Utpal Parashar

sexual harassment at workplace,sexual harassment at workplace in Assam,Assam sexual harassment

According to the National Crime Records Bureau data for 2016, Assam recorded the second highest crime rate against women in India behind Delhi. Image used for representational purpose only. (AP)

Demand for sexual favours, unwanted physical contact, explicit sexual overtures, sexually coloured remarks and more. Sexual harassment of women at workplace in Assam is a disturbing reality, says a new study.

Nearly 41% women in workplace, both in government and private sectors in Assam, have faced sexual harassment, says a first study of its kind on the issue in the state.

The report, ‘Workplace safety and dignity for women in Assam’, is based on research carried out by Gauhati University and North East Network (NEN), a Guwahati-based NGO.

“All sorts of sexual harassment-verbal, physical, mental-were reported by respondents. Of those who experienced harassment, 69% said it was of physical nature,” said Dr Polly Vauquline, associate professor at department of women studies in Gauhati University.

The research conducted among 364 respondents in seven urban areas-Guwahati, Barpeta, Kokrajhar, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Diphu and Silchar found that most women were not even aware on what constitutes sexual harassment at workplace.

The study found that most women “have normalized sexual harassment as a casual everyday occurrence. Most of them consider only extreme forms of violence such as rape and molestation as sexual harassment”.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau data for 2016, Assam recorded the second highest crime rate against women in India behind Delhi. While the national capital recorded 160.4 crimes per lakh population, in Assam the figure stood at 131.3.

“Most women, even those who are educated, didn’t know about sexual harassment or the laws that exist. Many felt presence of a security guard and vehicles provided for transport by office were enough to prevent sexual harassment,” said Anurita P. Hazarika project director at NEN.

Due to fear of stigma or losing their jobs, most women didn’t complain about the harassment they were facing. The study found that only 3.9% respondents shared their experiences with superiors at work and even those who wanted to lodge complaints through official mechanisms failed.

Responses from 213 employers revealed that 69% of the workplaces didn’t have mechanisms in place as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 where women could file complaints.

The women who filed complaints didn’t get expected results. Only 27% of all complaints filed were enquired into and only in 31% of cases were the inquiry report shared with the complainant.

Despite provisions of the Act, more than 90% of workplaces didn’t display information about sexual harassment and 71.6% didn’t conduct meetings/trainings/workshops on the issue among employees.