Tag Archive for sexual harassment

Ganguly must go, demand women’s groups

Justice-ganguli

Chairs of Rights bodies must be above reproach

By Team FI

Women’s rights groups and activists have issued a statement demanding the removal of retired justice Ganguly from the chairmanship of West Bengal Human Rights Commission following a law intern accusing him of sexually harassing her.

Full text of the statement:
Exactly one year ago, the gang-rape of a young woman triggered immense outrage across the board, putting freedom from rape and sexual assault at the forefront of public debate. From law reform to overhaul of institutions of justice delivery, from media sensitization to public awareness, women’s safety is now squarely on the public agenda, thanks to mass protests. Ironically, a young lawyer revealed that during those very protests, on 24 December 2012, a retired judge of the highest court of the land had sexually harassed her while she was working with him as an intern, and that she was able to speak about it only ten months later.

According to her statement, Justice (Retd) A.K. Ganguly currently the Chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission after insisting that she work on an assignment with him at a hotel in Delhi late in the evening said, “’You know that I’m attracted to you, don’t you? You must be thinking, what, this old man is getting drunk and saying such things. But I really like you, I love you’. When I tried to move away, he kissed my arm and repeated that he loved me.” This is not merely inappropriate behavior by a senior over junior staff or interns; it is not merely over-stepping of boundaries; it is not merely a friendly overture: such acts constitute a clear case of abuse of power and sexual harassment at the workplace which are against the law.

Today, we fight to ensure that sexual harassment of women at the workplace is regarded not only as illegal, but also unacceptable and intolerable. We also struggle to ensure that public institutions maintain their credibility and only individuals of the highest integrity and an impeccable record of upholding human rights are at their helm. Unfortunately, Justice (Retired) A.K. Ganguly is not such a person, with ample prima facie evidence of his having sexually harassed a young woman with impunity.

Following the young woman lawyer’s shocking revelations of sexual harassment by Justice Ganguly, a Committee of three judges of the Supreme Court on 28 November put forth its conclusion that the statement of the intern both written and oral, “prima facie discloses an act of unwelcome behavior (unwelcome verbal/ non verbal conduct of sexual nature) by Mr. Justice ( Retd.) A.K. Ganguly with her in the room in hotel Le Meridien on 24.12.2012 approximately between 8.00 P.M. and 10.30 P.M.”

Justice K. Ganguly has refused to step down from his position as the Chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, on the grounds that he has not been found guilty by an appropriate court. However, it must be noted that he occupies an office of trust, which demands that the character of the individual must be above reproach, until his name is honorably cleared of all allegations. Otherwise, the credibility of the institution is itself at stake, and the message communicated is: women’s rights do not matter.

Today, we demand that the government assure the women of India and particularly young women entering the workforce, that they will step into a workplace free of sexual harassment, where no form of sexual violence will be condoned, irrespective of the stature or rank of the perpetrator. The State must vindicate the constitutional promise to women of a life with dignity, by breaching the impunity for sexual wrongs. Protection of human rights must include the upholding of women’s rights and the bodily integrity and dignity of women, in keeping with Constitutional guarantees as well as international commitments under the CEDAW.

We therefore demand:

(i) The Prime Minister must request the Hon’ble President of India to make a reference to the Supreme Court of India to initiate proceedings under Section 23 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, for the removal of Justice (Retd) AK Ganguly as Chair of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.
(ii) Those heading public institutions must adhere to the highest standards of personal conduct and integrity in order to uphold the credibility and effectiveness of these institutions. Adherence to these standards must be not only criteria for selection but also an integral part of the code of conduct to continue in office.

