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Victims afraid to report cases: Survey

The Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission has undertaken a sample survey of all governmental establishments, colleges and universities in three districts to take stock of complaints about sexual harassment at the workplace.

mumbai Updated: Oct 04, 2010 02:29 IST
Kanchan Chaudhari

The Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission has undertaken a sample survey of all governmental establishments, colleges and universities in three districts to take stock of complaints about sexual harassment at the workplace.

The research wing of MSHRC has chosen Nanded in Marathwada, Yawatmaal in Vidarbha and the state capital — Mumbai. Research officer Dr Jaishree Patil said the sample survey has been undertaken to ascertain the ground realities with respect to complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace and in colleges and universities.

The survey also intends to find out the status of implementation of guidelines laid down by the apex court in Vishakha’s case, and the guidelines issued by the National Human Rights Commission in 2004, and accepted by the Universities Grant Commission, for colleges and universities.

In 1997, women groups had filed a petition in the Supreme Court under the name of 'Vishakha', asking the court to give directions with regards to sexual harassment that women face at the workplace.

In the historic judgement, delivered on August 13, 1997, the apex court held, “Each incident of sexual harassment results in the violation of a woman’s fundamental rights — gender equality and the right to life and liberty.”

The apex court formulated guidelines since the then civil and penal laws did not adequately provide specific protection to women from sexual harassment in the workplace.

The guidelines require every government, semi-government establishments and private companies to have a Women’s Cells and Inquiry Committee, to inquire into complaints of sexual harassment from their employees.

The survey, according to Dr Patil, also intends to find out if government employees face sexual harassment at their workplace.

So far the survey has covered government establishments and colleges in Nanded and Mumbai. “In these two districts, we have found a significantly large proportion of working women and students being harassed at the workplace, but most of them don’t know what to do in such a situation,” said Dr Patil.

Many victims were in fear of openly speaking about such harassment or lodge complaints because of fear of humiliation, and the complaints of those who have dared to raise their voice have not been taken seriously.

Dr Patil said their team came across two incidents in Nanded district and several in Mumbai in which no action has been taken. In Nanded, a staff nurse who complained of sexual harassment was merely transferred away from the culprit, who went scot-free. In another case, the victim, a lady constable, ended her life in a police station last year. The survey is likely to conclude shortly.