By Somrita Ghosh
The government-run Sexual Harassment Electronic box (SHe-Box) has received 34 complaints from various ministries, 19 from various States, and 25 from private organizations since the online portal was launched seven months ago. The maximum number of grievances have come from the Ministry of Communications.
In reply to an RTI application by IANS, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) said it was taking action in response to the 77 complaints of sexual harassment by women at their work places. The portal, launched in July last year to provide single-window access to working women to register complaints related to sexual harassment at work places, was initially limited to only government sector employees. It was however expanded to the private sector from November last year.
Within three months, 25 women working in different private organizations registered sexual harassment complaints. The WCD Ministry, mandated to run the portal and act on complaints, has received grievances from three of its own employees, according to the RTI reply. It said eight complaints were received from the Communications Ministry followed by four from the Commerce and Industry Ministry. Three cases each have been received from the ministries of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Defence, Fince and Railways. Two complaints each have been registered by women working with the ministries of Health, Human Resources Development and Rural Development. One woman in the Exterl Affairs Ministry has also registered a sexual harassment case on the SHe box.
According to the WCD Ministry, women working with different government departments in 13 States have also complained of sexual harassment. The maximum number of four cases have been received from Kerala, three from Bihar while two are from Telanga. One case each has been registered from Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Odisha, Maharashtra, Punjab, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
The online portal was launched as part of the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act to create a safe and secure workplace for women free from sexual harassment. The registration of online complaints requires the complaint to fill in information like her me, desigtion, cellphone number, email, Aadhaar number and contact details of the organization and head of the organization, as well as the me of the offender.
Complaints filed with the interl committee of these organizations can also be re-routed through this portal. Once a complaint is submitted, it goes to the Interl Complaint Committee (ICC) concerned or Local Complaint Committee (LCC) constituted under the act. Through this portal, the WCD Ministry as well as complaint can also monitor the status of complaints. However, a large number of sexual harassment cases at workplaces in India are not reported. According to a 2017 survey by the Indian tiol Bar Association, of the 6,047 participants 38 per cent said they had faced harassment at their workplaces but 69 per cent of the respondents did not complain about it.
The main reasons for not reporting the sexual harassment cases include fear of losing jobs, stigma and long-winding procedures in the legal battle for redressal of the complaints. (IANS)
(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)