Let us have the courage to accept the writing on the wall. Sexual harassment continues to pollute the workplace environment in India. In Dec.13, a law was enacted to prevent and protect the women from acts of sexual harassment at workplace with redressal mechanism. But five year later where we stand? The reality is that it is not very encouraging. Instead of honest actions by organisations and HR in specific to proactively prevent such incidence and make workplace free and safe psychologically for women to work, efforts seem to have been in suppressing the reporting of sexual harassment matters and creating the circumstances where the victim either tends to conciliate and forgive or move forward by leaving the job. Many organisations have not embarrassed the initiative of law in spirit but only formally acted to meet the symbolic compliance.
The reasons of the present scenario are not very invisible. One aspect can be attributed to the social men dominated mindset capturing workplaces too where females are advised to keep silence on such matters and discouraged. The obvious fear is of ridicule, stigma and embarrassment. Victim suddenly finds herself alone in the crowd of "friends" where she is cornered with no choice left but to keep silence. The insensitivity and cruelty of the social system gives her "wisdom" not to raise the voice against the harasser at workplace.
Another aspect is attributed to the present law and employer's attitude towards such matters. No doubt law has grey areas and loopholes which provide escape to organisations. The women employees are not made aware of redressal mechanism available in the organisation. They don't know to whom and how to make the complaint. Even female HR officers discourage the victim from reporting the matter and take up the fight with management. Organisations are afraid of increase in complaints if regular formal awareness programs are conducted for women employees. They find it good to keep the dust under the carpet. The role of Internal committee provided under the law which is reduced only to investigate the complaint and give findings to employer with recommendations should be enlarged to meet regularly, take up all initiatives proactively which help women employees to raise their confidence and feel comfortable along with building hostile free work environment where men are sensitized towards women’s dignity and their fundamental right to work with respect.
The objective of this issue cover story has been to assess the ground reality through an opinion poll conducted by BM on how far organisations have moved to make sexual harassment free workplace. We have also selected and thought expedient to share gist of six prominent court judgments which underlines the spirit of law and also clarify certain ambiguities. Eventually a pack of rich and knowledge loaded contents on the subject.
If you like it let us know. If not, well, let us know that too.