Bold rise in workplace harassment cases

These cases have involved employees across the board right from entry level to CXO category.

Bangalore: The past six months have seen a drastic rise in number of sexual harassment cases reported from the Indian workplaces.

The reporting of such incidents, from October last year, has gone up by 70 per cent and 20 per cent of these are the old cases, happened 2 to 6 years ago. These cases have involved employees across the board right from entry level to CXO category. Also, over 90 per cent of the complainants were women who mobilized courage to flag/report an issue after the #MeToo Campaign, as per a recent analysis conducted by InterWeave Consulting, a Bangalore-based firm that works with hundreds of IT and non IT large enterprises across the country in the areas of gender diversity, inclusion and safe work practices.

Interestingly, the majority of these incidents took place during the office parties, work dinners and team outings and not at the work floor areas. Most men interrogated expressed they were cool about what they did as the women did not protest. Some women said they were drunk in an office party thinking they would be safe but were exploited by managers and male colleagues. Spiking the drink is a very common practice in office parties and in most cases women are the targets, says the analysis.

InterWeave founder and managing director Nirmala Menon said, “There is a lot of confusion and lack of clarity around consent. Men take silence or absence of strong, vocal protest as green signal. Women usually respond based on their socio-cultural inclinations. Frowning, walking away and other nuances of saying “no” are misconstrued as silent permissions. This lack of understanding is the trigger for many such sexual abuse cases in work places in our country.”

The study that consulted the hundreds of such cases found that 30 per cent of the men wondered why women made such a hue and cry about something “friendly” or “jovial”. Some of the incidents involved seemingly small things like calling names, ridiculing someone’s dressing, pulling or pushing someone to the dance floor or forcing someone to consume alcohol.

“A lot of men take advantage and any woman will know when a touch is not friendly and decent. I stopped attending team building parties to avoid such helpless situations,’’ says Keerthana Rghavav, a techie.

FC reached out to Keerthana’s manager, who doesn’t want to be named, said, “A lot of nonsensical behavior gets pushed under the carpet at work places. In most cases, the harassment or exploitation is discreet and happens in office parties and offsite events. It may be taking place in front of many people but no one, except predator and prey, will know about it. That’s the dicey part of it.”

Next Story