Bosses face pressure as #Metoo grows
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