According to the World Employment and Social Outlook report, only 27.2% of women account to the Labour Force participation rate when compared to72.8% men. This is an alarming gap that makes us all question why Indian women’s participation as a wage earner is so lower than the world’s average of developing countries which is at 42.3%.
Seminars like this are important and relevant especially in present socio-political climate because not many people know that they are being harassed or that what they are going through falls under the umbrella of the term sexual harassment. The seminar explains what constitutes harassment, explaining that it can be both verbal and non-verbal as well as involve physical contact.
It also defined what exactly constitutes a workplace; it went on to explain how transport provided by the company, any field visits or even client meetings too come under workplace. The seminar explored what leads women to not report it and the larger social conditioning behind it. It also addressed what companies can do to battle sexual harassment and the legal framework in place for women who are being harassed.
The participants included a mix of employees from corporates, representatives from media houses and NGO representatives and social activists. The presentation was made by Varsha Bhargavi from #IWillGoOut Feminist Collective, Hyderabad Chapter.
Kritisha Jain from Nagpur chapter of #IWillGoOut, shared that creating awareness about SHWW Act is crucial because workplace is a natural transition for educated women. Lakshmi from HR Helpdesk shared the details of a survey being conducted under Mahilabol which collects information on sexual abuse incidents encountered by women.
Dr Fathimah Shahnaz, who is a retired professor, author, journalist and an international human rights activist emphasised the fact that conflict zones across the world focus on the aggravating violence on women and in most cases it boils down to sexual violence.
Shakeel Mohammed, a practicing lawyer and an activist, from Centre for Social and Constitutional Studies is armed with experience from his stint at Human Rights Law Network (HRLN). He emphasized on social inclusion and extending the SHWW Act to all classes of society and Sexual Harassment at workplace is a Human Rights crime that affects women in multitude ways reducing not only their performance at work, but also the overall productivity of the organisation.
He shared his experience from his days at HRLN, where he observed daily wage labourers who get work for only 15 days in month and women employees are picked by the work contractors based on their looks, so that the employer and the middlemen can sexually exploit them after work. Owing to the poverty and illiteracy of the women labourers, they often succumb to the demands about sexual favours as their livelihood is at stake. He urged the men who participated in the meeting not to be complacent towards the blatant sexism that is exhibited in the corporate world.
#IWillGoOut and Centre for Social and Constitutional Studies already developed a few training modules for corporate and will be soon contacting the corporate companies for creating awareness. Apart from approaching corporates, the team will also be conducting free awareness workshops for labourers, trade unions and colleges for creating awareness about the SHWW Act.