Sexual harassment: Assam workplaces lack facilities

Some disturbing facts await policy makers in Assam — the state that reported the second highest rate of crime against women after Delhi, in 2016.

A first ever sample survey in seven urban centres have revealed that an overwhelming 71% of workplaces (both government and private) lack measures to address sexual harassment of women.

This, despite a clear provision for the same in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

“The study reveals a deplorable situation so far as the safety and dignity of working women in Assam are concerned. Striking features include a discernible lack of awareness of and/or interest in the issue of sexual harassment and the sexual harassment act, unavailable or ineffective complaints mechanisms, reluctance to submit or accept complaints on the part of employees and employers respectively, for various reasons, and tolerance and normalisation of sexual harassment of women at work place,” said the study, titled Workplace Safety and Dignity for Women in Assam, conducted by department of women’s study, Gauhati University and North East Network, an NGO, here.

The respondents were selected from workplaces in Guwahati, Barpeta, Kokrajhar, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Diphu and Silchar. It revealed that while 51.8% of the employers knew about the act, only 38.1% of employees were aware of it. The study also found that 68.9% of the offices do not have a complaints mechanism. “In the absence of a complaints mechanism, employers do not get to know if there is occurrence of sexual harassment or take required action,” it said.

As per the act, information regarding the penal consequences of sexual harassment must be prominently displayed at the workplace. But over 90% of the workplaces included in the study did not display this information for employees or visitors.

The study revealed that over 69% of the women reported unwanted touching from their male colleagues. Another 15.2% revealed that they experienced deliberate brushing, grabbing, even sexual assaults, attempts to molest, cornering. 

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