In the words of Secretary of Ministry of Women & Child Development, V Somasundaran, “Sexual harassment in the workplace is an extension of violence in everyday life and is discriminatory and exploitative, as it affects a women’s right to life and livelihood.” But Employee Assistance Programs which usually incorporate workplace violence prevention has paid rare attention to the risks of violence that female employees face at work. One of the recent examples of movements against workplace violence is #METOO movement which has shown that no sector has remained untouched when it comes to harassment against women at work.
Here are some of the distressing facts for workplace violence against women:
- According to a workplace survey, over 60% of factory women workers have been subject to verbal, physical and sexual violence. The consequences of such violence are alarming considering the fact that in 2017, the labor force participation for women was 28.5% whereas for the men was 82%.
- Also, according to Monster Salary Index 2016 Gender Pay Report– Ready Reckoner (2017), women earn 62% of what their male colleagues earn for performing the same work.
- In a joint report by Sisters For Change, a nonprofit organisation and Munnade, titled “Eliminating Violence Against Women At Work“, 45 million people are employed in India’s textiles and clothing sector out of which 60% are women. Also, 1 in every 14 women worker here has experienced physical violence whereas 1 in every 7 women garment worker has been raped or forced to commit sexual acts. Only 3.6% of the reported cases resulted in action by either the factory or by the police but there were no criminal charges brought against the perpetrators of the crime.
For a safe work environment, here are some early warning signs of violence at your workplace and ways you can handle it:
(Video Credits: Vivid Learning Systems)
For the protection of sexual and verbal assault against women at workplace, the Indian government has had a poor performance when it comes to combat it. After the historical judgment in Vishaka v/s State of Rajasthan Case, 1997, the judiciary had produced a set of Vishaka Guidelines against sexual harassment at workplace. It took the government a decade to draft a bill prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace and another six years for its enactment as Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act 2013. Since the act came in to force in 2013, significant resources have not been dedicated for its effective implementation.
In the wake of rising incidences, the current Union Minister for Women & Child Development, Maneka Gandhi has attempted to improve the compliance with the act, stating, “Any organization that does not have sexual harassment committee (as stated in Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act) will face serious legal actions.
Apart from the government measures, it is the duty of every individual at the workplace to make a safer work environment for women so that they could compete with men as they are doing in the field of education.
Here are some steps to ensure workplace safety:
- Train Your Employees:
Conducting training workshops or talking regularly with your employees about their safety at office spaces is one of the easiest ways to let them know that you dedicate considerable attention towards the safety of your female employees. Also, when such incidences are reported, ensure taking immediate actions.
- Character Check Matters:
While you hire, it is important to take into consideration the skills of the person you hire. But while cross-checking via reference he/she has provided, make sure you know about his/her behavior well in advance. This will help your employees feel safe. Be a role model for your employees when it comes to their safety!
- Maintain Records:
Even is the incident reported does not result in any serious injuries or loss, it is important to investigate the matter. Following a protocol for investigation and finding a solution to it will prevent the incidence to recur. Also, keep the records of the investigation which will help you identify unsafe trends at the workplace.
- Stand Against Wrong:
If you are an employee and witness any unfavourable situation or get a hint of the same, it is necessary that you take a firm step so that the situation is controlled before it worsens. Help the victim to report and openly speak about it.
More than anybody else, women must make every effort for their safety. They must ensure that they report any such matter to the higher authorities or take legal help. Taking a courageous effort to resolve your issues and helping others do the same, will not only improve the statistics but also help the overall growth of women employees.