India might finally get proper laws against sexual harassment, instead of just “eve-teasing”.

An email from PT with a news to make you smile🙂

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has prepared two Bills to protect children and women from sexual abuse and exploitation. These are the ‘The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, 2011’ and ‘The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010’.

Have a look at the news piece here:

http://www.lawyersclubindia.com/news/Bills-to-protect-Children-and-Women-from-Sexual-abuse-and-Exploitation-13747.asp

From the article:

“The objectives of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, 2011, are to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography. It provides for establishment of Special Courts for trial of such offences keeping the best interest of the child as of paramount importance at every stage of the judicial process. The Bill also incorporates detailed child-friendly procedures for reporting and trial of cases.”

and:

“‘The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010’ provides protection to all women, irrespective of her age or employment status, whether in the organized or unorganized sectors, and covers a client, customer, apprentice, daily wage worker, student/research scholar and patient in a hospital. The Bill defines “sexual harassment at the workplace” in a comprehensive manner, in keeping with the definition laid down in the Vishaka judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court, and broadens it further to cover the promise or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment, which is equally detrimental to her equality rights. The Bill has also been reviewed by the Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development. The Committee presented its report on 8th December 2011. It has made wide ranging recommendations on various provisions of the Bill and has suggested that the Bill may be passed after incorporating their recommendations regarding title of the Bill, issue of gender neutrality, inclusion of domestic workers, definition of employer, sexual harassment, concept of victimisation and complaint of sexual harassment etc.”

Both of these have been long-awaited and at this time, it appears that both bills are all set to pass through the legislature without much trouble. The sexual harassment bill may be changed to be gender neutral.

Haven’t had the time to actually read through the bills yet, but I’ll do it when I get the time.

Hope this cheers you up a bit, yes? After all, India might finally get proper laws against sexual harassment, instead of just “eve-teasing”.

Links to the original bills:
Protection of children from Sexual Offences Bill, 2011:
The Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment At Workplace Bill, 2010:
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Thank You PT.

50 thoughts on “India might finally get proper laws against sexual harassment, instead of just “eve-teasing”.

  1. I think one of the best parts of the sexual harassment bill is that the modified version includes domestic workers too.

    Hopefully, this would act as a deterrent for would-be harassers who think maids are easy prey.

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  2. This is wonderful news indeed! I have made a conscious decision not to use the term ‘eve-teasing’ ever again. It is sexual harassment and it should be addressed as ‘sexual harassment’!

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    • More people should stop using that term like you. Nothing irks me more than educated people using the word ‘eve-teasing’, especially people in the media. I’ve seen seasoned journalists using that term & it is incredibly frustrating. Teasing=Leg pulling, something you would do with a friend. What countless women go through everyday is sexual harassment. Using a term like eve-teasing belittles what the women go through. I wish someone would ban that term itself!

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  3. It is a tad worrying though that the second bill addresses sexual harassment of women only in the workplace. Sexual harassment on the streets is still rampant and it will continue to rise unless it is addressed in a similar manner. it’s almost as if the street policing bit was neglected on purpose.

    Nevertheless, it is a small victory.

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    • Actually, it WAS sort of neglected on purpose.

      The bill was never intended to cover all forms of sexual harassment.

      There are already laws against public sexual harassment in India (primarily Section 298 (a) and (b)). Amending them is a separate project, which requires entirely different procedures vis-à-vis drafting a new piece of legislation.

      Amendments are rarely clubbed with new laws. It is simply bad legislative practice, and tends to take the focus away from what the issues that the new law really intends to address.

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    • Exactly! I was just about to say that. This bill is a wonderful first step. I hope the next step is a general protection against sexual harassment bill, irrespective of place of occurrence.

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  4. Long overdue! When are we going to have a law prescribing stringent punishment against rape? Will this law be another one just on paper adding glory to a bookshelf in a lawyer’s office or will it be implemented – time will tell.

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    • Well, if my memory serves me right, Indian law actually prescribes between 7 years to life imprisonment for rape in ordinary circumstances, and between 10 years to life in rigorous imprisonment for rape under aggravating circumstances (such as gang rape, or the rapist being in a position of authority over the victim).

