#MeToo: government asks women to speak up

#MeToo: government asks women to speak up

Tanushree Dutta

With the #MeToo movement gaining momentum, the government on Monday stepped in asking women to “speak up” against sexual harassment at workplace and lodge their complaints at ‘SHe-Box’.

“I urge women to speak up against sexual harassment at workplace and report it to our dedicated portal #SHeBox http://www.shebox.nic.in/ for redressal,” Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi tweeted on Monday.

The ‘SHe-Box’ is an online portal launched by the ministry in July last year for women to lodge complaints of sexual harassment at workplace. The complaints are immediately forwarded to the internal complaints committee (ICC) of the departments of government and private organisations.

Her appeal to working women comes on a day when a senior journalist of Hindustan Times, Prashant Jha, stepped down as the political editor and chief of bureau following accusations of sexual harassment by a woman colleague.

The Business Standard also initiated an inquiry into accusations of sexual harassment against its journalist Mayank Jain. The newspaper’s editor Shyamal Majumdar apprised its employees that “a due process of inquiry” had been initiated against Jain and “necessary action will be taken after the inquiry is completed”.

Several women journalists have come up with accusations of sexual harassment against senior colleagues at various media organisations. Author and columnist Chetan Bhagat also landed in a controversy after his name surfaced in the raging #MeToo debate.

The movement gained steam after actor Tanushree Dutta recently accused senior Nana Patekar of misbehaviour on the sets of a film in 2008.

With accusations of sexual harassment of women journalists surfacing, the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) demanded that media organisations set up an “institutional mechanisms”, mandated under the law, to ensure that every woman employee in every media organisation has recourse to redress “as and when the occasion arises”.

“The fact that many of the complaints have gone unheard despite being brought to the notice of the appropriate authorities is disturbing and a matter of grave concern. It is also reflective of a systemic malaise. There ought to be zero tolerance for any form of inappropriate behaviour towards women employees,” it said in a statement.

The Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI) demanded that all media organisations, including journalism colleges and departments, journalist unions and press clubs, take suo motu cognizance of the accounts of survivors, institute inquiries and take appropriate action.

“Freelancers and stringers, who are among the most vulnerable to sexual harassment, given their job insecurity, must also be brought under the purview of anti-sexual harassment policies and the jurisdiction of internal complaints committees of media houses,” they sought.