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Most sexual harassment at workplace in Nagaland goes unreported, says official

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By Henlly Phom Odyuo Updated: Sep 18, 2021 9:29 pm
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Our Reporter
Dimapur, Sep. 18 (EMN):
A discourse on sexual harassment at workplaces in Nagaland brought to light the subject that is less discussed, ignored and considered not worth mentioning with no awareness on it. 

A webinar on “sexual harassment in the workplaces in Nagaland context” was held on Saturday with an aim to bring out four perspectives — police, legal, medical, women welfare — to help identify and enable individuals of all genders to be aware, acknowledge and take responsibilities of one’s own actions towards one another.

The webinar was hosted by North East Institute of Social Science and Research in collaboration with Prodigal’s Home and Miqlat Ministry.

State co-ordinator of State Resource Centre for Women Nagaland, Gracy Aye said that although the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report indicates declining trend of sexual harassment or violence in the state, data from One Stop Centres showed otherwise. ‘The NCRB data was not a reflection of the ground reality and moreover we have our customary law/court in place,’ she said.

 “If we look at the official data, it is not relevant as there are many cases where a victim or a well-wisher comes and share their experiences although they do not want to report them,” she shared.

Most of the sexual harassment at workplace in the state goes unreported as the victim is scared to report; some ignore the subject and some even fail to identify the subject, Aye underlined.

Sexual harassment, she said, is not a battle of sexes but it needed a larger section to start a campaign and urged the public to speak up if people around them was a victim or an abuser ‘as ignorance can be dangerous’.

IGP IR BN Sonia Singh shared that the feeling of being labelled, especially in Nagaland, held people back from reporting cases as it is a close-knit society, although the victims approached the One Stop Centre. The police, she said, have a bigger role as reporting and the approach equally matter. 

‘Our aim is to see if the organisations or the implementing agencies are working in place; see if the victim is getting justice, while our aim is not to tamper the laws,’ Singh said.

Advocate Thejavino Pienyu defined sexual harassment as an act of physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; a demand or request for sexual favours; showing pornography against the will of a woman/man or making sexually coloured remarks.

However, Pienyu said that 90% of the workplace harassment is never officially reported, and in Nagaland, there is no reported case of sexual harassment at workplaces.

The advocate explained that verbal/written harassment include comments about clothing, personal behaviour or a person’s body; sexual or sex-based jokes; requesting sexual favours or repeatedly asking a person out; sexual innuendos; spreading rumours about a person’s personal or sexual life; threatening a person; and sending emails or text messages of a sexual nature.

A non-verbal /visual harassment is an act of looking up and down a person’s body; derogatory gestures or facial expressions of a sexual nature; following a person; displaying or showing someone posters, drawings, pictures, screensavers, emails or texts of a sexual nature, he stated.

The legal provisions related to sexual offences available as per the advocate are: Sexual Harassment Of Women at Workplace, 2013 (Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan, 1997); Section 354, IPC “Outraging the modesty of woman”; Section 354 A IPC “Sexual harassment”; Section 354 C IPC “Voyerism”; and Section 354 D IPC “Stalking”. 

Christian Institute of Health Sciences and Research (CIHSR) Nursing Superintendent Prof. A Purnungla Aier said that the institute had constituted an “Internal Complaints Committee” in 2013 known as the ICC. This policy, she said, was framed to meet the requirements of the enactment of “The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act 2013” to extend the prohibition of any form of sexual harassment among the employees with each other or with the other stakeholders.

‘CIHSR believes that all its employees should work in an environment free from sexual harassment and is committed to providing such a safe environment,’ the professor said.

Further, Aier said that the ICC was constituted by the director with five members headed by a presiding officer, who would be a woman employed at a senior level, for the purpose of investigation and settling all complaints related with sexual harassment

“ICC is a body envisaged to receive complaints on sexual harassment at the workplace from an aggrieved woman as well as to inquire into and make recommendations to the employer on the action required pursuant to its inquiry of such complaint made,” Aier explained.

The key elements of workplace sexual harassment, she said, were that it is sexual, unwelcome; the experience is subjective; it is the impact and not the intent; it almost always occurs in a matrix of power; and it is possible that a woman may experience a single instance of sexual harassment or a series of incidents over a period of time.

‘It is the responsibility of an organisation to have a mandatory constitution for every workplace to have an ICC that would play a critical role in prevention, prohibition and redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace,’ she stated.

 The ICC, she said, would take up responsibility to establish an effective internal complaints procedure.

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By Henlly Phom Odyuo Updated: Sep 18, 2021 9:29:46 pm