Here's how working women can avoid sexual harassment
Deccan Chronicle.| Swati Sharma
Working women, who fall prey to sexual harassment at workplaces can now avail of all the sahas' (courage) they need to put their harassers behind bars. (Representational image: Shutterstock)
Facing sexual harassment at the workplace and indifference from the internal committee for such issues in your organisation? Confused about how to proceed, whose advice to seek to bring your harasser to book? Well, you have only to reach out and find SAHAS.
Working women, who fall prey to sexual harassment at workplaces can now avail of all the ‘sahas’ (courage) they need to put their harassers behind bars. The Women Safety Wing (WSW) of the Telangana state police is all set to launch SAHAS — an initiative aimed at enhancing workplace safety for women across the state.
A first-of-its-kind initiative in the country is a giant leap in providing support and guidance to women to combat sexual harassment. And the most striking of its features is the one pertaining to internal committees to handle such cases. If a woman is facing a sexual harassment at her workplace and her complaint to the internal committee in her organisation is not being acted upon, the WSW or the SAHAS steering committee, will intervene and sensitize the employer on the need to take action as per law. If there is no such committee, the WSW will forward the woman’s complaint to the local committee dealing with such issues, chaired by the District Collector. And they will follow up on the status of the case. Also, importantly, if the victim wants to exercise her right to press charges under criminal law, she will be connected to the police station concerned.
"At WSW, we are very aware that our workplaces can be safe only with the active support of the lakhs of employers across the organized, MSME and informal sectors. SAHAS is also our big step to connect with them and strengthen their commitment to women’s safety in the workplace," senior IPS officer Shikha Goel tells Hyderabad Chronicle.
The SAHAS initiative, which is her brainchild, has a two-pronged agenda —strengthening the institutional ecosystem of support across organizations so that they can foster a culture of safety for women in their workplaces, and providing a guidance and support channel to women employees.
"Telangana is among the safest States in India, and has the largest percentage of working women in the country (NHFS 5, 2022 Data). About 93 per cent of the women work in non-agricultural sectors in the state. This is a testimony to the safety ecosystem already prevailing in the State," says Goel, who holds the rank of Additional DGP. She has roped in major industry bodies, NGOs, prominent lawyers and experts as part of the SAHAS steering committee.
"It is broadly accepted that just like most other crimes against women, those relating to workplace sexual harassment may be greatly under reported," says Goel. It is also widely felt that even after an incident is reported, some organizations may be under-equipped to handle such issues or may not handle the matter with the fairness, trust and transparency that matches the spirit of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act).
"SAHAS is targeted at plugging this gap to make Telangana workplaces safer," the IPS officer adds.
The key components of the initiative include information on workplace harassment, forum functionality and a ‘Chat with an Expert’ feature, as well as access to legal professionals who can clear ambiguities. There will be a point of contact with an industry body for advocacy with the employer too. Since the POSH Act envisages criminal recourse as an option, this can also be facilitated on demand. "As complaints may come from highly reputed large organizations, the spirit should ideally be to provide back-end support to women," Goel stresses.
Among the key stakeholders and enablers of the initiative are Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association (HYSEA), Federation of Telangana Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FTCCI), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI) and TiE.
Women can browse the SAHAS website to gain more information.