New Delhi: The Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) Monday called upon media houses to establish institutional mechanisms to redress complaints of sexual harassment. Expressing concern over the spate of instances of sexual harassment faced by women journalists, the IWPC urged them to take recourse to the redressal system to have their grievances addressed.
“The IWPC extends its support to all the women journalists and women employees in the media who have faced sexual harassment by their co-workers and superiors and have had the courage to speak out. “The fact that many of the complaints have gone unheard despite being brought to the notice of the appropriate authorities is disturbing and a matter of grave concern,” IWPC president TK Rajalakshmi said in a statement.
Following Hollywood’s #MeToo movement, which has seen several women there having spoken out about sexual harassment faced by them, many people are referring to actress Tanushree Dutta’s statement on Nana Patekar as the beginning of a similar campaign in Bollywood.
Dutta has accused Patekar of behaving inappropriately with her on the sets of a film called ‘Horn Ok Please’ in 2008. Following her allegations, women across various spheres, including journalists, have taken to social media narrating their ordeal. Patekar’s lawyer has sent a legal notice to Dutta for allegedly making false accusations against him in an incident that dates back to a decade. “I said this 10 years ago… a lie is a lie,” the 67-year-old actor had said.
Rajalakshmi said, “It is also reflective of a systemic malaise where despite the enactment of the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, the committees required to address these complaints and grievances are either not properly constituted or simply do not exist.”
The IWPC pointed out that all media organisations have a legal obligation to set up internal complaints committees in every branch office and disseminate information about what constitutes sexual harassment as well as the venues to seek redressal. “The phenomenon of many women journalists speaking out through the social media has arisen precisely because of either the absence or the abject failure of robust institutional grievance redress mechanisms that ought to have been readily available to the complainants in the first place.
“The emphasis, within the Act, is on prevention rather than punitive action, therefore the measures for such prevention have to be in place as a matter of conscious organisational policy.
“There ought to be zero tolerance for any form of inappropriate behaviour towards women employees,” the statement said.
The IWPC also called for regular sensitisation of employees on what constitutes “welcome” and “unwelcome behaviour” as a prerequisite for a safe and secure work environment.
“Every woman employee has the right to work in an atmosphere free from any kind of harassment and hostility and employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety and security of women employees in particular,” the statement said. It has been recognised that such harassment has health, economic and social consequences apart from affecting the productivity of the aggrieved employee at the workplace, it said.
“Given the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the media, we demand that employers set up the institutional mechanisms mandated under the law so that every woman employee in every media organisation has recourse to redress as and when the occasion arises,” the statement said.