The top 50 companies (in terms of market valuation) in India reported a 10.3% increase in the number of sexual harassment complaints filed by their female employees in 2016-17 from that in the previous year.
Of these companies, those in the banking sector (besides the IT sector) registered the highest number of sexual harassment cases (as per data disclosed in their annual reports) in that year.
When it comes to companies complying with their redressal duties under the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013, this increase in number of sexual harassment cases registered does look like a positive sign.
However, as most of the sexual harassment data disclosed by these companies is only linked to the redressal stage of the issue, the question we must not fail to ask is: are the banks in India doing enough to prevent and prohibit this matter from reaching the redressal stage at their workplaces in the first place?
As per the requirements of the law, the annual report of every company (with 10 or more employees) in the country must contain the following:
- Number of sexual harassment cases received in the year.
- Number of complaints disposed off during the year.
- Number of cases pending for more than 90 days.
- Number of workshop/awareness programmes against sexual harassment carried out.
- Nature of action taken by employer or district officer.
Yet, many companies offer zero to limited information on how they’re preventing or prohibiting sexual harassment at their workplace. They are, however, more generous when it comes to providing information on how they are redressing the issue.
Here is the sexual harassment data disclosed in the 2016-17 business responsibility/annual reports of the top 5 private banks (in terms of market valuation) in the country in that year.
Of course, in a country where 36% of Indian companies and 24% MNCs in the country do not meet even the basic requirements of the sexual harassment law (source: FICCI – EY 2015 report), it’s natural to glorify even the slightest degree of compliance.
Yet, the truth is sexual harassment is not just a compliance issue, it’s a human rights violation that can have a long-lasting and extremely debilitating impact on its victims and their surroundings.
Several studies also show that sexual harassment can make its victims mentally and physically sick, completely unproductive and even suicidal.
Considering the negative impact that sexual harassment at the workplace can have on individuals (not just women but men as well), their employers, society and the economy in general, we must not settle for anything but zero tolerance of this serious human rights violation.
So, instead of only highlighting the number of cases they have received and resolved in a year, companies must focus on making every effort towards preventing and prohibiting any sexual harassment case at their workplaces from occurring at all.
Employers that neglect these aspects of emotional intelligence related to empathy and self-regulation in their businesses may end up repelling good talent, hurting their brand image and even their global appeal in the long run.
Moreover, when employers understand that addressing sexual harassment is not just a matter of being compliant with the law but ensuring the safety of their employees (irrespective of gender) and business, they can build a brand that is respected, trusted, remembered and loved.
Be.artsy India—a for-profit social enterprise founded in 2010—uses a combination of art, technology and emotional intelligence to design and execute programmes and campaigns that help organisations not just redress but successfully prevent and prohibit sexual harassment at their workplaces.
So far, we have successfully executed Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) programmes/trainings/workshops/campaigns for clients such as PepsiCo India, Amex, and Airtel.
Our POSH campaign ‘Mind Bugs’ for PepsiCo India even won the company’s prestigious Harvey C Russell Inclusion Award.
For further information, please contact Shikha Mittal, Founder-Director, Be.artsy India at: [email protected]