When the current Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi came to power, he launched a famous campaign called “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.” However, after four years of his rules, women, and daughters remain mostly unsafe. Most surprisingly, daughters in the forces are not safe. Take the case from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh where a 29 years old lady sub-inspector faced sexual harassment from a senior officer. The Hindustan Times reported DIG Devi Prasad Srivastava was indicted by a four-member internal Committee. After failing to receive any help from her own department, she decided to create a Facebook page to share her plight. She got around 6,000 likes in a day and the process raising hopes that the case will finally be heard. She spoke to The Times of India, “After my colleagues refused to listen to my complaints, the only recourse left for me to tell the people the truth was social media.” This Meerut story is enough to vibrate us and unfortunately, it didn’t happen first time in India. And if it is difficult for a policewoman to get justice, imagine how difficult it must be for a civilian to gather her courage to register a complaint like that. This kind of incidents discourages people from registering a formal complaint against the victim. Let us present a few more cases related to workplace sexual harassment in India.
The Wire reported a case of Kunjila Mascillamani, student and freelance employee of Satyajit Ray Film and Television filed two cases–one of harassment and another of rape. She said “In 2015, I went to the dean of my school to register a sexual harassment complaint. He said the institute has no mechanism to deal with such matters.” The verdict on harassment was passed in July 2016 and the professors who harassed her were asked to take retirement. The rape case is still pending in court.
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On 16th June 2017, Indian Express reported another case of sexual harassment where a woman had complained that during her time at TVF, Arunabh Kumar (CEO of the Viral Fever TVF) came close to her and touched the inappropriate way that made her uncomfortable. The complaint was made anonymously on social media and several other TVF employees came out in support of the accused woman.
On 13th January 2018, the Economic Times reported the most recent case of a former female staffer of the leading IT security solutions provider – Quick Heal. Nitin Petkar, one of her superiors, allegedly sent her personal messages on her mobile, while also trying to interfere in her personal life. She claimed that he would call her into his cabin and ask about intimate details of her life. The Female staffer complaint further states that Petkar commented on her clothes. In return for which he promised her positive feedback at the workplace. When she refused to play along, he allegedly started to “abuse” her, even threatening to kick out her from the company.
Though organizations have strong rules against such crimes, there is a need to have more cooperation between employees and grievance cells with state police forces. Under the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013, any organization with 10 or more staff should set up an internal complaints committee for sexual harassment. Indian Government has passed a legislation The Sexual harassment of women at workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 to protect women from sexual harassment at workplace. It was reported by the International Labour Organization that very few Indian employers were compliant with this statute.
According to a FICCI-EY November 2015 report, 36% of Indian companies and 25% among MNCs are not compliant with the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013. The government has threatened to take stern action against organizations who fail to comply with this law. The Government has set up an online complaint management system and launched an SHe-box under the Ministry of Woman and Child Development for registering sexual harassment complaints at the workplace.
A survey on sexual harassment at the workplace by a lawyer’s body called Indian Bar Association shows 68.9% of victims claimed of not complaining to the superiors due to “fear, embarrassment, lack of confidence in complaint mechanism, unawareness, and due to the stigma attached to sexual harassment.” Of the total, 38% claimed of sexual harassment at workplace, while 50.7% said that they had been targets of it online, or on social networking. The survey further stated that companies were largely unaware of sexual harassment laws, with 65.2 percent of the complainants themselves unaware of the policies.
World Bank says that India can achieve double-digit growth if it eliminates hurdles for women in the workplace. Should Government interfere more?