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'17 percent of Indian working women face sexual harassment'

New Delhi, Nov 27, 2012 (IANS) 21:02 IST
As many as 17 percent of working women in India have experienced sexual harassment at their workplace, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The survey was conducted in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Durgapur by Oxfam India and the Social and Rural Research Institute.

"About 17 percent of working women in India feel that they have experienced acts of sexual harassment at workplace, indicating a high incidence of sexual harassment among working women from both the organised and unorganised sectors," the survey found.

Majority of women reported to have faced incidents that were non-physical.
"Sixtysix of the 400 respondents reported to have faced a cumulative of 121 incidents of sexual harassment. 102 out of 121 incidents were reported to be non-physical, whereas the remaining 19 incidents were physical in nature," the survey said.

While 87 percent of the general population and 93 percent of working women respondents reported awareness of sexual harassment of women at work place, a majority of the victims did not resort to any formal action against the perpetrator.

Maximum number of sexual harassment cases was reported among labourers (29 percent), domestic helps (23 percent) and small-scale manufacturing units (16 percent).

"Violence against women is a human rights violation, whether it is domestic violence within homes or sexual harassment at the workplace. We believe in the right of every woman to a violence free workplace," said Nisha Agrawal, chief executive officer, Oxfam India.

Majority of respondents perceived women working in the unorganised sector to be more susceptible to sexual harassment due to lack of awareness of legislation.

Interestingly, 26 percent reported to be the sole earning member of their families, indicating that economic vulnerability further makes women more vulnerable to harassment at the workplace.

Some of the reasons for not taking any such action were "fear of losing job", "absence of any complaints mechanism at the workplace", "fear of getting stigmatized", and "not aware of redressal mechanism".

The survey also found that the Supreme Court guidelines on sexual harassment were known to as many as 17 percent of the respondents amongst the general population. It was found that awareness of the apex court guidelines was higher in metro cities - 24 percent as compared to other areas.

"Although sexual harassment of women is a very sensitive issue, and off late has had a lot of prominence, most workplaces often fail to acknowledge sexual harassment as a concern. Overall, more than 80 percent of the respondents reported the need for a separate law for dealing with sexual harassment at work place," it added.

The Lok Sabha in September had passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012, and it is expected to come up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha in the ongoing winter session.

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