Signed:

1. Aarthi Pai, Centre for Advocacy on Stigma and Marginalisation (CASAM)
2. Anagha Sarpotdar Practitioner and Researcher (Violence Against Women), Mumbai
3. Aruna Burte, Solapur
4. Dr. Kaveri R I, Neuroscientist, Hyderabad Central University, Hyderabad
5. Geeta Seshu, Journalist, Mumbai
6. Jhuma Sen, Assistant Professor, Jindal Global Law School
7. Kalpana Mehta, Manasi, Indore.
8. Kalyani Menon-Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships, Gurgaon
9. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and Human rights activist, Mumbai
10. Laxmi Murthy, journalist, Bangalore
11. Maithreyi Mulupuru, Visiting Professor, National Law School of India University
12. Mary E John, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi
13. Purwa Bharadwaj, Delhi
14. Rajashri Dasgupta, Journalist, Kolkata
15. Rakhi Sehgal, Hero Honda Theka Mazdoor Sangathan, Haryana
16. Ratna Appnender, lawyer, New Delhi.
17. Suneeta Dhar, Jagori, Delhi
18. Vani Subramanian, Saheli, Delhi
19. Vimochana, Forum for Women’s Rights, Bangalore
20. Vrinda Grover, lawyer, Delhi

Sexual assault case: Tehelka sets up inquiry committee

Tehelka-sexual-assualt

In the wake of the alleged sexual assault of a Tehelka journalist by her editor, the magazine institutes a Complaint Committee to conduct inquiry

By Team FI

Following media reports and protests regarding the weekly news magazine Tehelka’s response to the accusation of assault and sexual harassment made against its editor Tarun Tejpal, the managing editor of Tehelka, Shoma Chaudhury, has released a statement stating that “Tehelka has now constituted a formal complaints committee, in accordance to Vishaka guidelines.”

As per the mail send by an employee to the managing editor of the magazine, Shoma Chaudhary, the assault took place on November 7 and 8 during the Tehelka Think Tank, held in Panaji, Goa. Tejpal had allegedly accosted the employee in a lift while returning from their professional duties. It is clear from the allegations made in the complaint letter that Tarun Tejpal had threatened the employee that complying to him would mean keeping her job, ““Well, this is the easiest way for you to keep your job,” he had stated when she protested against the assault.

The management had referred to the sexual assault issue as an “internal” matter and Tarun Tejpal had recused himself from the magazine for six months for “atonement and penance.” This despite the fact that the complainant had asked the management for an inquiry to be conducted into the matter.

Organisations such as the Network of Women in Media (NWMI) and the Indian Women’s Press Corps had condemned the incident and the management response to it. NWMI had in a press release stated that Tarun Tejpal’s “actions go beyond sexual harassment and fall under the definition of sexual assault, according the new Criminal Law Amendment, 2013.” The organisation rejecting his offer of atonement demanded that, “Institutional mechanisms must be set in place to investigate the complaint of sexual assault, prosecute the perpetrator, and deal with future cases.”

NWMI stated that according to law the employer is responsible for ensuring an environment free of sexual harassment and is legally bound to assist any employee who wishes to pursue criminal prosecution. A fact that management at Tehelka had failed to do.

A suo moto “preliminary inquiry” has also been ordered by the Goa government on Thursday, 21st November into the allegations. The Goa Police has asked for a copy of this complaint to be handed over to them since that is needed for the FIR to be registered. They also pointed out that Shoma Chaudhary should have brought the complaint to the police as she was “legally bound to”.

Sexual harassment cases have being increasing visible with complaints being made against media houses, politicians and even the judiciary. Pointing out the recent experiences in Sun TV, Doordarshan and All India Radio, which has revealed that not only private media organisations but even the state/public broadcasters were not compliant with the law, the NWMI had demanded that “a Complaints Committee be set up by all media houses, including Tehelka, to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace.”

According to Chaudhary’s statement, Tehelka’s complaints committee “is to be presided over by Urvashi Butalia, eminent feminist and publisher, to investigate the matter. The other members of the committee will be announced shortly. In addition to this, Tehelka will ensure setting up a formal complaints committee, according to section 4 of the Sexual Harassment of Women (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act, 2013), an institutional mechanism that was sorely missing in Tehelka.”