      That’s definitely stringent punishment – not very different from the punishment for murder in India.

      Unlike murderers, though, most rapists in India aren’t even reported, let alone convicted, mainly for sociological reasons but also because the police is clueless when comes to handling these crimes. This results in artificially low rates of sexual assault, which the moral police proclaims with great pleasure to be a result of the refined Indian culture, as opposed to the crass Western one.

      Implementation is the problem, and has always been the real problem in India.

      The rape law itself could do with some changes, but it’s all rather pointless if people are petrified of reporting rape in the first place.

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      • Hi PT,

        Another question — this one’s to do with the Cabinet clearing the bill granting women a share in marital property and accepting “irretrievable breakdown” as grounds for divorce.

        Parliament still has to pass the bill before it becomes law, right? The Cabinet clearning it doesn’t mean that its law, does it?

        I’m very ill-informed about legal matters and you’re the best person to ask.🙂

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        • Yes, the amendment bill becomes an enforceable act only after it is cleared and published in the Extraordinary Gazette of India. This may not happen very soon, so don’t hold your breath.

          Also, I hope I’ve not given you the impression that I’m an expert on family law! I am aware of most of the legal system in broad, general terms but when it comes to the intricacies of family law, asking for my opinion would be rather like asking a gynecologist talking about a rare lung disease.
          While I know my Companies Act pretty well, family law is something that I’m interested in only from a feminist, not professional point of view.

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      • 7 to 10 years is a joke. Some fat cat lawyer will usually get them out on bail, like the case of that Rathore guy.

        Stringent in my opinion would be castration or being sent to a Nazi-like labour camp.

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        • Rigorous Imprisonment is supposed to be pretty much like a labor camp (although not Nazi style).

          From a judicial point of view, castration is not generally considered to be a punitive remedy to sexual assault. Instead, it is supposed to be a humane and cost-effective alternative to long-term imprisonment and the death penalty, an alternative which “corrects” the problem and renders the convict safe to be let loose in free society, so to speak.

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    • Why should rape have a more stringent punishment than murder? A woman raped is not dead after all. Let’s get over this idea that rape is the worst and most heinous thing that could ever happen to a woman and therefore deserves the same punishment as the most heinous crimes. Yes, it is a violent act and should be punished strongly. And it is.

      If you advocate castration for rapists, would you also advocate chopping the hands off those who steal… or maybe their heads, because it’s the head that thinks up the cunning act?

      Nazi labour camps have gone down in history because they were so horrific that the hope is that humanity will never see something like that ever again. Why would anyone want to advocate that kind of punishment?

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      • Dying is too easy a punishment. Think about it. He should live to suffer the agony that the woman is undergoing. The woman is not dead yet, alive and living through the horror, the aftermath of the rape, be it physical mental or emotional. Why should you make the rapist’s ordeal any less?

        Chopping off the hands of a man who steals would be a little extreme since I would never equate stealing and rape …they are both different categories altogether.

        Not sure if you have read this link:
        http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Widow-chops-off-man-s-penis-after-he-tries-to-rape-her/Article1-831225.aspx
        She might have done this in self-defence, but I’d say it was quite befitting. If he cannot keep it under control in his pants, and he has to shove it in someone else’s face (or anywhere), he risks having it chopped off.

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        • Maybe stealing is a bad example (I cited it because people seem horrified about this punishment in some countries) but my point was if this eye-for-an-eye approach is to applied to rape, it would have to applied to all crimes. Thus, all murderers should get the death sentence, if someone stabbed someone they should be stabbed, if someone cut off someone’s limb, their should be cut off etc. Is this what you are advocating?

          Do we as a society want to perpetrate crimes of the same magnitude (if not exactly the same crime) as we are condemning?

          Doing something in self defense is one thing… the state lawfully doing it is another.

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        • No not for all crimes. Just for this one. Because rape cannot be equated to any other crime. Just my personal opinion.

          Considering we are in a country which lets off this crime too easy, what’s to prevent rapists from getting bolder and more confident? This is something that will stop them dead in their tracks.

          Let me put it this way. In case there is rape AND murder afterwards, then yes the rapist should also get capital punishment. If it is only rape, then castration.

