(New York, October 14, 2020) – The Indian government’s failure to properly enforce its sexual harassment law leaves millions of women in the workplace exposed to abuse without remedy, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The government should urgently ensure compliance with its 2013 Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, or POSH Act as it is popularly known.
The 56-page report, “‘No #MeToo for Women Like Us’: Poor Enforcement of India’s Sexual Harassment Law,” finds that while women in India are increasingly speaking out against sexual abuse at work, in part due to the global #MeToo movement, many, particularly in the informal sector, are still constrained by stigma, fear of retribution, and institutional barriers to justice. The central and local governments have failed to promote, establish, and monitor complaints committees – a central feature of the POSH Act – to receive complaints of sexual harassment, conduct inquiries, and recommend actions against abusers.
The #MeToo movement has encouraged women to share their accounts of sexual harassment at work.
India’s law to address this has done little to improve the lives of millions of women employed in the informal sector, including domestic workers
He used to tell me: “Wear a short dress, you will look better in it.” When his children and grandchildren would go out, he would purposely stay home He would keep following me around. He would pat my back, but then his hands would wander I tried to ignore him. I knew no one would believe me if I told them, so I kept quiet. I put up with it because I had to earn to support my family.
My employer, he was a doctor, he grabbed my hand and made me sit in his lap. He told me he will give me sweets I felt really scared and uncomfortable. So, I ran away and quit. I did not say anything at home because I was too afraid to tell anyone. No one really cares to understand girls, it was better to just quit the job.
When I started work, I used to be scared of leaving home. In the residential estate where I worked, the guard would harass me. One day, the guard took out money, forced it into my hands and asked me to go with him. That day I cried endlessly when I went home and told my husband I wanted to go back to the village. My husband complained to the head of security who he knew, and the guard was quietly transferred. If my employers found out, it’s likely they would have blamed me, and I could have lost my job. That is why I kept quiet. For women like me, what is #MeToo? Poverty and stigma mean we can never speak out. There is no place safe for women like us. Not our workplaces, nor our homes, and not the road we take.
The Indian government should take urgent action to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
Fully enforce the Sexual Harassment at Work Law and ratify the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention.