By Ila Ananya
Starting later this month, Maneka Gandhi has announced that there’s going to be an e-platform that allows women employees in the central government to file sexual harassment complaints online.
Reportedly, she’s said that this big decision to have an online platform to deal with sexual harassment cases was taken by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in October last year, because of the large number of complaints she got from women employees from different ministries. The e-platform is going to be available on the WCD website, and once a complaint is made, it is supposed to be taken up with the respective ministries or departments.
Let us just pause for one second here. While Gandhi made her announcement, she also said that, “We hope our ICCs [Internal Complaints Committees] work in such a way that hopefully, we won’t have the need for using such a platform to seek redressal.”
We can’t help but wonder if this is just another way of side-stepping the huge and persistent problems we’ve always had with our ICCs that are supposed to actively deal with cases of sexual harassment. We’ve seen this in the TERI cases where procedure was flouted at every turn when it came to RK Pachauri, we saw it in the response everybody had to TVF co-founder Arunabh Kumar being accused of sexual harassment, where everybody talked about everything other than the sexual harassment that needed to be dealt with.
Can having an e-filing option for complaints make it better? There’s no clarity on this yet, but if the complaints are going to then be transferred straight to the ministries concerned, then wouldn’t that go straight back to where we had begun in the first place?
A part of the problem with the terrible ways in which ICCs and many workplaces function is in how we constantly silence women when they speak up, and as Shariq Rafeek had pointed out in his very handy guide, we forget what lengths powerful men can go to, essentially creating a space where men easily get away with abuse. So we’re not sure an e-filing of sexual harassment complaints will really make any difference, or if it’ll take us right back to where we started, while attitudes and systems that need addressing continue the way they have been.