Tackling sexual harassment is increasingly becoming the focal point of addressing women’s issues in India. Government and the social sector are waking up to the fact that it is a serious crime and that they should deal with it firmly. Yet, the lack of solutions and implementation is concerning. Recent data by the social welfare department reveals that in Tamil Nadu only 1,317 of the several lakh Internal Complaints Committees to fight cases of sexual abuse in the workplace have developed mechanism to focus on the issue.
Social welfare department officials believe that companies may have ICC but the state has information of only about 1,300 centres that implement the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act. Interestingly, 98% of these centres are in the organised sector
The 2013 Act says that companies with 10 or more employees should have ICC and non-compliance of this rule can lead to fine of Rs. 50,000 against the owner. It has directed the companies with less than 10 employees to the Local Complaints Committee (LCC) controlled by the District Collector. Both the ICC and LCC are required to submit an annual report to the employer and the District Social Welfare Officer (DSWO).
“Companies say they do report incidents to the DSWO, but letters have returned undelivered and there is poor government monitoring.”
“It is only recently that companies have begun informing about the formation of the internal committee,” said an official in the department. She added that the government sends out advertisement in a gap of every four months urging companies to establish an ICC.
“Companies say they do report incidents to the DSWO, but letters have returned undelivered and there is poor government monitoring,” said the official.
The Social Welfare Department’s recent report to the centre reveals that since 2015, LCC and ICC have reported 83 cases of sexual harassment at the workplace. However, these setups have not revealed the status of these cases.
Sexual harassment goes beyond asking or demanding sexual favours by colleagues. Showing pornography, groping, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature and sexual contact also come under the same offence.
The WCD ministry has recently launched an online complaint management system — Sexual Harassment Electronic Box (She-Box) — for registering complaints. To have a physical form of redressal against this issue, they have also built 16 information centres in collectorates across TN to offer guidance to women.