Nearly two thirds of those surveyed by the Indian National Bar Association (INBA) admitted to the absence of systems mandated by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 at their places of work, and said this was one of the main impediments in registering a complaint.
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The survey which was carried out at BPOs, IT sector offices and at various educational institutes, hospitals and legal firms, found that 38 per cent women/girls had faced sexual harassment at workplace. Of these, 68.9 per cent said they refrained from making a complaint due to fear, embarrassment and lack of confidence.
Of the 6,047 people who participated in the survey, 78 per cent were female and 22 per cent male.
As many as 65.2 per cent women said their company did not follow the process laid under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. As many as 46.7 per cent surveyors said the members of internal committee were not aware of the sections and the legal provisions available under the Act.
The survey indicated that the victims did not complain because of fear of retaliation, subsequent repercussions and sympathy with the offender due to past-mutual understanding. While 66.7 per cent participants said the internal complaint committee dealt fairly with their plaints, 50 per cent victims left the place post the closure of the cases.
When asked if they were given enough legal protection, 42.2 per cent replied in negative. Also, on the question of whether they were treated fairly and received support from their peers during the inquiry period, 42.2 per cent said they did not.
Zameer Nathani, Honorary National Secretary, Indian National Bar Association, “While conducting the survey, we found that the sexual harassment cases are still on a high in the country and the most shocking is the unawareness about the Sexual Harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressed) Act 2013,” he said.
The survey also stated 25 per cent women were sexually harassed by inappropriate touching, the same percentage of women were harassed by comments and physical harassment while 12.5 per cent were harassed by sexism and by asking for sexual favours.
The survey also showed that 20.6 per cent women were shown sexual pictures forcefully, while 18.5 per cent were harassed by men who flashed themselves before them. Almost 10.5 per cent women were forced upon to do something sexual.
“We found during the survey that the women are sexually harassed by lewd comments, asking for sexual favours, touching inappropriately, eve-teasing, etc. The act has clearly defined the rights of the women and the complaint mechanism to be at the workplace. It has defined the complete details from the act to whom and where to complaint, duties of internal committees, protection to the victim, do’s and don’ts of the inquiry committee, rights of respondent, etc. Once there is awareness regarding the same, we will find the cases of sexual harassment decline and dealt in a better way,” Nathani added.
The survey also stated that 50.7 per cent female staff were made subject to harassment online through social networking.
As many as 93.5 percent of the surveyors agreed that harassment occurs at schools, colleges, society too, besides workplaces.
On the point of the section of society that could help fight such harassment, the survey indicated that 92.4 per cent participants felt that parents, teachers, counselors, society and administrators need to act strictly to stop harassment, while 84.7 per cent felt that student body could do something.