For those who faced sexual harassment at their workplace, 68.7 per cent decided not to file a written or an oral complaint.
The reasons for this included lack of trust in the procedure, concern for their careers, the lack of consequences for the accused, and concern for their physical safety.
This is part of the first edition of our Annual Review on the State of Sexual Harassment in India by the Council of Ethics, Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WICCI)’.
When asked if an employee had ever felt uncomfortable because of the presence of a colleague, more than 70 per cent of the respondents replied affirmatively, indicating that at least at one point, employees felt uncomfortable at their workplace due to another employee.
When asked regarding the witnessing of sexual harassment, the majority of the respondents answered ‘Never’. However, when asked if they had ever witnessed a situation where someone made offensive remarks about someone’s appearance, or repeatedly heard sexist stories or jokes, many answered ï¿½Yes’. This shows how sexual harassment is viewed and understood in society.
It is important to note here that according to the Act, and its interpretation by the Judiciary, sexual harassment not only includes unwanted physical contact and/or advances, but also unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature, sexually coloured remarks, amongst others.
Regarding the categorisation of complaints as false/malicious, 46.2 per cent of IC/LC members stated that such categorisation stops women from coming forward with their complaints, while 38.5 per cent answered ï¿½Not sure’.
A 51.1 per cent of employees stated that an individual should be given a year or more for filing a complaint of sexual harassment, which is more than the 3 months stipulated by the law. This seems to indicate that most employees recognise that in order for a target to file an official complaint, there are many institutional, mental and social barriers to be overcome, for which 3 months is too short a time period.
Since the Act only allows for written and formal complaints to be filed, 90 per cent of HR/CXO members stated that both informal and formal complaints, depending on the severity of the act, should be filed.
Statistics showed that 75 per cent of HR/CXOs, 50 per cent of employees and 45 per cent of NGO members, who responded, worked in organisations which had a Complaints Committee as constituted under the PoSH Act for the prevention and redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace.