Sexual harassment at the workplace, despite the existence of a law in 2013, continues to be prevalent as ever. A shocking incident from a New Delhi hotel is proof — CCTV footage from the the capital’s Pride Plaza hotel shows a security manager at the five-star yanking a female employee’s sari and dragging her towards him, in the presence of another colleague.
According to the 33-year-old woman, she was assaulted by the security manager near the airport.
She claimed that the man had been pressuring her into having a physical relationship with him, despite her resisting his advances. On July 29, however, the security manager called her for a birthday party, and tried to disrobe her. The security manager had also allegedly grabbed the woman after she left for home, and tried to pull her into his car twice.
“On June 29, my birthday, he called me to his cabin, took out his credit card and asked me what gift I wanted,” the woman told NDTV. “He told me to sit, and when I didn’t, he pulled me towards him and tried to take off my sari. He told the other colleague to go out of the room.”
Despite the fact that the incident, which took place on July 29, was reported to the Human Resources (HR) department the very same night, no action was taken. The woman, on her husband’s advice, consequently she filed an FIR with the airport police station, under section 354, 354 (a), 354(b) and 354 (d) of the Indian Penal Code, on August 1.
A colleague of hers helped her retrieve the CCTV footage, which helped her substantiate her claims.
No good deed, however, goes unpunished. On August 17, almost three weeks since the incident, when the woman reported for her shift at the guest relations department, she was asked to meet the HR department. After a 40-minute wait, she was allegedly handed a termination letter. The colleague who had helped her get the CCTV footage was also sacked.
“I come from a poor family. My husband does not earn much and I have two children. I wanted to work for a decent living and not be forced to sell myself. I am terrified for my children now,” the woman told the Indian Express.
This is how reporting sexual harassment in India is rewarded. You lose your job. And just in case one wants to argue that this may be an isolated incident, take a look at the statistics. 70 per cent women said they did not report sexual harassment by superiors because they feared the repercussions, according to a survey conducted by the Indian Bar Association in 2017 of 6,047 respondents.
Additionally, 65 per cent of the women in the survey felt that their companies failed to abide by the norms that are required to check sexual harassment at the workplace.
By law (the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Prevention, Prohibition and RedressalAct, 2013), an internal complaints committee (ICC) is mandatory in every private or public organisation that has 10 or more employees. Of course, that does not mean that companies seem to be following the rule.
According to a 2015 research study, Fostering Safe Workplaces, by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), 36 per cent of Indian companies and 25 per cent of multinational companies had not yet constituted their ICCs.
Additionally, around 50 per cent of the more than 120 companies that participated in the study admitted that their ICC members were not legally trained.
So much for the safety of women at the workplace. The sari-pulling security manager was arrested on August 18, based on the complaint and the CCTV footage. But what of the woman’s employment? Surely it is required that not only strict action be taken against the hotel for sacking her without appropriate causes, but also for failing to address such blatant sexual harassment at the workplace.
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