Bosses face pres­sure as #Metoo grows

Sunday Tribune - - WORLD -

PRES­SURE is build­ing on ma­jor In­dian em­ploy­ers to take the al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment more se­ri­ously af­ter a re­cent surge in the num­ber of com­plaints against prom­i­nent pub­lic fig­ures.

At least one ma­jor In­dian news­pa­per, some politi­cians and women’s groups have said the re­quire­ments of the 2013 Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment of Women at the Work­place Act needed to be en­forced by com­pa­nies and or­gan­i­sa­tions, and if nec­es­sary by the author­i­ties.

The #Metoo move­ment, which be­gan in the US more than a year ago with decades of al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment against film pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein, gained trac­tion in In­dia in late Septem­ber af­ter ac­tress Tanushree Dutta said prom­i­nent ac­tor Nana Patekar be­haved in­ap­pro­pri­ately on the set of a film they were shoot­ing in 2008.

Patekar has de­nied any wrong­do­ing. Since then, more than a dozen men in the me­dia, en­ter­tain­ment, arts and po­lit­i­cal worlds have been ac­cused of of­fences rang­ing from sex­ual ha­rass­ment to rape.

In­dia is tra­di­tion­ally a con­ser­va­tive coun­try where dis­cus­sions about sex are still taboo for many, and where women have long lagged be­hind men in work­place par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Hun­dreds of mil­lions of In­di­ans work in the in­for­mal econ­omy, or small busi­nesses where of­fi­cial chan­nels of com­plaints are scarce, and the #Metoo move­ment will have lit­tle lever­age.

The sex­ual ha­rass­ment law stip­u­lates any or­gan­i­sa­tion with more than 10 em­ploy­ees should have an in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions. But crit­ics say that many or­gan­i­sa­tions are not ad­her­ing to the let­ter of the law, or only pay­ing lip ser­vice to it.

“The com­mit­tees re­quired to ad­dress these com­plaints and griev­ances are ei­ther not prop­erly con­sti­tuted or sim­ply do not ex­ist,” said TK Ra­jalak­shmi, pres­i­dent of the In­dia Women’s Press Corps, that lob­bies for rights.

“The fact that many of the com­plaints have gone un­heard de­spite be­ing brought to the no­tice of the ap­pro­pri­ate author­i­ties is dis­turb­ing and a mat­ter of grave con­cern.”

An ed­i­to­rial in the Eco­nomic Times said re­cently that too of­ten these com­mit­tees had been “dys­func­tional or in­ef­fec­tive”.

“The cost of com­plain­ing has been too high,” it said.

“It is time to im­ple­ment the law more ef­fec­tively, both in let­ter and in spirit.” | REUTERS

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