Almost 17% of working women face sexual harassment

A recent survey has revealed that almost 17 per cent of working women in India are said to face sexual harassment at workplace, with incidence rates being high in both organised and unorganised sectors.

The opinion poll ‘Sexual Harassment at Workplaces in India 2011-2012’ was jointly conducted by Oxfam India and Social and Rural Research Institute, a wing of IMRB International, in cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Lucknow and Durgapur.

According to the report, most of these incidents of sexual harassment were non-physical. A total of 66 of the 400 respondents reported to have faced a cumulative of 121 incidents of sexual harassment. Out of the 121 incidents, 102 were reported to be non-physical, whereas the remaining 19 incidents were physical in nature. “While 87 percent of the general population and 93 percent of working women respondents reported awareness of sexual harassment at work place, majority of the victims did not resort to any formal action against the perpetrators. The top three industries that have emerged unsafe for women are labourers (29 percent), domestic helps (23 percent) and small scale manufacturing (16 percent),” the report revealed.

“It is shocking that 17 percent of working women face sexual harassment in workplaces as per the study. Each one of us has to take a stand and say no to violence against women’”, said Nisha Agrawal, CEO of Oxfam India. The report further said that a majority of women (both general population and working women) especially those belonging to the unorganised sector are more susceptible to sexual harassment due to lack of awareness of legislation. Interestingly, 26 percent reported to be the sole earning member of their families, indicating that economic vulnerability further makes women vulnerable to harassment at the workplace. Some of the reasons mentioned for not taking any action were ‘fear of losing the job’, ‘absence of any complaint mechanism at the workplace’, ‘fear of getting stigmatized’ and ‘unawareness of redressal mechanism’. The survey pointed that the Supreme Court (SC) guidelines on sexual harassment were known only to 17 percent of the women.

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