Updated: Dec 17, 2019
The #MeToo campaign has swept India last year and as the campaign which got started from social media and later got the attention of news channels and the lawmakers, it also acted as a trigger for thousands of women, to raise their voice against the sexual harassment they faced at their work. This movement has brought a deluge of allegations and was not only limited to a few companies but also included several high-profile and powerful men from Bollywood, the media, corporations, and government.
After liberalization, sustained high economic growth in India has brought significant change to the lives of women, and yet female labor force participation has stagnated at under 30%, and recent labor surveys even suggest some decline since 2005. Sadly, the reality is that the majority of women who have encountered harassment will not – or cannot – come forward and voice their stories of victimization.
The question is, what are corporations doing to regulate this issue? Are there any mechanism in place or do the corporations have any guidelines which can guide victims in such cases? According to the survey conducted by EY, around 69% of the respondents had constituted ICCs ( Internal Complaints Committees) in their organizations after the enactment of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013. The results of the survey also indicated that over a quarter (27%) of the large companies and half the small and medium companies that were surveyed were not compliant with the act though. An alarming 40% of the respondents are yet to train their ICC members, although the Act specifically mandates this.
Informal workers - women employed as domestic workers, construction labor, garment workers and vendors - make up 94% of India's female workforce. But their experiences of sexual harassment or assault rarely come to light. Sadly, the reality is that the majority of women who have encountered harassment will not – or cannot – come forward and voice their stories of victimization and #MeToo has been just led by urban, educated and privileged women.