Women journalists’ body condemns Mumbai gangrape

Mumbai gangrape suspects

The Network of Women in Media, India, condemning the gangrape of a photo-journalist in Mumbai, has demanded safety for women media professionals

By Team FI

The Network of Women in Media, India, (NWMI) has strongly condemned the gangrape of a woman journalist on August 22, when she was on assignment for a print magazine. The press release, issued by the organisation has called for a speedy police investigation and demanded that justice is delivered without delay.

The women journalist and her male colleague were at the Shakti Mill Compound in the Lower Parel area in Mumbai when they were accosted by a group of men. The journalists were asked to show their authorisation for their presence in the compound. Using this pretext, the woman journalist was taken aside, her colleague was tied up and five persons committed the assault. The NWM credits the presence of mind of the woman journalist who not only freed herself but also managed to free her colleague. The two then filed a complaint with the Mumbai NM Joshi Marg Police Station. The journalist is in a city hospital and is reported to be stable.

The NWMI press release exhorted media employers to “desist from introducing restrictions on work assignments for women journalists and instead ensure the safety and security of their staff.” It also cautioned its colleagues to report on the matter with sensitivity and responsibly.

Pointing out that the incident is a grim reminder of the deteriorating state of safety for women across the country, NWM called attention to the increasing harassment of women professionals in the media, “Along with work-place related harassment, journalists also have had to contend with anti-women prejudices and biased reactions from employers as well as law enforcement officers,” stated the press release.

Mumbai Press Club issues statement
According to a press release issued by a delegation of organisations including the Press Club and Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh the Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh had stated that one person had been arrested and the rest identified and expected to be apprehended soon. The said organisations had also held a protest rally yesterday condemning the incident. The Bombay News Photographers Association and the Working News Cameramen’s Association have also condemned the incident.

Statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau show an 11 percent rise in sexual assault cases in Mumbai, from 553 in 2011 to 614 in 2012. The city also showed a 45 percent rise in sexual harassment cases in 2012 with 235 cases of sexual harassment in 2012 as compared to 162 in 2011. Cases of rape in Mumbai rose at a rate of 5 percent in 2012. The 232 cases put the city second in terms of reported rapes, behind Delhi, which saw 585 cases in 2012.

Featured Photo: Composite sketches of the accused released by Mumbai police on Friday

Tackle root causes of violence against women, UN rapporteur

Rashida Manjoo

Report of Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur for the United Nations urges India to end the culture of impunity and the inequality and discrimination so as to eliminate violence against women in India

By Team FI

Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur for the United Nation for violence against women, its causes and consequences, in the conclusive statement of her fact-finding mission in India, stated that violence against women was both a cause and consequence of de facto inequality and discrimination.

Mandated by the Human Rights Council to gather information on the causes and consequences of violence against women and recommend measures to eliminate the same, Manjoo urged the Government of India to link the violence against women with the “other systems of oppression and discrimination prevalent within societies.” In her statement delivered on May 1st 2013, Manjoo pointed out that creating legislations and policies alone will not bring about the needed change, “if it is not implemented within a holistic approach that simultaneously targets the empowerment of women, social transformation, and the provision of remedies that ultimately address the continuum of discrimination and violence, and also the pervasive culture of impunity.”

In her mission in India, Manjoo held meetings in New Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Manipur, and gathered information from other states, including Tamil Nadu. She met with civil and human rights activists, representatives of state and centre authorities, human rights institutions and United Nation agencies and shared the experiences of individual women who suffered from the loss of their human rights.
Manifestations of Violence.

Manjoo described the various manifestations of violence against women as per the information gathered as sexual violence, domestic violence, caste-based discrimination and violence, dowry related deaths, crimes in the name of honour, witch-hunting, sati, sexual harassment, violence against lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, forced and/or early marriages, deprivation of access to water and basic sanitation, violence against women with disabilities, sexual and reproductive rights violations, sex selection practices, violence in custodial settings and violence in conflict situations, among others.

