or more employees, according to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

However, 36 per cent of Indian companies and 25 per cent of MNCs had not yet constituted their ICCs, the 2015 research study, Fostering Safe Workplaces, by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) showed. About 50 per cent of the more than 120 companies that participated in the study admitted that their ICC members were not legally trained.

Private problem: 40 per cent of IT and 50 per cent of ad and media companies oblivious to law

All ministries and departments in the government of India have constituted ICCs, the ministry of women and child development told the Lok Sabha in December 2016. The ministry of corporate affairs — along with industry bodies ASSOCHAM, FICCI, Confederation of Indian Industry, Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and National Association of Software and Services Companies — was requested to ensure its effective execution in the private sector.

The law imposes a penalty of upto Rs 50,000 on employers who do not implement the Act in the workplace or even fail to constitute an ICC. But, the number of employers who do not fully comply with the law indicates that there is little monitoring of their redressal machinery.

There is a high rate of non-compliance in the private sector, as is evident in the 2015 study, Reining in Sexual harassment at Workplace, by Ernst and Young. Two in five IT companies were oblivious to the need to set up ICCs and 50 per cent of advertising and media companies had not conducted training for ICC members, the study found.

Three years ago, Meera Kaushik (not her real name) had started working in a Pune-based media and advertising company as a copywriter. She had an uneasy time during her job interview when her future employer insisted that she smile. “One day, when I was at work and feeling restless, my boss demanded to know why I was upset. He forced me to smile and leave my hair open. I didn’t realise that this was harassment. Such expressions of concern are often considered a part of the work culture. I didn’t object because I feared losing my job,” she said.

Kaushik finally did leave her job.

Why women fail to report workplace harassment

Anagha Sarpotdar, a researcher who works on sexual harassment at workplace and an external member appointed to monitor such trials by Mumbai city, was of the view that employers are wrong to discourage reporting in order to protect their image.

“Low or no reporting speaks volumes about the gender sensitivity of a particular organisation,” she said. “Further, women may not know where to go to report harassment or it could be that the cases may not have been dealt with sincerely. Often, women go to committees believing them to be independent and find that they are actually puppets in the hands of their superiors.”

“Under the law, there are guidelines to display information at a conspicuous place in the workplace, list the penal consequences of sexual harassments. There is also an order directing the ICC to create awareness regarding sexual harassment in all government departments and ministries. But these don’t exist,” said Shikha Chhibber, a Delhi-based lawyer.

Kunjila Mascillamani, a freelance writer, had filed a complaint against sexual harassment while she was a student at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) in Kolkata. During the hearings on her case, Mascillamani said she was blamed for the incident. “All the faculty members and the administration had turned against me and I was slut-shamed on social media. It was at this juncture that I approached an NGO to appoint an external member to oversee the procedure and ensure a fair trial,” she said.

As Sarpotdar pointed out, for many organisations, training sessions on workplace harassment is only a box to be ticked. “They lack the perspective on gender equality to put the law into action,” she said.

(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Manisha Chachra is an MPhil student at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. She has previously worked at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at respond@indiaspend.org. You can read the report here: http://www.indiaspend.com/cover-story/despite-law-70-working-women-do-not-report-workplace-sexual-harassment-employers-show-poor-compliance-94743)

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

12 COMMENTS

  1. Having read this I thought it was very enlightening.

    I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this informative article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading
    and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  2. Wonderful goods from you, man. I have keep in mind your
    stuff previous to and you’re just too excellent. I actually like what you have acquired
    here, really like what you’re saying and the way through which you are saying it.
    You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it wise.
    I can’t wait to read far more from you. That
    is really a tremendous site.

  3. Great goods from you, man. I’ve understand
    your stuff previous to and you’re just too excellent. I really like
    what you have acquired here, really like what you’re stating and the way in which you say it.
    You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it smart.

    I cant wait to read much more from you. This is really a wonderful web site.

  4. Hi! I simply wish to give you a big thumbs up for
    the excellent info you have got right here
    on this post. I’ll be returning to your web site for more
    soon.

  5. Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon every day.
    It’s always exciting to read through articles from other authors and practice something from
    other websites.

LEAVE A REPLY

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.