          Sometimes murder is done by accident, in self-defence etc. No such reasoning can be applied to rape. Rape happens because it was intended to (by the rapist). Period. So only such punishments should be deemed out for it.

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        • “Because rape cannot be equated to any other crime.”

          Why not? That is exactly my point. The reasons it is not treated like any other crime is because it is tied up so much with the idea of shame and honour that a woman loses when she is raped. Objectively, though, is rape more violent or debilitating than losing a limb?

          The reasons that there are few rape convictions in India are various – low rate of reporting by women, attitude of law enforcement officials, poor evidence gathering, difficulty in proving rape – and not necessarily because the punishment for rape is not stringent enough.

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        • Ashwathy,

          I definitely don’t see why rape should be treated as “special”.

          As far as the State is concerned, it is just a kind of assault. Even from a personal point of view, I think it is just a particular kind of assault. A grievous assault, no doubt, but certainly not worse than death.

          While rape is horrible, there is a chance to continue life as before, a good chance of a full recovery. A murdered person is simply wiped out of existence. By committing murder, a murderer destroys that which we cannot create, and perpetrates an atrocity that we cannot correct.

          Claiming that rape is somehow worse than dying simply plays into the hands of the people who are obsessed with “honor” and “dignity”, and cannot see rape as an assault as an individual, but instead, an assault on the honor of that individual’s family, community and clan. It reinforces the toxic notions of honor that are so common today. It reinforces the idea that a victim of rape somehow loses something that cannot be brought back (honor).

          The argument about intent is incorrect. If it is proved that the accused person had no intent to kill or create a deadly situation, then that person cannot be tried for murder.
          Convicting a person of murder requires the establishment of so-called malice aforethought (i.e, a preconceived intent to murder).

          The legal term for wrongful death of a victim where malice aforethought cannot be established is manslaughter, not murder. And killing in justified self-defense is not a crime at all.

          I have said this many times in the past and I’m saying it again: The country lets people off too easily not because prescribed punishments are not stringent enough, but because the procedural issues and outmoded definitions of rape create problems, and because rape is often not reported.

          Most criminal justice systems are no longer based on retributive concepts, except in the case of capital offenses. Many people (myself included) are opposed to the death penalty as well.

          As The Bride has said, it is very hard to justify punishments that are of a similar magnitude as the crime itself. After all, the criminal is being punished for perpetrating a certain act – how do we, as a civilized society, justify doing the same to the criminal legally?

          What rapists don’t feel scared of is getting caught. And that is what we NEED to make them fear. The fear of punishment arises only if there is a real fear of arrest in the first place.

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        • While I do agree with you that the punishment in itself is not the culprit but the whole attitude towards rape – enforcing that punishment in the first place and treating it the way it should be treated, instead of finding fault with the victim and her lifestyle/dressing – that should be changed, I am a little confused as to why you brought ‘honour’ ‘shame’ ‘society’ etc. into this argument. That was hardly the reason why I suggested rape should be treated differently.

          For me the whole idea of forcing oneself sexually on a woman (or for that matter, a child, or basically someone who cannot fight back) speaks of a certain perverted mindset and should be treated as such. As many others have said before, it has more to do with control, abuse of power and the ability the get away with it (as per the mindset of the rapist). The gruesomeness to it is such that I feel should be treated as a heinous crime and should be taken seriously. I was not thinking from a society/honour/shame (omg, virginity is lost, what do we do!) perspective at all.

          Do note, I have not even touched upon the marital rape, which is another category in itself.

          It is not just the punishment, but the entire attitude towards rape that should change. Treat it with the seriousness it deserves and let the punishment AND the firm hand with which it is implemented, scare people enough to keep their hands to themselves.

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      • Human beings being autonomous beings, castration is like a direct assault on the basic liberty of a man and his ability to choose. According to me the power of choice should never be taken away. Also, castration sounds like very medieval and barbaric.

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        • Ability to choose what? Whether or not to rape a woman?! 😛

          Like I said, if a man cannot control himself and keep it in pants, he risks having it chopped off. Simple.

