Gender-aware workplace: A pursuit and a policy against sexual harassment
Pratichi (India) Trust
Inspired and informed by the momentous judgement of the Supreme Court of India (Vishaka and others vs. The State of Rajasthan and others), which declared that sexual harassment is a violation of Fundamental Rights, and in particular, of rights to gender equality, as well as by the subsequent Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, Pratichi (India) Trust is committed to formulate its own policy against sexual harassment for application in its various institutional locations in New Delhi, Kolkata, Santiniketan, Odisha and Himachal Pradesh, also bringing within its ambit the sites that the activities of the Trust encompass, for example, project and fieldsites, meetings, workshops, training venues and so on.
The policy would apply to all members of the Pratichi staff on the active rolls of the Trust, as well as outsiders who may be within the premises of the Trust at the time of occurrence of an incident coming under the purview of this policy. The policy, and its rules and procedures shall be applicable in particular to all complaints made by any member or employee of the Trust and its constituent units about any alleged sexual harassment at a Trust-sponsored work space or event.
The policy will be guided by the definitions of sexual harassment given by the Supreme Court of India, covering in general any unwelcome and non-consensual physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct of sexual nature – overt or covert. The socially dominant form of sexual harassment is that committed by men against women; but it could be perpetrated by women against men, and can also occur between persons of the same sex.
The larger goal of the policy extends beyond being a disciplinary rod, and towards playing a constructive role in consciously cultivating a gender-sensitive, free and equal work environment.
To implement this policy a committee shall be appointed, with a clear guideline about its composition, procedures for the selection of its members and their tenure and responsibilities. The committee shall try to have representation from members of all constituencies of the Trust, have a comparatively higher share of women, one outside expert, and one woman member serving as its chairperson.
Receipt of Complaints about Sexual Harassment, Formal Enquiry, and Redressal
Complaints filing process, enquiry and investigation process, communication of findings process and follow-up procedures shall all be in tune with the guidelines provided in these respects in the Supreme Court Judgement and the subsequent Act.
The complaint could be either informal, where the complainant shares her/ his concerns with a member of the designated committee, who makes her/ his own enquiry and tries to resolve the issue. Or the complaint could be formal, where the whole committee is involved and a more thorough enquiry takes place. The formal complaint could also be a follow up to the informal complaint. Either way, the enquiry would be confidential. After the enquiry, the designated authority from the Trust would have the mandate to take appropriate follow-up action.
The Trust will ensure that the complainant or witnesses are not victimized or discriminated against while dealing with such complaints, or after the process is completed and appropriate action taken. However, if it is clear that a complainant has wilfully abused the procedure to falsely accuse someone, the designated committee might recommend disciplinary action.
The underlying principle of the redressal mechanism would be to deliver justice through not onlyretributive measures but also remedial measures beyond retribution, acknowledging possibilities of behavioural change under persuasion and constructive pressure.
Disciplinary action shall range from warning, to withholding of benefits to tougher penalties such as suspension and dismissal.