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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014

Tough laws will make offices safer for women

Mugdha Variyar and Bhavya Dore, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, January 31, 2013
First Published: 01:19 IST(31/1/2013) | Last Updated: 14:21 IST(31/1/2013)

India has the worst record when it comes to sexual harassment at workplaces, according to a 22-country survey by Ipsos, a market research firm, and Reuters India, which was released in 2010.

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India ranked the highest in ‘reported employee workplace assault’ and sexual harassment, with 26% claiming to have faced some sort of sexual harassment, as per the findings. It was followed by China (18%) and Saudi Arabia (16%).

Similarly, a 2011-12 study on sexual harassment at workplaces in India by Oxfam India and IMRB International revealed that 17% of the women surveyed had faced sexual harassment at work.

The survey covered 400 working women between 18 and 45 years of age. Of those surveyed, just 17% of the population had heard of the SC guidelines on sexual harassment at workplace.
Read: Trouble at work? what you can do and what the companies can do?

“Sexual harassment is common across all sectors, and women are prone to harassment from seniors, peers and even juniors,” said Anagha Sarpotdar, who is pursuing a doctorate on sexual harassment in workplaces from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Activists and experts believe the need of the hour is an effective law that ensures tough action against the offenders, speedy trials and protection for the complainant and witnesses.

To prevent such incidents, it is just as important to gender-sensitise people and involve men in finding solutions to the issue.

“It’s critical to engage men, especially those at the leadership level, in solutions,” said Deepali Bagati, senior director, India at Catalyst, a not-for-profit research organisation that works in the field of women and business.

“By doing so, as leaders they demonstrate the value they place on women employees and ensure that everyone has a safe environment in which to work.”

Vibhuti Patel, economics professor and women’s activist, believes women should also voice their problem at work.

“A woman should approach her company’s grievance cell with a written complaint,” Patel said. “It is mandatory for the firm to set up an inquiry within 10 days.”

 

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