The statement also recognised information about the forms of violence experienced by women with disabilities “including sexual violence, forced sterilization and/or abortions and forced medication without their consent. In addition, their experience of discrimination, exclusion and marginalisation reinforces the need for greater attention and specificity.”

“One interlocutor described violence against women and girls as functioning on a continuum that spans the life-cycle from the womb to the tomb,” said Manjoo. She stated that these manifestations are strongly linked to women’s social and economic situation, and the deeply entrenched norms of patriarchy and cultural practices linked to notions of male superiority and female inferiority. “The current focus by state actors on preserving the unity of the family is manifested in the welfare/social approach and not in the human rights based approach. It does not take into consideration the nature of relationships based on power and powerlessness; of economic and emotional dependency; and also the use of culture, tradition and religion as a defence for abusive behaviour,” informed the statement.

While she welcomed the Centre’s speedy response after the Delhi rape incident in the appointment of the late Justice Verma committee, she regretted that the new amendments did not fully reflect the Verma Committee’s recommendations. Describing it as unfortunate, she stated that this was an opportunity was lost that could have addressed the de facto inequality and discrimination of women. “This development foreclosed the opportunity to establish a holistic and remedial framework which is underpinned by transformative norms and standards, including those relating to sexual and bodily integrity rights. Furthermore, the approach adopted fails to address the structural and root causes and consequences of violence against women,” said the statement.

Though the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act is a positive development, Manjoo pointed out that one of the recurring complaints availed to her was the discrepancy between the provisions of the laws and its effective implementation. “Despite provisions intended to offer legal, social and financial assistance to victims, many women are unable to register their complaints. Furthermore, prevention of violence, as a core due diligence obligation of the State, does not feature in the implementation of this law,” the statement said.

She reiterated that despite the recent amendments, “the unfortunate reality is that the rights of many women in India continue to be violated, with impunity as the norm, according to many submissions received.” Manjoo stated that women experience violence not just in situations of conflict, post-conflict, and displacement but also in situations of peace. “The denial of constitutional rights in general, and the violation of the rights of equality, dignity, bodily integrity, life and access to justice in particular, was a theme that was common in many testimonies,” she said.
Conflict-related Sexual Violence.

The statement also said that it in relation to conflict- related sexual violence, it was crucial to acknowledge that violations are perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. She pointed out that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has mostly resulted in impunity for human rights violations broadly. “In the testimonies received, it was clear that the interpretation and implementation of this act, is eroding fundamental rights and freedoms – including freedom of movement, association and peaceful assembly, safety and security, dignity and bodily integrity rights, for women, in Jammu & Kashmir and in the North-Eastern States.” She said that it was unfortunate that peaceful and legitimate protests often elicited a military response.

The statement recognized that the victimization of women from the Dalit, Adivasi, other Scheduled castes, tribal and indigenous minorities. “Their reality is one where they exist at the bottom of the political, economic and social systems, and they experience some of the worst forms of discrimination and oppression – thereby perpetuating their socio-economic vulnerability across generations.”

Manjoo heard anguished stories of young women disappearing without a trace in Manipur. The police she was informed are generally apathetic and are likely to put the cause as elopement. However Manjoo expressed concern that these disappearances could be linked to sexual abuse, exploitation or trafficking.

“Generally tribal and indigenous women in the region are subjected to continued abuse, ill-treatment and acts of physical and sexual violence. They are denied access to healthcare and other necessary resources, due to the frequency of curfews and blockades imposed on citizens,” the statement informed.

Testimonies also highlighted child marriages and dowry-related practices, sorcery, honour killings, witch-hunting of women, and communal violence perpetrated against cultural and religious minorities. On the issue of communal violence, the statement remembered the women “who were beaten, stripped naked, burnt, raped and killed because of their religious identity, in the Gujarat massacre of 2002.”
Manjoo also expressed concern over the declining female sex ratio in India. “The implementation of (government) interventions is resulting in the policing of pregnancies through tracking/surveillance systems and is resulting in some cases in the denial of legal abortion rights, thereby violating the sexual and reproductive rights of women,” she said.

