#MeToo is trending once again. From innuendos to outright demands for sexual favors, countless women have recounted horrid experiences of facing harassment. Despite all the social media uproar, the ground reality stands in stark contrast when it comes to officially reporting sexual harassment. An awareness of steps & procedures could help women take action against an offender:
“ According to a survey by Indian National Bar Association, nearly 70% of the cases of sexual harassment at workplace go unreported in India.”
The main reasons why women don't report harassment are -
The fear of losing her job,
The fear of judgmental colleagues &
Lack of awareness of the inquiry procedures.
The good news is that India has a stringent Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act aka POSH Act 2013. This Act truly empowers women by putting on employers the onus to :
A) Take sexual harassment complaints seriously
B) Ensure a thorough investigation is conducted
C) Punish the offender if charges are found to be true
It is mandatory for any company with 10+ employees to form an Internal Complaints Committee & share with all its employees a clear, written 'Prevention of Sexual Harassment' (POSH) policy.
To confront a sexual offender at workplace:
1. Read your company's POSH policy
Companies are required to put in writing there complaint lodging procedures with clear-cut timeline. Being familiar with this process will give you the confidence to reach for help.
2. Find out the contact details of all ICC members
A woman fearing unfair redressal can reach out to the external ICC member. POSH Act 2013 makes it mandatory for an ICC to have a neutral outsider -- an NGO worker or Legal professional.
3. Confront the Offender:
If you are finding a colleague’s behavior/remark offensive tell them it is unwelcome. If the remark was unintentional they should take your cue and back off.
5. Speak to other Colleagues:
An offender takes advantage of the fact that afraid to be called the "trouble-maker", women endure harassment silently. Talk to colleagues to find out if there are other victims or witnesses who can back-up your case.
6. Document the Incidents:
Sexual harassment is often a series of offences. Keep a record with date, time, location and details of the incidents. This will be most handy when presenting your case to the ICC & will help them in cross questioning the offender.
7. Never Delete an Offensive email/Message & Record:
It is natural to get angry and delete offensive messages, but don't. Preserve this evidence. A sudden incident may throw you off balance but maintain your calm and try to record the conversation.
Even in the absence of concrete evidence, an ICC can determine how likely it is that an incident could have occurred based on circumstances. A woman has the liberty to take her case to court if she is not satisfied with the results of ICC investigation.
(Mriganka Dadwal is a former-Journalist, Activist & Founder of SLAP. She serves as external NGO member on board Internal Complaints Committee for several corporates in India)