SHe-Box- Would it prevent the sexual harassment at the workplace? - Seeker's Thoughts

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Thursday, 29 November 2018

SHe-Box- Would it prevent the sexual harassment at the workplace?


Women face harassment at workplace more than men. The recent movement #metoo revealed the severity of the issue. The good thing is that the movement spread in India too, where speaking against harassment is not considered socially acceptable. In many cases, people find faults in women's attire or even in her attitude or character when she raises an issue of harassment. 


However, the change has come, as the youth reacts against these taboos and support women to come forward.

Due to the need and demand for the change, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has brought the concept of "SHe-Box". This is an online portal where 'online complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace can be made'. 

SHe-Box (Sexual Harassment Electronic Box) is an effort to provide single window access to every woman who works. This covers all jobs in organized and unorganized sectors.

SHe-Box will provide a platform to these empanelled institutes/organizations to share their capacity building activities with the Ministry which in turn will be able to monitor the activities of these institutes/organizations so empanelled from across the country.

Significance and Impact- It is working

According to the registered data, in November 2018, 321 complaints have been registered with SHe-Box. 120 complains are related to the central ministries/ departments and 58 are from state governments. The remaining 143 complaints have arrived from the private sector.

Working
Any women who face sexual harassment at the workplace can register complaints through the portal. Once a complaint is submitted to the ‘SHe-Box’, it will be directly sent to the concerned authority having jurisdiction to take action into the matter.

In another scenario, the Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) or Local Complaint Committee (LCC) have been constituted under the Sexual Harassment Act. So already filled a complaint with ICC or LCC can also be registered through this portal.

What does the portal have?

The portal also provides information on 112 institutions empanelled by MWCD to conduct training/workshops on the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. It also has the option for resource persons and institutions willing to contribute to training on this subject in various organizations to submit their applications.

SHe-Box portal is an effort to provide a speedy remedy to women facing sexual harassment at the workplace. With the linking of the portal to central and state governments, once a complaint is submitted to the portal, it will be directly sent to the section of the employer concerned. Through this portal, WCD, as well as the complainant, can monitor the progress of the inquiry.

SHe-Box stands over and above the whims of an organisation, as the Internal Committee’s/Local Committee’s functioning “may” be at the mercy of the organisation. These Committees may be increasingly under pressure to ensure that they execute their responsibility adequately, as they could be monitored.

SHe-Box also provides a forum outside the organization for female employees to complain to. With the complaints being monitored in SHe-Box, organizations will step up their efforts to ensure that they provide a safe workplace to female employees.

SHe-Box will also help the Indian government track the number of incidents and understand the magnitude of the problem. Finally, a victim could always report to other authorities through a physical document or an email. A portal provides convenience.
Causes of Concern

However, SHe-Box brings a tool to stand against 'the sexual harassment at workplace' yet there are areas which need to be work upon. Indian women are less aware of using gadgets and technologies.

In India, less than 46% of women own and use a mobile phone, according to the fourth National Family Health Survey (NFHS) dated 2015-16. This has had the effect of limiting independence for many women, as well as access to opportunities, and the problem is worse when the data is examined more closely. In urbanized centres, 62% of women use their own handsets, but in rural regions, the figure is under 37%. This stark discrepancy doesn’t exist in countries like the US, where rural and urban cellphone penetration is on par at close to 95% for both.

Phones are still out of reach for millions of Indian women as a result of gendered power dynamics. Because much of rural India remains highly patriarchal, women lack the disposable income to purchase their own phones.

The SHe-Box may not be benefitting these millions for sure.

There is a famous saying, - "Give a man mask and he will speak the truth". So, there should be assured confidentiality of female employees or else they would still be reluctant in complaining.

The portal only allows a victim to lodge a complaint. If a whistle-blower section was to be added, it could prove to be vital.

Currently, there is no provision to submit a complaint against an unknown respondent, i.e., someone whose identity may be unclear to the victim. Also, a provision to complain against multiple respondents needs to be included for the SHe-Box to be comprehensive. Certain aspects of SHe-Box and its process and coverage are still unclear. For example, when the WCD Ministry forwards the complaint received on the portal to the concerned organisation, who at the organisation receives it is a question.  Having a dedicated role or mentioning who is responsible for receiving and following up on the complaint is required. Also, there needs to be an improved scope for consultation and assistance, especially in the unorganized sector.
Conclusion    

There are various issues to address and move forward in the right direction, however, the SHe-Box is a right step in the right direction to tackle the menace of sexual harassment in the workplace which has impacted the women’s participation in the economy and society. It will certainly give the Indian working women the fair representation and support they deserve, yet much more need to be done.