HYDERABAD: Close to 80 per cent of urban women working in low-income generating jobs in Hyderabad’s Old City area faced sexual harassment at their workplace, revealed a recent study. Most of them work in the unorganised sector and therefore, do not have access to an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and do not have the benefits that women in the organised sector are provided with.
The study, ‘Sexual Harassment at Workplace: A study on the Urban Poor Women in Old City, Hyderabad’, was conducted by Shaheen Women’s Resource and Welfare Association and ActionAid. Researchers chose a sample size of nearly 100 women, who were cottage industry workers, saleswomen, domestic help, students and daily wage workers.
An overwhelming 91 women reported that they felt unsafe in their workplace. Sexual harassment was reported to be verbal, mental and physical for most women.
For instance, unwanted physical contact, touching and pinching were reported by nearly 80 women, sexist comments were faced by 81. Nearly half of them were subjected to obscene gestures and 40 of them were shown unwanted digital messages. After their workplace, 73 women said they faced sexual harassment during the transit to and from their workplace.
“Our respondents have no ICC to report to. They have no awareness of the law on sexual harassment either,” said Jameela Nishat of Shaheen. The unorganised sector also pays little to no focus on giving facilities of drop and pick up facility to its women workforce, something women in the organised sector are provided with.
More shockingly, 86 per cent of the respondents did not take any measures to report their harassers in fear of repercussions.
The study notes, “It should be kept in mind that the respondents mostly belonged to urban slums and had quite low income-generating jobs in hand. Thus, on the occurrence of such instances, 40 per cent of the respondents were concerned about the negative consequences attached to the publicizing of the incident.
The loss of their social position, the fear of losing their jobs, which might be the only source of income for the entire family, and the social exclusion, all of these and many other related consequences could have refrained the women to speak about the incident. A total of 38 per cent and 35 per cent of women did not reveal about the incidents due to fear and social stigma respectively.”