Sexual harassment at workplace: 69% victims did not complain to management, says survey

The Bengaluru molestation case was a rude reminder to the women of the country that no matter how much you try to change the narrative incidents like these brings us back to questions like when will the victim shaming stop? Why is it a woman's responsibility to ensure she is safe while navigating through public spaces? Instead of stonewalling, when will the authorities and administration assume accountability?

If the streets of the country are unsafe for women, the situation in the workplace is not encouraging either.

The Indian National Bar Association conducted a survey on sexual harassment at workplace between April and October 2016. Around 6,047 participants, both male and female, and 45 victims responded to their questionnaire. Most of the respondents were from sectors like IT, media, education, legal, medical and agriculture. The respondent victims were mainly from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Lucknow and other areas. Around 38 percent of the respondents said they faced sexual harassment in the workplace.

Representational image. Getty Images.

Representational image. Getty Images.

The survey revealed that most of the women victims dealt with it on their own instead of lodging a formal complaint with the management. Fear, embarrassment, lack of faith in the redressal mechanism, unawareness were some of the reasons cited for not reporting to the management. Around 69 percent of the victims did not complain to the management fearing repercussions or retaliation. The survey also revealed that the nature of the sexual harassment involved inappropriate comments, touching and physical harassment. What's shocking was around 65 percent of the respondents' answer was no when asked did the company follow the process prescribed under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

In fact, 66.7 percent of the victims felt that the internal committees did not deal with the complaint fairly. The survey also stated that 50 percent of the victims left the organisation after the case was closed. Around 42.2 percent of the victims who reported sexual harassment said that they were not treated fairly by their peers and colleagues during the period of inquiry. The survey stated despite provisions under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, 56.7 percent of the respondents said that the members of the internal committee did not have proper knowledge of the process that needs to be followed.

As per the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India, sexual harassment includes unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature, demand or request for sexual favours, sexually offensive visuals.

Around 87.9 percent of the other participants in the survey admitted that sexual harassment occurs with the community, while 54 percent replied in affirmative when asked if they have witnessed, perpetrated or been a target of sexual harassment. Around 50.7 percent of the participants admitted to witnessing or being a target of sexual harassment online or on social media.

Quick response, proper system to prevent recurrences of sexual harassment, sensitivity and better awareness were some of the suggestions that came from the participants.

According to Nyaaya, the Sexual Harassment Of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013 is for any women who are sexually harassed in workplaces. "A workplace can be any office, whether government or private." In case of a sexual harassment complaint, an internal complaints committee needs to be set up. The Act gives the complainant an option to deal with the case within the office or file a criminal complaint against the offender.

Updated Date: Jan 05, 2017 20:18 PM

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