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  5. They can create countless laws but it’s no use of we the people don’t stand up and claim tham.
    If anyone gets harassed, sexually or otherwise, — report it, create a fuss and demand justice ( irresepective of if you get it or not do your part)
    if you see anyone getting harassed – step in and ask if they need assistance
    and most important
    Teach our children – girls and boys about harassment, what constitutes it what doesn’t, steps to prevent it and report it and how not to indulge in it.

    Also talk of peer pressure, teasing, name calling harassing the opposite sex and in general a lecture on how to behave like humans instead of apes ( sorry apes) will do our children a world of good.

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  6. “The Bill also incorporates detailed child-friendly procedures for reporting and trial of cases”

    Is it possible for the sexual harassment bill to include similar “women-friendly” procedures for rape/sexual harassment? For instance, they could be given a set of questions that they are required to ask, and no “additional” questions/statements on their part, so they cannot intimidate/shame the victim.

    How do you implement a procedure that keeps bad/sensationalized reporting from doing harm (slandering or worse) to the victim? Is there any way this can be done without restricting their freedom of expression?

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    • I think they’ve made a fair bit of effort to make it woman-friendly.

      If you read the bill, you’ll find that it’s not merely a set of rules followed by a set of recommended punishments for breaking those rules. It envisages a whole ecosystem in which complaints against workplace sexual harassment can be processed.

      Under the bill, all employers with more than ten employees will have to form an “internal committee”, presided over by “a Presiding Officer who shall be woman employed at a senior level at workplace
      from amongst the employees”.

      As well, each district will have a “local committee” with a similar composition as the internal committees. These will be the go-to places for complainants whose workplaces don’t have an internal committee (workplaces which have less than ten employees), or if the complaint is against the employer himself.

      Once a complaint is made to whichever committee is applicable, the committee will have full-blown judicial powers to summon people and order the discovery and production of documents, at par with an ordinary civil court.

      If the committee finds the complaint valid, it also has the powers to lay out recommendations on compensation and relief as it deems “necessary and appropriate”.

      The bill dubs the committee’s conclusions as “recommendations”, but these are legally binding and there are penalties for non-compliance.

      Of course, it is possible to appeal the recommendations.

      Under Section 16, the privacy of the complainant, witness(es) and the respondent (accused) is legally protected until the recommendations are delivered:

      “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Right to Information Act, 2005, the contents of the complaint made under section 9, the identity and addresses of the aggrieved woman, respondent and witnesses, any information relating to conciliation and inquiry proceedings, recommendations of the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, and the action taken by the employer or the District Officer under the provisions of this Act shall not be published, communicated or made known to the public, press and media in any manner:”

      Even after the event, the matter can be reported only if the identity of the complainant and witnesses is not revealed in any way:

      “information may be disseminated regarding the justice secured to any victim of sexual harassment under this Act without disclosing the name, address, identity or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the aggrieved woman and witnesses.”

      There is no restriction on naming the respondent at this point, whether he is innocent or guilty. The thinking, I suppose was that a guilty person ought not to be protected, while an innocent person should be allowed to clear his name publicly.

      During the course of the inquiry, the complainant can be granted temporary relief by the court if it is deemed necessary:

      “(1) During the pendency of inquiry, on a written request made by the aggrieved woman, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, may recommend to the employer to—

      (a) transfer the aggrieved woman or the respondent to any other workplace; .
      (b) grant leave to the aggrieved woman; or
      (c) grant such other relief to the aggrieved woman as may be prescribed.

      (2) The leave granted to the aggrieved woman under this section shall be in addition to
      the leave she would be entitled to otherwise if the case is proved

      The most interesting part, I think, is that a repeat offense by an employer would result in at least double the punishment that he was given the first time round:

      “If any employer, after having been previously convicted of an offence punishable under this Act subsequently commits and is convicted of the same offence, he shall be liable to—

      (i) twice the punishment, which might have been imposed on a first conviction, subject to the punishment being maximum provided for the same offence:

      Provided that in case a higher punishment is prescribed under any other law for the time being in force, for the offence for which the accused is being prosecuted, the court shall take due cognizance of the same while awarding the punishment.

      (ii) cancellation, of his licence or withdrawal, or non-renewal, or approval, or cancellation of the registration, as the case may be, by the Government or local authority required for carrying on his business or activity.

      But just so people don’t go overboard, there are relatively harsh penalties for frivolous complaints.

