A few days ago, seething with rage, I put up the below status on facebook.
"Sexual harassment at workplace. Heard of it. Read about it. Television, newspapers. But never had I thought that I would learn about it from someone so close. A reputed company. She was told it was employee friendly. Seemed like it. Good work culture. Friendly colleagues. Satisfied with her job. Until recently. When he joined as her boss.
45 year old. Young. Dynamic they called him. Until recently. When he started showing his true colours. An appreciative pat on the back that lingered on the back for more time than necessary. Calling under the pretext of silly excuses like showing him how to mail. Really? How to mail? At such a senior position? Then came the leering. Checking out. Eyes hovering all over the body making you feel disgusted.
But she thought it was only her perception. We women, sometimes even ignoring what is so blatant in our face. What-if-nobody-believes-me fear. "Let me just avoid him. I will avoid going near him' - she reasoned to herself. And then it took no time for his hands to reach inappropriate places. The disgusting smile on his face. 'You should keep your boss happy' - the intention behind this comment I need not elaborate.
She talked around. She was not the only one. Four of them had faced the same. Amusing. Educated women. Independent. Yet kept quiet about this. Well, are they to be blamed ? Finally, they gathered courage to speak to the management. And what does the so-called management do? Ask him point blank if he did all that. Hah!! Who are you fooling? Which goddamn criminal agrees to his crime?
His masterstroke - 'They are like my DAUGHTERS. Wow. Like wow. Where are we safe if you have fathers like these? Weren't these same words said by that man who was recently captured on camera in the aircraft? Similar words. 'Like my daughter.' The words echo in my ears.
He was let off with just a warning. Just a warning for a complaint about harassment by not one, but four women. All four of them have been told to avoid being with him in his cabin. Use common meeting room, they have been asked. Another wow. Reputed private firm. Employee friendly they claim themselves to be. Well, I don't know if safety of women is a part of employee friendliness for them.
While he continues the backhanded comments. He is their boss. Their appraisal in his hands. Two of them planning to leave the job. Strange. Yet true. They are planning to file a written complaint against him to the management. In the hope. That they will be heard this time."
When I put up this status, a lot of friends and acquaintances of facebook messaged me about the incident wanting to know which company was it and what exactly happened. This incident happened with somebody I know very closely and hearing it from her was more than just shocking. I was angry. I sought her permission to put up a status on facebook without her name and any detail. She agreed. A lot of friends asked me to keep them updated on the matter. I closely followed the matter. We tried finding out the laws and I wrote the complaint for them which they submitted in their company.
Initially, the management tried to hush the whole issue. When there was no action taken against the person in a week's time, all the four women resigned. As per the rules, they had to serve a month's notice period which they agreed to serve. And while serving their notice period, they continued their campaign in the company against the culprit and started gathering support. The culprit was now the centre of attraction (ofcourse in a wrong way) in the company. He tried to reason it out to all the women involved saying that his intentions were not wrong and other such blah blah pleading them to take back their resignations or else it would affect his career and that he had people dependent on him and he needed the job etc etc. These women stood firm and were just waiting for their notice period to end, dejected at the way a professional firm had handled such a grave issue.
But then, as they say, sometimes the glitter of hope shines through the thickest of times. While the one month notice period is not over yet, the news is that the culprit has been sacked from the company.
Just when our country is lost in a yet another controversy of 'India's Daughter', when every other day you hear about some or the other case of women abuse, when situation is such that seeing their daughter home safe every evening is a big relief for every parent, when dejection and anger about the current state of women in the country is reaching a yet another peak, this news of the abuser being sacked from his job comes across as a small victory in this fight against women abuse. Somewhere, it makes you realize that if we all learn to stand up against it, if we can gather enough strength to raise our voices, then may be, may be, this country can become a better place to live. The battle is still on and it’s a long way to go still but small victories like this are a flicker of hope that can give strength to carry on the fight. It makes me optimistic and a small voice inside me rejoices this small victory.
This is my official post inspired by Housing.com - Look Up.