In yet another case of alleged sexual harassment at workplace, two foreign women interns have accused the bosses of Mumbai-based real estate company Xrbia of sexual harassment, unsolicited hugging, inappropriate touching. Architecture student Belkis Campos (23) from Caracas, Venezuela, and Houria from Morocco both came to intern at the firm under an AIESEC programme. While Houria came to India on 22 August and started working at the company, Campos arrived on 30 September to start internship.
Campos claims that except the two of them, the company had fired all other interns, which she felt was odd. In an interview with Firstpost, they explained in detail how both dealt with several instances of harassment by the bosses of the firm and also presented recorded conversation, which they took as evidences.
Houria revealed that the firm’s sales director Pritam Mutha repeatedly asked her to hug him. And even after she rebuffed him, he continued asking for sexual favours. According to her, not just him, but chairman Rahul Nahar also tried to coax her to sleep with Mutha despite knowing the fact that she did not have any interest in him. He reportedly told her that if she did not like Mutha, then she should leave the country and go back.
The two interns also spoke about how on October 4, four men from the firm, including — Nahar, vice-president (land) Akesh Bohra and Mutha— entered their company-allotted apartment when they were not in the house and started eating and drinking. She said that the men had access to their apartment and even asked them to go along with them to have ice cream.
“Normally when I (would) hear they are coming home, I’d start stressing out. I was traumatised. I had already asked him (Mutha) not to hug me or take my hand. So I waved ‘hi’. Mutha came to my bedroom and said, ‘Look what happened last week… I’m sorry, give me a hug’. I told him that I didn’t want to hug him anymore. He said, ‘You have to hug me’, and I was forced to hug him,” Houria recalled.
The men allegedly force the women to drink. When they locked themselves up in a room, the men knocked on their door and eventually asked the housemaid who had a key to open the door to their door.
“We were so afraid. They asked the cook’s wife, who had a key to my bedroom, to open the door. She did so and said Rahul was asking us to come out. It was a nightmare,” Houria said. Campos had a panic attack.
After the incident, they approached the Internal Control Board of AIESEC and AIESEC Pune team, who also allegedly did not handle the case appropriately. But they did get them transferred from the apartment to a hotel. They also forced them to sign an undertaking which said that they had no problem with the company (Xrbia) and were grateful for their hospitality.
“We were so afraid. They asked the cook’s wife, who had a key to my bedroom, to open the door. She did so and said Rahul was asking us to come out. It was a nightmare”
“I was being forced to negotiate with my aggressor and to sign a document that said that nothing had happened,” Campos said.
Nahar has categorically denied all the allegations and said that the recorded conversation were motivated allegations to malign the name.
Karteek Hoshangabade, the national president of AIESEC, said, “The company is where the harassment happened. I completely support the women and appreciate they have come forward. I myself met Belkis Campos with another woman from my team. In that meeting, it was clearly communicated that if she wants legal support we will give access to our national lawyers. They chose not to go ahead with AIESEC lawyers.”
“From our side, the company has been cut off our client list and we are more than happy to provide legal support to the women,” he added.