Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Resource Person: Anushree (Rondine Twist)

Date: Thursday 11th January 2018

Time: 10 am to 11:30 am

Venue: E-learning studio

Attendees: Ammachi Labs faculty and staff


Anushree has been working as an attorney since 2002, in New York,  Belize, South Africa, and in the Caribbeans, for law firms and NGOs. Anushree’s other specialty is philosophy studies. She conducted a 90 min. faculty development program on the prevention of workplace sexual harassment to the staff of Ammachi Labs on January 11th, 2018.

Content of the Presentation:

What is Sexual Harassment?

Any of the following (directly or by implication) shall mean sexual harassment: (1) Physical contact and advances; (2) A demand or request for sexual favors; (3) Making sexually colored remarks; (4) Showing pornography; (5) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Any of the following circumstances may also amount to sexual harassment: (1) Implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in the victim’s employment; (2) Implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in the victim’s employment; (3) Implied or explicit threat about the victim’s present or future employment status; (4) Interference with the victim’s work or creating a hostile work environment for her; and (5) Humiliating treatment likely to affect the victim’s health or safety.

Sexual Abuse/Assault and Rape

Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual activity, using force, making threats, or taking advantage of authority over victims. Assault means that it is immediate, short in duration, and infrequent.

The definition of 'rape' in India was broadened in 2013. It includes acts like penetration of penis, or any object or part of the body to any extent, into the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of another person or making another person do so. The age of consent in India has been increased to 18 years for women, which means that any sexual activity, irrespective of consent with a woman below the age of 18, will constitute statutory rape.

Prevention of Workplace Sexual Harassment Act

It is India’s first law specifically addressing the issue of workplace sexual harassment and was enacted in December 2013 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The objective of the act is protecting women against sexual harassment at the workplace and for the effective redress for complaints of sexual harassment. The act is also valid at the ‘extended workplace,’  which includes any place visited by the employee during the course of employment.

Moreover, the employer is required to set up an ‘Internal Complaints Committee’  (“ICC”) at each office or branch of an organization employing 10 or more employees, to hear grievances pertaining to sexual harassment. At the district level, the government is required to set up a ‘local complaints committee’ (“LCC”) to investigate complaints of sexual harassment from the unorganized sector or from establishments where the ICC has not been constituted on account of the establishment having less than 10 employees or if the complaint is against the employer.

Other Laws Pertaining to Sexual Harassment

Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act: Sexual harassment is specifically included in the list of acts constituting ‘misconduct.’

Indian Penal Code (Crimes): Rape, outraging the modesty of a woman, sexual harassment by a man, assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe, voyeurism, stalking, insulting the modesty of a woman

Privacy under Prevention of Workplace Sexual Harassment Act

The complaint and connected information must be kept confidential. The act allows the dissemination of information pertaining to the case for investigation purposes, without disclosing any particulars which could result in the identification of the complainant or the witnesses.

Outcome of the Presentation:

At the end of the session, Anushree initiated a discussion on the prevention of sexual harassment occurring at the workplace. The participants learned valuable tips, such as:

  • Avoid charges of sexual harassment: Keep business and pleasure separate unless there is clear mutual consent; Treat all colleagues the same way (with respect); Focus on colleagues’ work, not their looks; Focus on business success, professionalism, and professional growth; Visualize what BC/AMMA/your parents/spouse would think/say if you crossed the line; Be mindful of other people’s personal space.
  • Avoid being sexual harassed: Be clear and assertive; Expect to be treated seriously; Don’t send mixed signals; Speak up for yourself; Be the lion, not the lamb; Put it in writing; Avoid persons who may be threats; Do not make eye contact or smile or behave friendly with strange men; Modesty is the answer sometimes; Report it before it goes too far.
  • Avoid rape: Be aware of your surroundings at all times; Exercise prudence – but don't have a “blame the victim” mentality; Don’t drink alcohol or do drugs; Don't leave your drink unattended; Be with your friends; Have a buddy system; Be assertive; No means no; Keep personal information private; Always keep your phone charged; Learn self-defense.

In order to assess the knowledge gain of the participants, Anushree had conducted the following quiz before and after her presentation:

Sexual Harassment Quiz (True or False?)

  1. Sexual harassment is not just physical contact. It can occur any time that a woman is uncomfortable with another person’s approaches, comments or discussions.  TRUE
  2. Terms of endearment with co-workers, such as "honey," "dear" can be considered verbal sexual harassment. TRUE
  3. Women in professional jobs (teachers, lawyers, engineers, doctors, etc.) are not as likely to be sexually harassed as women in blue-collar jobs (factory workers, laborers, etc.) FALSE
  4. Sexual harassment complaints are generally false or unjustified. FALSE
  5. Due to strict privacy laws, supervisors cannot monitor employee email. FALSE
  6. Friendly flirting is not sexual harassment when flirting is practiced between mutually consenting individuals who are equal in power or authority. TRUE
  7. Women can create hostile working environments for other women. TRUE
  8. If she didn’t like the sexual attention, but he meant it only as flirting or joking, then it was not sexual harassment. FALSE
  9. Sexual harassment can occur outside the worksite and still be considered work-related. TRUE
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