Groupism and unionisation is leading to victimisation of women at the workplace, and rendering the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, ineffective.
A consultation on the Act organised by Population First, in coordination with Bhumika Women’s Collective on Saturday, threw up many instances of sexual harassment, which remained hidden even during the storm kicked up recently by the online ‘Me Too Movement’.
Social activist Devi recalled an instance where a university teacher was accused by 14 of his wards of sexually harassing them. Initially approaching a well-known dalit leader for redress, the women, majority of them dalit, were disappointed with his response. Later, they sought constitution of Internal Complaints Committee, which was complied with.
“But the ICC report merely confirmed the allegations, without recommending action. We lodged a police complaint, but found no support there either. Meanwhile, caste groups have begun exerting pressure for withdrawal of case,” Devi narrated.
Action against teachers sexually assaulting minor children under their care was even rarer. Unions of myriad hues come together to support the perpetrator, making justice impossible, she says.
Government offices were no better, said activists who attended the consultation, recalling instances of sexual harassment in Irrigation and other departments, where justice was hard to find for the victim.
While such was the state of affairs for employees, the plight of unorganised workers was even more pathetic. Local Complaints Committees, mandated by the Act for them, have not been formed in many districts, and even where they are formed, there is little awareness about the same, says K. Satyavathi, Chief Functionary of Bhumika.
“LCCs should be formed at the district level by the District Collectors. Nodal officers should be appointed at village/mandal level. But there is little awareness about the same among officials, even less among workers,” says Ms. Satyavathi.
The consultation resolved to address letters to all District Collectors for formation of LCCs, to spread awareness about the Act, and pressure the Women and Child Development department for formation of ICCs in all government institutions.