      All offenses under the act are non-cognizable, which means that the police cannot register an FIR or make any arrests for any of the offenses listed under the act, unless a court specifically orders them to – a necessary step, I suppose, for not making the whole thing too draconian.

      As far as corporates are concerned, I can confidently say that none of the penalties are necessary. If a guy was held guilty on some sort of sexual harassment charge, his career would be FINISHED. No one would touch him with a ten foot pole.
      Of course, since the offenses are non-cognizable, such a person would not be required to reveal the fact that he has been found guilty of sexual harassment charges, but word gets around.

      Obviously, the same assumptions don’t apply to a sugar mill in some rural backwater, so the penalties would be important there.

      Overall, they’ve done a good job.

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      • High respects PT!. Thank you for time and patience in commenting and educating us not just this post, many before and many more to come!
        //As far as corporates are concerned, I can confidently say that none of the penalties are necessary. If a guy was held guilty on some sort of sexual harassment charge, his career would be FINISHED. No one would touch him with a ten foot pole.// at this, thought of Phaneesh Murthy. iGate is flourishing. so not always true eh!

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        • No worries.

          This – reading through bills, keeping track of legislation, clarifying it – is really one of the more enjoyable parts of law.

          The drudgery starts when you actually have to work with one of these Acts.😉

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        • Oh, and about Murthy, he was never actually found guilty, as far as I know. He settled the matter out of court.

          But remember, guys like him are exceedingly rare. Phaneesh Murthy is the poster boy of Indian IT in the US and he has had a career that is by all accounts exceptionally brilliant.

          He was forced to leave Infosys, because of the controversy. But when you’re that good, you can sometimes absorb certain black marks on your record, especially if there is some doubt in the case. The vast majority of people don’t have that capability, and most corporates today are very sensitive to being seen as male-dominated, or as places where women are not welcome.

          At my workplace, my own performance appraisals have, for the last couple of years, included points for boosting gender diversity at entry and mid level positions. Since this cannot be achieved by actually preferring females in recruitment (we still have to take in the best quality people), one of the key ways to do it is to foster an environment within my own chain of hierarchy that is more comfortable to women, and to be sensitive to their needs and issues, so that more women find it a good place to work. Minimizing sexual harassment is a priority, and considering that a lot of peoples’ pay is now linked to this, I don’t doubt that we will see better, ingenuous solutions sooner rather than later.

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      • Thanks a bunch for the detailed explanation, PT. This is probably the first bill/law that I have a detailed understanding of.🙂

        So self-employed women (domestic workers who don’t have agencies, for instance) have a local district-level committee they can go to.

        I hope they take out PSAs to educate people about this law once it’s approved.

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        • Well, it’s a good idea to read through the latest bills and such which are reported in the media. The government provides these online for a reason.

          One thing most people don’t know about the legislative process in India is the fact that the government actually INVITES public comment on bills before they are passed to the parliament. If your recommendation makes sense, it could end up being enshrined in the laws of the country. You don’t have to be a lawyer to do this, or write in legal language. Ideas matter, and everyone is welcome. Many NGOs, civil society groups and legal collectives do this on a routine basis.

          MoWCD has a good record with PSAs. I don’t know if you remember the “bell bajao” campaign they began after the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. It was quite a nice concept.

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  7. This is definitely a move in the right direction. Bills on sexual harassment at the workplace and child protection were long overdue. A couple of questions though

    I haven’t had the time to read through the link transcript but would like to know if the child protection bill introduces the concept of mandatory reporting for professionals who come into contact with children?
    and
    Does the bill against sexual harassment have a provision where the victim can sue the harasser and employer for compensation in civil court?

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    • First Question : Yes, and reporting is mandatory for everyone, not just certain professionals. The section is a bit too long to post in full, but the crux is that every person (including the child) who “apprehends that an offense under this Act is likely to be committed” or has knowledge of such an offense being committed is mandated to report it at the earliest.

      For the full details, see Section 19 (first section in chapter V) of the child protection bill.

