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'Sexual harassment common at work'
Chandran Iyer in Ahmedabad | September 14, 2004 12:09 IST
Sexual harassment at workplace is quite prevalent but the victims refrain from complaining fearing social disgrace and loss of job, according to the head of the Ahmedabad Women's Action Group, a nongovernmental organisation.
"Sexual harassment exists in several fields whether it is government, private sector, medicine or even lawyers, but nobody wants to say so," says Ila Pathak.
"When women take up jobs, it often evokes negative response from male colleagues, who perceive that their domain is being attacked. In retaliation they strive to regain control by power poaching. Sexual behaviour is often the focus of the same," she says.
In a survey conducted by AWAG, 48% of women say they experience sexually inappropriate behaviour at workplace. The nature of harassment is verbal, psychological and physical.
The perpetrators are usually co-workers or immediate superiors.
Few states have complied with the Supreme Court's 1997 order asking them to form committees to deal with harassment complaints.
Following a petition filed by a woman in Ahmedabad recently in the high court, alleging that such committees do not exist in Gujarat, the court asked the government to file an affidavit.
In its affidavit, the government said a state-level committee was formed in 1998 with Anuradha Mansingh as chairperson. After its term ended, another committee was formed in November 2000 under S K Verma who, however, refused to head the committee.
Then Dr Manjula Subramanyam was appointed in her place on February 2001, but she also refused to head the committee.
Then the commissioner of Women and Child Development was appointed as the chairperson in June 2001. Nothing much has happened since then.
About reasons for harassment at work, Pathak says the survey indicates that women respondents feel there are two main causes. One is the attitude of men who take women for granted and another is gender role difference in the society.
The male response, however, differs substantially in the survey, she says, adding that most of them attribute it to influence of western media, provocative outfits of women and unnecessary friendly behaviour by them.
A lady medical representative who had to face sexual harassment from her immediate boss tried to make a collective representation before the head of the company.
The result was that she was not only humiliated but also thrown out of job. Till date she has not got a new job.
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