Following the #metoo campaign has raised several heads right from their bunks to take into account the uncountable voices of women who have suffered sexual harassment from various faces. Right from Hollywood to Bollywood, celebrities to politicians, relatives to husbands, almost all class of men have been brought under the spotlight by women who seek justice to the pain and suffering they endured. However, something smells bad somewhere. The movement in a whole is fair and revolutionary but rots right away when it comes to the corporate world. As rightfully we believe, the road to a sexual offence is lead by power and not money. The reality of the hour is that the corporate world ruling with countless mega-corporations or companies have been brought under spotlight time and again for sexual harassment cases that are just brushed under the carpet by financial or ugly settlements. It is not shooting in the air. It is the truth.
If we look at the whole nature of the corporate world, it is a constant shift of power and money. It is natural to the fundamental nature of this world because you have more important aspects to think about than humanity. Essential aspects like profit, brand building, consumerism, lies, and corruption. If you, as an employee, trying to make the rich richer, try to kick them in their teeth, you have an unfortunate or planned incident awaiting you to silence you. This is the reality we are living in. According to Moneycontrol, 588 cases of sexual harassment were registered in top 50 Nifty companies. This is a shocking revelation, and recently many big names have come under the radar for covering up previous or current sexual harassment cases. Now take into account all hundreds of companies and the possibility of silent victims who never choose to complain because they have a lot at stake than anybody could ever comprehend.
What happens generally
Generally, what happens in companies or corporations is that they consider sexual harassment cases as rubble and try to cover it with as many legal layers as possible. In organisations, the accused also gets the moral or legal support of peers or colleagues which makes the case die down fast. In a corporate environment, a low-level employee who is a victim of sexual harassment faces much wrath by the organisation itself because the accused, generally people with power, abuse their position to favour the case and dunk their heads. Suffering from humiliation and the haunting memories of molestation or sexual advancements, these victims stay silent for years. Even if they try to complain, the senior executives of the organisation or any employee accused of that matter are dealt with companies internal legal ecosystem. The sexual allegations are cunningly averted and not brought into daylight. It is settled behind doors of dark rooms where power and money is the only language.
To ensure safety in the workplace and the procedural guidelines to follow in case a complaint of sexual harassment arises, Vishakha Guidelines was introduced which batted for women safety in the workplace or organisations. To see the larger picture, we need to understand this in the prism of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Under this act, any sexual (physical) advancements, demand sexual favour, making sexual remarks or any conduct of sexual nature. All said, everything that follows after a sexual harassment allegation in any organisation or company is the total opposite of Vishakha Guidelines. While it would be wrong to view every single company under this bracket, a majority of these cases points a finger in the opposite direction.
- Workplaces do not have a proper complaint mechanism or a support service that looks into these matters. Most of these cases get settled like a ping pong usually between managers and HR department or managers or CEOs
- There lack in providing a separate committee to look into the allegation.
- There is almost zero support to the victim from the committee as there isn’t any person with similar experience who could guide the victim.
- The victim or complainant often face victimisation or discrimination after the complaint.
The cases are in hundreds. As of 2017, India’s 50 top mega-corporations reported or saw a 10.% rise in sexual harassment complaints filed by women by March 2017. A total of 579 cases were reported in 2016-17 itself. Moreover, these are just from 50 companies. In the same year of 2017, Wipro and ICICI topped the list of sexual harassment cases within the company. Other famous companies that follow the trail like the two above are State Bank of India (SBI), Axis Bank, Tata Steel, Infosys, TCS and the list is vast. Companies like Tehelka, TVF, Novasoft Technologies and such big names in the Indian corporate world have faced immense heat for sexual harassment.
In many scenarios, the internal team stepped into action following the complaint, and many were successful too. However, it didn’t seem to catch the eye of the media. Stringent cases where guidelines and action were followed are rare.
The real game of hypocrisy
Dwelling behind a big mask of women empowerment and feminism, the Indian corporate world has two faces when it comes to dealing with sensitive issues of sexual harassment. Big companies will put up an excellent show to support women and females in every way possible. They will even conduct CSR activities highlighting their love and faith towards the divine feminine. However, as we travel through the highway of sexual allegations and famous cases of the corporate world, we see nothing but clear hypocrisy. As clear as flowing water.
Moreover, why not? The two faces they have is directly related to internal and external gains for the company and to be honest, a company will do anything in their might and right to keep up their profit share. Now, let’s consider that a company’s employee or CEO has been framed by a women employee for sexual harassment. In a larger picture, it not only affects the accused, but the company’s goodwill and profits are thrown to the streets too. The company severely gets affected on its goodwill, customer retention, and revenue generation. Everything is linked. People most certainly will banish your company that affects the entire run of finance and shares. In the case of TVF, it suffered a loss of 8-9 crores after Arunabh Kumar, the CEO of TVF, was accused of sexual harassment.
The trivia of the two corporate faces on sexual harassment is fascinating. It’s like a flawed rhythm of ‘We support, but we don’t support’. When it comes to reputation and goodwill, they will boast around women empowerment. And when it comes to the same status and goodwill, they will try to settle the case within the walls if the company. It is definite that corporate companies, no matter how hard they try, cannot come up with a 100% subjective approach on these issues, because they have a larger interest at stake for which they will be ready to legally silence any voice that tries to kick some mud on their face. That being said, a large part of corporate organisations extends full support to sexual harassment victims. #Metoo campaign has forced many companies to seek legal counselling, and several cases are emerging from their backyard. The corporate world always has a double face. We could only hope for more sincerity and transparency in the future.
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