      Second Question: No. BUT the committees which are formulated to investigate the complaint, will have most of the powers of a civil court as long as the inquiry continues. They have full powers to summon people, order the production of documents, and generally investigate the case “as prescribed”. If they find in favor of the complainant, they are empowered to lay out legally binding recommendations for compensation and relief (which would primarily be paid out via deductions in the guilty person’s salary).

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      • While I agree with the bill where it says that anyone with knowledge of abuse is supposed to report it, the thing is most of the abuse that happens, happens behind closed doors and in an environment that it supposed to be the safest place for the child to be in like home, school or daycare. And the worst part is that the abuser, 8 out of 10 times is a person who is known to the child.

        Also many people are not trained to recognize symptoms of child abuse, for instance an abused child can display symptoms of extreme aggressiveness or be withdrawn. It sometimes takes trained eyes to recognize these symptoms. That is why mandating people who work with children like teachers, doctors, social workers and childcare providers as mandatory reporters of child abuse and levying penalties for failure to report abuse is so important.

        I work with victims of domestic violence as a volunteer and in my state domestic violence counselors are also mandated child abuse reporters, and if there was a situation where there was reasonable cause to suspect abuse physical, emotional or sexual and I fail to report it, then I could be facing jail terms between 10 days to 5 years and a fine of up to $10000. I am also liable in civil court for the damages I may have caused by my failure to report the abuse.

        But since this is a step in the right direction, in the journey to protect children from abuse and to punish those guilty of it, I welcome it whole heartedly and hope this bill becomes law soon.

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  8. Words are very powerful and the words we use are important.
    I find the term “eve-teasing” to be highly offensive, a rather light-hearted, sweet-sounding term for a devastating action.
    It needs to be retired from the Indian vocabulary, along with “dishonoured” for “raped.”

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    • The term dishonored is a laughable euphemism for raped. Rape is an act of force against a person’s body. It has nothing to do with honor. You’re totally right.

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  9. About sexual harrassment in the workplace — I’m not sure if Indian companies really take it seriously.

    Most do not walk the talk, IME.

    Many years ago, I worked for IBM India on an FTH contract and reported to a fifty-something manager who would make inappropriate comments to the two single women on the team (self included), and would invite us home for dinner, ask to meet in the cafeteria for lunch, coffee etc.

    Both of us complained twice to the HR representative attached to our team. Her response: “Improve your performance and productivity if you wanted your complaint to be taken seriously.”

    The second time we complained, she unofficially informed the manager of our complaint.

    He started finding fault with our work, made our work-lives difficult, and we realised that it was time to leave before things worsened.

    This is IBM, with all their talk about diversity and a woman-friendly workplace.

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    • I agree that firms themselves do not always walk the talk on protecting employees from harassment. They may not hire people who are “tainted”, but they may not do much to prevent it within their own ranks either.

      That’s exactly why formalized procedures and protocols are so important, and it is also why it’s very important that employees know BEFOREHAND the right people to contact in case they face this sort of trouble.

      The kind of thing you’re talking about is the stuff of nightmares for higher management. You don’t want harassment to slip under the radar, resulting in your firm slowly getting a reputation as a bad employer from pure word of mouth. You want things to be out in the open, so that you can do something about it. Mostly, it’s not that no one in the firm cares about sexual harassment. The problem is that the people who do care, and whose job it is to prevent it, never get to hear about it. It is suppressed by HR and middle management who are traditionally appraised on things like team performance, and don’t want to get caught up in an “incident”.

      In very large organizations, your local management may not always reflect the culture of the company. If you have literally thousands of managers, and thousands of HR employees, it’s very hard to keep track of exactly what kind of culture each one is fostering. There are rotten people everywhere.

      What a firm needs to do is develop and implement robust, credible protocols that allow employees to report their issues without fear of further harassment, make sure that each worker knows how to utilize these protocols, and to create an environment where it is clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated – from anyone.

      And having said all that, I’m frankly astonished that a firm like IBM had such a horrendously inadequate system for reporting harassment. This is the sort of rookie stuff you expect from some noveau-rich regional pizza chain, not a Fortune 500 company with half a million employees and decades of experience managing branches all over the world. Truly a sad commentary.

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      • PT, several factors were responsible for this.

        First, I was on an FTH (intention-to-hire)
        contract, so I wasn’t really a permanent employee.

