New Delhi,India : Staring, lewd remarks, wolf-whistles… Which woman in India has not faced this in public spaces? And today, as large numbers of women enter the workforce, they also increasingly face sexual harassment at the workplace.
The newly enacted Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 has made redressal and prevention of sexual harassment within the workplace a central concern for all organisations in India. Despite enactment of the law, its implementation is lacking among government agencies, public sector undertakings, educational institutions and private business.
Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) organized a conference on Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace to sensitize men and women towards this set of issues and deliberate upon ways and means to accelerate implementation of this important legislation. PRIA has been working to promote such awareness and compliance for the past five years. It has worked with a diverse set of actors in this regard, like Delhi Commission of Women, Airports Authority of India, ILO/Labour Directorate, several universities and colleges, private business and Panchayati Raj Institutions. An eminent panel of experts spoke at the conference. Ms Shamina Shafiq, National Commission from Women (NCW) explained the perspective of the NCW on this issue. Dr (Mrs) Pankaj Mittal from the UGCC spoke on some of the strategies being taken by UGC to ensure compliance in colleges and universities. Mr Prabhat Krishna, Credentials India, spoke on the responsibility and role of HR professionals to ensure that compliance with the Act is not merely in letter but also in spirit. Dr Pinky Anand, Additional Solicitor General, Supreme Court of India, gave the keynote address.
In her keynote address, Dr Pinky Anand, said: “Article 32 and judicial activism gave us the Vishakha Guidelines… but much before the Vishakha Guidelines and the Act, I have found self-defence is the best defence. While the purpose of the law is to act as a preventive, a solution, and a deterrent, this issue cannot be addressed single-handedly. As civil society, we must take action, multiply what we are doing and bring about change.”
Is your organization compliant with India’s anti-sexual harassment law? “Any organisation that does not have a sexual harassment committee will face serious legal action,” said Union Minister of Women and Child Development during a press conference held by the ministry on completing 100 days in office. PRIA’s one-of-a-kind, innovative online training capsule on the Act will help organisations get compliant with this law. Comprising three modules, each of only an hour, employees and employers can learn in a short time what constitutes sexual harassment at the workplace, provisions of the Act and the redressal mechanisms available to them should they face such a situation.
The conference also saw the release of Engendering the Workplace: Gender Discrimination and Prevention of Sexual Harassment in Organisations, a book written by Dr Martha Farrell, Director, PRIA, who has been working on this issue for over a decade. The book was released by Dr Pinky Anand, Additional Solicitor General, Supreme Court of India.
Dr. Martha Farrell, author and developer of the course says, “It is not only a matter of compliance with the law, but actual learning by both men and women on this set of issues that is equally important. With the book and the online eLearning training courseware, PRIA aims to impart the knowledge and the will to change behaviour, in order to create a conducive workplace environment.”
About PRIA :
PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia) www.pria.org is an international centre for the promotion of citizen participation and democratic governance. Set up in 1982, PRIA has consistently worked on social issues such as accountable governance, empowered civil society, gender mainstreaming and urban poverty. Passionate, credible and community-centric, PRIA is committed to making citizens, especially hitherto excluded citizens, active so that they participate in decision-making that affects their lives, thereby making India’s democracy more participatory, robust and dynamic.