Public Sector and Service Sector Companies Report Fewer Instances of Sexual Harassment

Public sector companies reported fewer cases of sexual harassment than private ones, but that may not indicate that the former are safer spaces for women to work in.

New Delhi: With the Indian media industry firmly in a “watershed moment” as women professionals are finally able to speak up about sexual harassment at the workplace, statistics show that service sector companies reported more cases of sexual harassment than those in manufacturing sector.

According to an Indian Express report, companies in the software and financial sector and are a part of the benchmark Nifty 50 index reported the highest number of sexual harassment cases during 2016-17 and 2017-18 fiscal years. Companies are mandated to report the details of workplace sexual harassment complaints.

Bengaluru-based Wipro reported the highest number of sexual harassment cases over the two years. The IT company recorded 217 cases. Infosys and TCS had 172 and 127 cases of sexual harassment during the same period.

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Wipro permanently employs over 57,000 women, while Infosys has over 73,000 permanent women employees and TCS alost 1.4 lakh. It is noteworthy that among these three companies, the one with least permanent women employees reported the highest number of sexual harassment cases.

However, the statistics need to be taken with a pinch of salt. As The Wire has reported, employees may not always be willing to report instances of sexual harassment at the workplace due to various reasons. The economic relation between perpetrator and victim, between the victim and the economy at large can play a role in forcing women to remain silent.

The statistics also show that among banks, the most number of cases were registered by Axis Bank during the period, with 79. Kotak Mahindra Bank registered 53 cases. While ICICI Bank, the country’s largest private sector lender, registered 194 complaints of child labour, forced labour, involuntary labour and sexual harassment, the break up of these complaints was not provided.

Public sector undertakings reported much fewer cases of sexual harassment. SBI reported 39 cases of sexual harassment during the two fiscal years, while Indian Oil Corp and Natural Gas Corp reported eight and six cases respectively, according to the Indian Express.

In the manufacturing or infrastructure sector, fewer cases were also reported. A total of 12 companies, including Coal India, NTPC Ltd, Ultratech Cement, L&T, Adani Ports and Reliance Industries claimed that they had no cases of sexual harassment. These companies also have a significantly smaller percentage of permanent women employees when compared to those in the service sector, ranging from as low as 1% to just about 7%. All these companies are also a part of Nifty 50 benchmark.

Mechanisms still being put in place

The low number of cases reported in public sector and manufacturing sector undertakings does not necessarily mean the environment is safer for women. In many cases, government workplaces have still not implemented redressal mechanism for women to report cases of sexual harassment.

Also Read: The Economics of #MeToo and How to Fight Back Against Harassment

Speaking to Livemint, Ajay Raghavan, partner and head of the employment law practice at law firm Trilegal said more cases are reported in IT and finance sector because women are more empowered and aware of their rights. “There is also higher workforce movement in these sectors which helps proliferate that awareness,” he said, adding, “Other sectors such as manufacturing are still male-dominated bastions where awareness is low and jobs are not easy to come by. Consequently victims are more circumspect about raising complaints about fear of retribution.”

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