Workplace violence
The Special Rapporteur’s statement also marked the widespread sexual violence and harassment “perpetuated in public spaces, in the family or in the workplace. There is a generalized sense of insecurity in public spaces/amenities/transport facilities in particular, and women are often victims of different forms of sexual harassment and assault.”

The statement expressed dismay at the numerous violations faced by female domestic workers including sexual harassment by their employers. “Many of them, often migrant and unregistered women, work in servitude and even bondage, in frequently hostile environments; performing work that is undervalued, poorly regulated and low-paid,” said Manjoo.

Conclusion
The statement concluded with several recommendations which included the ones from human rights organisations.

The negative effect of personal status laws on the achievement of overall gender equality (CRC, CCPR, and CEDAW) was noted with the statement that such laws need to be reformed to ensure equality in law (CEDAW).
The statement has asked the government to ensure that all victims of domestic violence are able to benefit from the legislation on domestic violence. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act and Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code must be enforced effectively (CESCR).

The statement recommended the repealing of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Public Safety Act and the National Security Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act should be repealed, as it perpetuates impunity, and is widely used against Human Rights Defenders, .
The statement noted with grave concern the culture of impunity for violations of the rights of Dalit women, the failure to properly register and investigate complaints of violations against scheduled castes and tribes, the high rate of acquittals, the low conviction rates, and the alarming backlog of cases related to such atrocities. The statement expressed that the impact of mega-projects on the rights of women should be thoroughly studied, including their impact on tribal and rural communities, and safeguards instituted.

The statement exhorted the government to expedite the proposed Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005 “with the incorporation of: sexual and gender-based crimes, including mass crimes against women perpetrated during communal violence; a comprehensive system of reparations for victims of such crimes; and gender-sensitive victim-centred procedural and evidentiary rules, and to ensure that inaction or complicity of State officials in communal violence be urgently addressed under this legislation.”

The comprehensive findings from Rashida Manjoo’s mission in India will be discussed in the report that will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014.

Sexual harassment: Women journos condemn Sun TV’s actions

Sun TV sexual harassment

Women journalists have issued a statement in support of S Akila, Sun TV news anchor who was sacked for filing a sexual harassment charge against her superior V. Raja

By Team FI

The Network of Women in Media (NWMI), India, an independent forum of media professionals have condemned the sacking of a Sun TV journalist, S Akila who was fired by the Chennai based TV channel after she filed a police complaint of sexual harassment against her Editor V. Raja.

As per the press release issued by the NWMI, S Akila had joined Sun TV Chennai in December 2011 as a news anchor/news producer. Allegedly V. Raja, the Chief Editor and Vetrivendhan, the Reporters’ Coordinator indicated that the confirmation of her job and subsequent pay rise depended on the ‘compromises’ she was willing to make. This was, apparently, not the first time they had made such demands, but due to the hostile and intimidating atmosphere at the office, few women had been able to resist. As a result of her refusal to concede to their demands of sexual favours in return for job security and pay hikes, her confirmation remained pending even after completing the six-month probationary period.

Meanwhile, in November 2012, Akila’s Diwali bonus was withheld. When she raised the issue with Raja, he asked her to get in touch with him over the phone after reaching home. Upon phoning him, he told her that she had been confirmed and that she should “take care of him” for the favour. Akila terminated the call, but managed to record the conversation.

Her refusal was retaliated with harassment including verbal abuse in front of her colleagues. On January 21st, he summoned her to his cabin and threatened her with dire consequences if she went public with a complaint of harassment. Soon thereafter, in contravention of the norm of assigning shifts, he put her on morning shifts for several weeks, which required her to leave her residence at 3.30 am in order to be at office at 5 am, since the office did not arrange for morning pick-up.

