HYDERABAD: It has been six years since the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act came into existence. Yet many working men and women cannot clearly identify when a comment or an act breaches the boundaries of casual banter to enter the purview of sexual harassment.
“In many cases, participants of our workshops have known men who pass casual comments at them for fun. But it is only after attending the workshop, that they realise those comments were actually sexually-coloured remarks, which is another type of workplace harassment and is liable for action,” says Kondaveeti Satyavati. Satyavati is the chief functionary at Bhumika Women’s Collective, an NGO working on creating awareness, conducting workshops and setting up ICCs in various companies, both public and private. In the public sector, she has worked with the Railways and CISF.
Many a times companies, both private and government, refuse to set up an Internal Complaints Committee, as mandated by the Act. Such institutions are of the opinion that their workplaces are somehow immune to incidents of sexual harassment. “The government offices lag way behind in the matter,” says Satyavati who has worked with the Railways and CISF among other public institutions.
Satyavati recalls when Bhumika collective approached a reputed educational institution in Hyderabad, to help set up an ICC and create awareness among its students and staff. In the beginning, the management, staff and students -- all denied any incidents of harassment at the workplace. However, following the workshop, Satyavati received a call from one of the students narrating the harassment she was facing at the time.
“Such realisation makes clear to both men and women the Dos and Don’ts,” she adds. “Implementing the Act will not only make each workplace safe, but also improve the institution’s reputation in the market. The government also needs to initiate strict measures to see that the Act is implemented in every establishment.”