Implementation of Vishakha Guidelines is poor in state
The implementation of Vishakha Guidelines in any establishment in the state is just on paper, and in reality nobody is following it. I doubt if any of the companies have formed a committee as per the guidelines, or displaying the names of committee members and contact details anywhere on their premises. Even government concerns, hospitals and education institutes are least concerned to implement the guidelines. It is very important that establishments whether private or government, should make their women staff aware about the existing laws that safeguard them at workplace. How many working women know whom to contact in case of being a victim of sexual harassment at workplace. Maharashtra might be scoring over other states in the country as per NCW statistics because of work culture being different and better and quality of life and thinking slightly better than other states. However, it is not because of better implementation of Vishaka Guidelines, which in my opinion is very poor in the state. An open relationship among workplace colleagues is very important. An ideal workplace is where staff consider women colleagues as equal and not as sex objects.
—Shubha Shamim, general secretary, Working Women Coordination Committee, CITU
Women’s words are valued, their leadership is trusted in Pune
I agree with the NCW statistics. I am working in Pune since 2007 and this city has a rich heritage of women’s education. With its safety record and low crime record, the city has seen enthusiastic leadership in the initiative of Janwani (MCCIA) and recently in the commendable initiative of CII (called SEMAA) striving towards safe and equality-based workplace agenda. There is zero tolerance to gender atrocities and commendable proactive initiative by employers.Wherever the political will and clarity exist in leadership, it achieves more than the promise of Vishakha Guidelines. During my induction days, I was heartened to read the document in the early days of our university (five years before I joined) reiterating its commitment to implement these guidelines (this is in sharp contrast to my earlier student survey and work in another famous private university down south where the compliance was never even discussed as a theoretical issue and allegations of harassment boomeranged on the complainant). We practice values in ensuring large percentage of women leadership. Women’s words are valued, their leadership is trusted and appreciated. Besides creating practical conducive work conditions, there is huge symbolic and semantic wealth to rely on in Maharashtra . However, it might be worthwhile to check on ‘subtle’ side of ‘hostility’ which is not fully defined either in Guidelines or the Act, which is a challenge in organisations where women neither lead nor matter.
—Shashikala Gurpur, director, SLS
Most of sexual harassment complaints go unregistered
I don’t think Maharashtra is really a safe place for working women. If the state is safe, it shows how bad the other states are. Most of the complaints of sexual harassment at workplace go unregistered, so how can we say that the complaint record with NCW is all that it is and a real indicator. It is a point to note that everybody who face sexual harassment at workplace do not complain to NCW. We do not have the data of how many companies in the state are following Vishaka Guidelines and how many have formed the internal complaint committees. Just recently it has become binding for companies to follow the guidelines. Earlier, there were only the Supreme Court guidelines and not binding on establishments to follow. Besides, there are so many cases of workplace harassment we hear happening in Maharashtra, so how can we say the state provides safest workplace for working women.
—Kiran Moghe, India president, Janwadi Mahila Sanghatana
Many industrial units are yet to form women safety committees
Most of the working women who face sexual harassment at workplace do not register complaints, so naturally the number of women really registering complaints with any such cell in the state is very less. So the National Commission of Women (NCW) statistics of recorded complaints of sexual harassment at workplace should not be the only criteria, on which we should base our notion that Maharashtra state is a safer place for working women. I have been carrying out training on workplace harassment at Yashada, for government department samitis and have seen that government establishments have formed internal complaint committees for women staff. However, in the private sector there are hardly 10 companies that have bothered to form such internal complaint committees to safeguard their women staff from workplace sexual harassment. There are many establishments in industrial hubs like Chakan, Ranjangaon, MIDC areas, shopping malls and various other sectors, which have still not formed committees for their women workers’ safety. Due to this negligence, women have no clue where to complain in case they become a victim. Compared to other states we can say that Maharashtra scores good for having a little bit better workplace environment for women. As per law, now every organisation must form an internal complaint committee for their women staff. There should also be a local complaint committee at district level and a nodal officer appointed at every taluka, covering establishments which have less than 10 working staff.
—Lata Bhise Sonawne, Vishaka Guidelines expert & activist (women issues)
Their is no prevention and prohibition mechanism in place, forget redressal
I don’t think women really are safe at their workplace. First of all, security, which comes under law and order, is a state subject. The NCW figures could be just the tip of the iceberg as NCW is the last resort for women who don’t give up. Yes of course, Maharashtra might be doing better than states like UP and Rajasthan. We surveyed around 125 companies across the country, especially in Delhi NCR, Mumbai. Bangalore and Chennai; and around 120 of them have committees against sexual harassment. But their approach is more legal and not resolutional. The committee doesn’t have any power, especially against owners of the company. Their is no prevention and prohibition mechanism in place, forget redressal.
—Pankaj Sharma, chief trustee, Centre for Transforming India