NEW DELHI: Just as the Cabinet approved a bill that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at workplaces, a survey by a non-governmental organisation has claimed that nearly 88 per cent of the female workforce in Indian Information Technology and business process outsourcing and knowledge process outsourcing (BPO/KPO) companies reported having suffered some form of workplace sexual harassment during the course of their work. Close to 50 per cent women had been subjected to abusive language, physical contact or been sought sexual favours from, it said.
The “Workplace Sexual Harassment Survey,” carried out by the Centre for Transforming India, a non-profit organisation in the Information Technology and BPO/KPO industries has brought out some startling revelations about the status of implementation of policies to prevent such harassment.
As many as 47 per cent employees did not know where to report, while 91 per cent did not report for fear of being victimised.
The survey covering 600 female employees working in IT and BPO industries across all the major IT destinations of India revealed that there exists poor awareness levels among female employees on the issue and a majority of female employees continued with their ordeal due to fear of professional victimisation. Another major finding was that more than 82 per cent of the incidents which could be classified as sexual incidents occurred outside the boundaries of the office and in nearly 72 per cent of the incidents the perpetrator was a superior.
Workplace sexual harassment has been emerging as a critical challenge for female employees working across industries, especially in the service sector. While the manufacturing industry is largely regulated in terms of its working environment, there exists little or no framework for reference of the service industry. Furthermore, the service industry faces a challenge of working 24×7 which entails working at odd hours for the female employees and also other professional and personal challenges.
The Information Technology and the Information Technology Enabled Services (IT/ITeS) industries were one of the first to develop some sort of policy framework to address such issues.
It was observed that 60 per cent of the respondents were not aware of the workplace sexual harassment policies of their organisations. Around 10 per cent were only partially aware. This was a hurdle in getting redressal.
Policies not publicised
Of all the respondents, 77 per cent stated that the details of sexual harassment policies were not part of their hiring process, while only 7 per cent stated that they could recollect some discussion about the topic either during their hiring process or later.