Hiding behind silence

Sexual Harassment

Hiding behind silence

One cannot help but recall the case of a woman researcher in Mysore University who attempted suicide owing to sexual harassment from her guide. This is just one among the many cases of sexual harassment that women face at their places of work.

No matter how modern a women maybe, many of them still don’t come out in the open and talk about sexual harassment. They prefer to remain silent sufferers as the collateral cost of speaking up could be heavy. Metrolife spoke to a few psychologists, and a few people to understand if sexual harassment at workplace is taken seriously by the management.

Victims still refuse to speak out in the open and be quoted. They don’t want to relive the traumatic experience or even talk about it to anyone. People who work in BPO, IT companies in the City said that most companies have a unit that monitors complaints registered by the employees.

Infosys takes complaints, related to sexual harassment very seriously. “A committee is formed to investigate the case and as soon as some substantial evidence is gathered against the accused, he is terminated with immediate effect,” said an employee with Infosys, who is also part of the committee.

Suparna Saha, a content manager with an MNC, observed that bigger companies are more regulated and have a separate cell that monitors such cases but the smaller companies are a little careless in this regard. “The anti-harassment committee in most companies are active in taking up a case and solving it. But most women still refused to speak up if they’ve faced a problem,” she said.

Nitin Bhargava, an employee with IBM, thinks those who are victims of sexual harassment never come out in the open because they are scared of the consequences.

“If women don’t speak up, then such cases will only increase. The bigger companies have a committee against harassment but the smaller organisations simply ignore such cases or the victim is threatened into silence,” said Nitin.  

Subhadra Gupta, a social development consultant, points out that most companies might have started an anti-sexual harassment cell but most of them are dysfunctional. “We don’t know if these cells are active. About 70 per cent of the women are still not aware of their rights to complain, only 30 per cent speak up,” she said.

Nouman, a project co-ordinator with Delphic Technologies, observed that cases of sexual harassment are a lot less within the company and women are prone to harassment of any sort from the supporting staff such as attendants and cab drivers. “Companies must tighten their transport policy and make sure their female employees travel safe to and from office. Not many women speak up when they’re victims of sexual harassment,” he said.

Sudha Thimmaiah, a counsellor, pointed out that anything could amount to sexual harassment. “Physical contact or even body language can amount to sexual harassment.

While some women have begun speaking out, most don’t want to come out in the open and talk, fearing backlash. But  women go through the trauma for a long time before they’re counselled out of it,” she sums up.
 

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