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Commentary

Workplaces are still not safe for women

26 November 2022
Workplaces are still not safe for women


Editorial Desk :
It has been 13 years since the High Court gave directives to form sexual harassment complaint committees in the workplace and educational institutions, but there has been little to no progress so far. The HC issued a directive with guidelines, urging employers to form a seven-member sexual harassment complaint committee, headed by a female employee, if available, and with at least two members from outside the organisation -- preferably those working on gender issues and sexual abuse.
 Till now, an overwhelming majority of government and private institutions do not have any such committee, and sexual harassment continues to be an everyday affair for a large number of working women. Out of 40 working women, 28 said female colleagues faced physical, verbal, mental or cyber abuse in their existing or former workplace at the hands of their bosses, supervisors or colleagues.
 At least 10 women said they were harassed by their bosses, while 16 others were targeted by colleagues. Of the 28 women subjected to harassment in the workplace, 20 said they did not report the incident to authorities, 18 said they did not have a sexual harassment committee, and four said they did not know about the existence of any such committee. At least 13 women said they faced physical abuse, 18 said they faced verbal and mental harassment, and 10 said they were subjected to cyber abuse.
 The complaints include asking for sexual favours, forcible kissing, hugging, ogling, sending inappropriate web links, making objectionable comments on attire, sending indecent text messages, and perverse forms of flattery in the workplace. Women often refrain from reporting these incidents due to the associated social stigma, a lack of action and feared negative repercussions on their careers. An overwhelming majority said they didn't think complaining would bring any change, as the hierarchy of the harasser mattered. Many others said they could not risk losing their jobs. What was gathered from the survey was that if someone did complain, the authorities concerned made ridiculous suggestions.
 Criminalisation of politics is worsening the safety situation of women in workplaces.

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