47% of Indian women find sexual harassment at the workplace a big issue

47% of Indian women find sexual harassment at the workplace a big issue
Highlights

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.

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.

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 per cent of women feel their top issue at work is sexual harassment vis-a-vis inequality in pay and unequal opportunities."

Not just women, even men feel that sexual harassment is one of the common problems for working women. "51 per cent 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 per cent of women claim that most of the cases happen via sms/text."

"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 per cent 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 per cent 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.

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