As India faces its #MeToo reckoning there has been the occasional voice questioning the movement’s progress. But sexual harassment, if anything, is a problem that has received less attention than it deserves given the social attitudes which discourage the outing of such cases

What is sexual harassment at the workplace?

The Inter national Labour Organisation (ILO) defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, abusive or offensive working environment.

How does a sexual harassment case proceed to the court?

If we look at 2016, there were 34,186 cases for investigation by police, which could complete inquiry in 75.9% of these cases. Of the total 34,186, chargesheets were filed in 67.3% of the cases, which were sent for trial. Only 7,665 trials were completed during the year, which was 22% of the total cases investigated by police. The year saw 2,295 convictions, which was only 6.6% of the total cases that the police was supposed to investigate. If one calculates the conviction rate, then 29.9% of the total 7,665 cases in which trial was completed ended in conviction.

How widespread is the problem?

As of mid October, more than 100 people have been called out in India’s unfolding #MeToo moment. In US, where the movement on twitter started last year, more than 900 people have been named till October, 2018. While many have questioned whether the problem is as widespread as is being claimed, analysis of the data suggests that this could actually be the tip of the iceberg, as claimed by proponents. On an average, in the past three years, every hour has witnessed three cases of sexual harassment reported to the police. It has been observed that because of the social stigma of victim-shaming, a large majority of cases often go unreported. A 2018 survey by Stop Street Harassment (SSH), a non-profit, shows that 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime. The National Sexual Violence Resource Centre (NSVRC), another American organisation, estimates that 63% of sexual assaults are never reported to police.

What proportion of these cases are false allegations?

A study of eight US communities said that the prevalence of false reporting is between 2% and 10%. The data for India shows that false cases constituted 4% of sexual harassment cases disposed of by police in 2016. This indicates that nine out of every 10 complaints of sexual harassment are true.