V Raja

V Raja

When Akila confronted Raja on February 26th and questioned this unusual assigning of a continuous morning shift, she was informed this action was taken because she was not “adjusting” to him. This situation lasted for few weeks, till it became unbearable, upon which Akila filed a complaint of sexual harassment on March 19th. Raja was arrested under Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act. Two days later, Vetrivendhan was also arrested on the same charges.

The situation however did not improve for Akila. She received an anonymous phone call threatening to kill her. Her friend and colleague Kannan who was aware of the harassment and supportive of her, was suspended on grounds of a complaint filed by colleagues who refused to work with him or Akila.

When Akila reported to the office on March 25th, she was not assigned any work. As per schedule, she was to anchor the 12.00 noon news bulletin, but she was not allowed to go on air.

In a complete travesty of justice, on March 26th, Raja who was by then out on bail, joined work, and the next day, Akila was handed a suspension order. Thus, a woman who resisted sexual harassment and stood up to demands for sexual favours has been further victimised.

The press release noted that that there is no redressal mechanism at Sun TV for complaints of sexual harassment. This, the release stated, is in contempt of the Guidelines issued in 1997 by the Supreme Court in the Vishakha case, which places an obligation on every establishment in the country to ensure the rights of women workers by creating a conducive workplace free from sexual harassment. These principles of gender equity and labour rights are also enshrined in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012 which was passed by both houses of Parliament and is only awaiting the President’s approval.

NWMI members have also demanded immediate reinstatement of S. Akila, suspension of V. Raja and an independent inquiry into the case.

Meanwhile, J Ravindran, Counsel for Sun TV Network, in an email sent to NWMI, refuted all the allegations and stated that V Raja is still under suspension. The TV Channel legal representative also stated that Akila was “suspended based on complaints from more than 15 women employees and women journalists.” He further stated that an independent enquiry into both the employees will be conducted by a committee headed by a retired judicial officer.

Kerala: Women who caught eve-teasers red-handed arrested by police

penkoottu 1

By Team FI

Members of Penkoottu, a collective of women workers in the unorganised sector in Kozhikode, Kerala, held a demonstration in the city today as part of their ongoing campaign against sexual harassment on the streets.

The group was protesting the arrests of six of its members on 3rd March following a skirmish with a group of men when the women attempted to catch some eve-teasers at a bus stand.

The women were part of a 10-women squad formed by Penkoottu in order to put an end to sexual harassment on the streets of the city. This was organised as a part of the International Women’s Day this year.

On 3rd March, the squad comprising of women from an age group of 19 to 45, while confronting some molesters, were attacked by a group of men intending to protect the alleged molesters. A verbal brawl ensued with the men shouting that they would not let these men be humiliated in public by a group of women. Several of the men began to hurl abuses at the activists. The police intervened and arrested the activists. However, they were released after few hours.

A group of men argue with the Penkoottu activists at the bus stand: Photo by Satheesh

“It is absurd that the police arrests us instead of arresting those men who don’t let our women walk freely on the streets” says Ambika P who is part of the squad. “We will be doing this squad work till March 8th but if we get more support we will make it part of our regular activities,” she said.

The previous day, on 2nd March, the squad had caught two molesters red-handed at the Kozhikode bus stand and one of them was handed over to the police. The activists alleged that the other molester was taken to a corner by the traffic police under the pretext of arresting him and then allowed to escape.

“It is time we start a collective campaign against these street criminals in Kerala. We need put an end to this ongoing harassment. Not even single political party has ever taken up a campaign against these perverts,” says Viji P, a member of Penkoottu.

Kerala is notorious for street sexual harassment against women. Women get groped even in broad day light in public places. According to the data available with the State Crime Records Bureau (2009- 2010) Kozhikode topped in the number of reported street harassment cases (eve-teasing) in Kerala.

Those who wish to be part of the squad can contact Penkoottu at penkoottu@yahoo.com