        Second, the way the team was structured, the HR representative also worked closely with the people manager, so had a stake in not antagonising him.

        However, I do think that large organisations like IBM fail to ensure that global policies percolate to the level of individual teams and regional offices.

        Like you say, there’s a disconnect between stated policies and actual implementation.

        I realised this when an email I’d sent to the sexual harrassment taskforce bounced back. The email ID was an invalid one!

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      • //In very large organizations, your local management may not always reflect the culture of the company. If you have literally thousands of managers, and thousands of HR employees, it’s very hard to keep track of exactly what kind of culture each one is fostering. There are rotten people everywhere.//

        This is why education, awareness and training plays an important role. It shouldn’t matter how big or small the company is, everyone should have to play by the rules and follow protocol.

        Also sexual harassment at the in the Indian offices of MNCs is very common. I used to work for a multinational many many years ago and there was this person who we had recruited from a different team as a DBA. Although he wasn’t a manager or boss, he was someone who had more work experience, and was older than most people on the team. This coupled with the way he used to act so gentlemanly made him real popular with everyone and very respected.

        He was never happy in our team and was always looking for projects where he could move to the USA and when he got one, on the day that he was supposed to move he came to work to say goodbye, called me to his cubicle on the pretext of discussing something work related and asked to touch my face and said that I should send him pictures of myself.

        I was stunned and did not know what to do, by the time I could gather enough courage during the day to report it to our boss who was a lady, he was gone from work. Although my boss sympathized with me, she actually did not report this matter to the HR and advised me against it too. She said that I will be putting myself on their radar unnecessarily and that they would view me as a trouble maker, which would in turn not be good for someone who had just started her career.

        I know IHM doesn’t approve of bad language and violence, but I wish I had enough courage to tell the old coot that I would have loved to touch his face with my fist and his balls with my boot.

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        • Absolutely Desi Woman, I agree.

          I think, Indian MNCs like to have impressive sounding policies and protocols on paper.

          Somehow, however, there is a tacit understanding that you shouldn’t “rock the boat” or “create trouble”.

          I remember, IBM had all these “Zero Tolerance for Sexual Harrassment” posters all over the pantry and the women’s restroom.

          The email address on those posters was an invalid one!🙂

          That said, I think senior management has a crucial role to play in shaping organisational culture.

          I work for a mid-sized IT services company now and have found a significant difference in the work culture here compared to other IT majors like IBM.

          The management team is fairly proactive and committed to having an inclusive workplace and it shows in the organisation’s overall culture and hiring policies.

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  10. I am happy we have reached this point, yet theres a hesitation in my celebration. I am going to wait for it to be implemented, then open the Champagne.

    Thank you PT for explanations of what the law entails. It feels less indimidating to know what to expect when you read everything in Law Jargon.

    Like

  11. Pingback: India might finally get proper laws against sexual harassment, instead of just “eve-teasing” | No Workplace Violence

  12. These laws are necessary, but their ambits are scary. Sexual harassment is a crime that must never be tolerated. Cases must be investigated quickly and once guilt is proven, punishment must be swift and appropriate.

    I do have a problem with the words ‘hostile work environment.’ How do we define it? In 1991, a 60-year old professor was charged with sexual harassment because he was ‘staring too long’ at women in a swimming pool. He was wearing a snorkel mask at that time. It’s possible that this man was guilty, but what does ‘too long’ mean?

    At the University of Pittsburgh, a student painted a woman drawing in a pool of semen. He actually wanted to symbolize the victimization of women by male desire. He was charged with sexual harassment by an all-female panel.

    There have been many cases of men caught urinating in public who were charged with exposing themselves and put on the sex-offenders’ registry for life. Imagine that on every job application. Imagine all your neighbors knowing about it.

    I understand these examples are not from India, but I state them to make a point. A charge of sexual harassment is a guaranteed conviction in the mind of the public, even if the defendant is acquitted. We must be very careful in defining these terms.

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  13. Pingback: Here’s why a 6-year-old rape survivor was ordered to marry alleged rapist’s 8 year old son. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  14. Pingback: Should Lawyers ML Sharma and AP Singh be disbarred for their remarks and opinions expressed in the documentary India’s Daughter? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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