Chennai: The State Human Rights Commission on Tuesday directed the District Collector and Police Commissioner of Tirunelveli to submit detailed report as to why the internal complaint committee for women employees to lodge complaint about sexual exploitation by higher officials was not formed in the district.
SHRC Judge D Jayachandran initiated suo motu proceeding based on a Deccan Chronicle report dated October 17 titled '#MeToo hits government office in Tamil Nadu - #MeToo in Nellai: Tahsildar accused of sexually harassing woman staff'.
According to the report, gross negligence on the part of the Tirunelveli district administration to set up an internal complaints committee (ICC) at the district collector's office to handle complaints of sexual harassment by women employees, made a single mother lose her job when she openly spoke against her superior officer, a tahsildar, for misbehaving with her.
M. Saranya (25), mother of two children, is separated from her husband with whom a divorce case has been pending. She was working as a temporary employee in the Disaster Management Department at Tirunelveli district collector's office since 2015.
Saranya said she was subjected to dowry harassment at the hands of her husband and in-laws and attempted self-immolation to escape from their torture. She was saved, but became disabled in the suicide attempt and got the job on compassionate grounds three years ago. Her woes, however, did not end as she had to face sexual harassment from her immediate superior officer, the tahsildar of the disaster management department.
“He made me to stay in the evenings after regular office hours and behaved in an uncivilised manner,” complained Saranya, who added that the tahsildar even compelled her to come to the office on weekends when “he touched me inappropriately and made sexual remarks”.
The report further stated that, unable to bear the sexual harassment, Saranya lodged a complaint with Tirunelveli District Revenue Officer P Muthuramalingam a few weeks ago. However, as it did not work out, Saranya approached district collector Shilpa Prabakar Satish, hoping that she too being a woman, would help her out.
“I failed as the district collector told me that she could do nothing in the issue,” regretted Saranya, who added that the collector directed her to the city police commissioner. “My complaint to the city police commissioner also was in vain, and hence as a last resort, I sought the help of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA, affiliated to the CPI-M),” said Saranya.
The SHRC Judge D Jayachandran asked the District Collector, Tirunelveli why the Internal Complaints Committee for women employees to lodge their complaints about sexual exploitation by higher officers was not constituted. Why the Collector, and the city police commissioner failed to take action against the Thasildar of Disaster Management on the basis of the complaint lodged by the victim and whether the action on the part of the Collector, and Commis-
-sioner will not come under negligence in preventing the violation of human tights of the victim? The Judge directed the officials to file the report in 4 weeks.