47% Of Indian Women Find Sexual Harassment At The Workplace A Big Issue

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For Indian women, sexual harassment is nothing new. Every day they come across stories, or I dare say witness stories of women (including themselves) being stalked, eye raped, or going through verbal and physical attacks. Their biggest struggle, every single day, is to maintain their sanctity—at their homes, on road, in their educational institutions, as well as at their workplace. Women aren’t even spared in their dreams, as their stalkers often manage to enter their private zone—mind that is—and scare them.

According to one of the recent surveys conducted by Nimbuzz, a cross-platform mobile calling & messaging app, Indian women don’t feel safe at their workplace. The survey, titled Nimbuzz - Pulse of the Nation, reveals that “47% of women feel their top issue at work is sexual harassment vis-à-vis inequality in pay and unequal opportunities.”

Why is the situation so grim for Indian women despite having stricter laws against harassment at the workplace? Who is to be blamed for the situation? Women themselves? The patriarchal society? The western dresses as khap once claimed that western dresses like jeans and skirts provoke men for rape or molestation? Or is it the Chinese foods like chowmein that creates hormonal imbalance in men/boys and they commit a mistake such as “rape”? Ok, let’s keep the pun aside and take a look at some other facts.

Not just women, even men feel that sexual harassment is one of the common problems for working women. “ 51% of male colleagues feel that their female colleagues have faced sexual harassment in one way or the other,” cites the Nimbuzz - Pulse of the Nation report .

It could begin with looks, lewd remarks, intentional touching and end up into anything—right from open invitation to have sex to rape, depending on the person involved. Interestingly, the executive stalkers (including others), are now using innovative way to hit on their female colleagues—like forwarding flirtatious texts through WhatsApp, BBM among others. Using social media platforms such as Facebook to stalk female colleagues is also very common.

However, Rinku Tyagi, a senior executive with one of the leading IT consulting firms, feels otherwise. She says, “Social media platforms have just come up, while sexual harassment has been a prevailing practice for decades. Yes, texts and social media platforms are being used, but verbal remarks and physical advances still take the cake when it comes to sexual harassment.”

We couldn’t agree less despite seeing the stats put forth by Nimbuzz - Pulse of the Nation report, which reveals that “ 58% of women claim that most of the cases happen via sms/text.”

But are men alone to be blamed? No, we are not trying to put forth the fact that women’s dressing sense or behavior is responsible for this state. Only if women would have openly come up and spoken against the perpetrators, then the situation might have different. “You can’t blame women for not coming out or speaking up,” protests Pragnya Pandey, a marketing communications specialist, working with one of the leading Indian IT firms. She further puts across her point, “Though personally I have never faced sexual harassment, but in my over 9 years of experience, I have heard about many cases and personally observed two. In both the cases, the complaints were lodged to higher organizational authorities, but sadly action against the perpetrator was taken. Now, considering that grievances address system of organizations is not strong enough, how do you expect ladies to come out and voice their concerns?”

Prangya probably hit the nail on the head. 41% of women, who participated in the Nimbuzz survey, admitted that they fear speaking up against sexual harassment because of lack of confidence in the organization to take cognizance.

Rinku Tyagi, also feels that lack of confidence in the organization is the first thing that stop women from putting forth their problems. She further added two more reasons to what stops women from talking about this issue openly. “The strong social taboo of sexual harassment often overwhelms women’s thoughts. And then there is the peer pressure that they won’t get their due promotions or appraisals if they would raise their voice in the so-far-male dominated hierarchical organizations.”

Now, this is a major point of concern when you consider that almost 62% of people feel that sexual harassment happens by peers. So, does this mean there is no way out?

There sure is. Women only need to start raising their voices, and utilizing the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, for their benefit. And the role that organizations can play involves: setting up an effective grievance system, and educate women employees about legal actions that they can take against the culprit.

About Nimbuzz- Pulse of the Nation survey
It is the new Social Opinion Poll Index created with the help of over 25mn Nimbuzz users across India, excited on getting a platform to get their voice heard. This very user-friendly mobile chat interface throws up questions with multiple-choice answers. The survey mentioned above was conducted for 20 days, on Android, iOS, Windows, and other platforms. People from both metro and non-metro cities participated in this survey and the split was 55-45%.

Image: thinkstock
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