Few media women who experience sexual harassment at their workplaces report it. Complaints to media houses’ internal committee rarely have a satisfactory outcome. Training workshops on sexual harassment are not routinely conducted though legally required.
These are among the findings of a survey conducted by Network of Women in Media, India, and Gender at Work. The report, ‘Creating Safe Workplaces: Prevention and Redressal of Sexual Harassment in Media Houses in India’ , was released on International Women’s Day, 2020.
The online survey was conducted to assess whether and how effectively media houses across India are responding to the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace.
The survey had 456 participants among media women – cis and trans – including journalists, journalism educators, trainers, and researchers. The respondents are currently or have been affiliated with media outlets such as The Hindu, The Indian Express, Business Standard, Hindustan Times, The Times of India, Deccan Herald, BBC India, Economic Times, The Telegraph, The Tribune and DNA, among other English newspapers. Hindi and regional language media outlets such as Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, Sahara One and Madhyamam are also represented in the data set. Women from digital news outlets like Scroll.in, The Wire, The News Minute, and ‘alternative’ digital platforms like Youth Ki Awaaz took the survey as well.
Most respondents were based in metropolitan centres such as Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi NCR, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Pune. More than 70% were full-time employees and only about 11% were freelancers. While the survey is therefore limited in terms of representation – it points to some serious issues in the media industry when it comes to sexual harassment at the workplace.
For instance, over a third (36%) of all respondents reported having experienced sexual harassment at their workplaces. Of the respondents who experienced sexual harassment at work, more than half (53%) did not report it to anyone. A very small percentage of the latter reported their experiences to the Internal Committee (IC) of their media house. Of those who approached an IC with a complaint, 70% were not ”completely satisfied” with the outcome. Among respondents who said their organisation did not have a mechanism to deal with sexual harassment, 47% had faced sexual harassment.
In terms of the kinds of harassment experienced by the respondents, the most common were sexist comments, unwelcome sexual jokes, embarrassing gestures or body language, attempts to establish unwanted romantic and/or sexual relationships, and pestering for dates. The promise of rewards for compliance, accompanied by threats of mistreatment following a refusal to engage in sexual behaviour, were also reported. In addition, unwanted touching, fondling, sexual assault and rape were documented.
About NWMI: The NWMI is a pan-India network which aims to provide an informal forum for women in media professions to share information and resources, exchange ideas, promote media awareness and ethics, and work for gender equality and justice within the media and society. The NWMI has been systematically engaged in cases of sexual harassment at the workplace, issuing statements, providing support for survivors and also making policy interventions.
About Gender at Work: Gender at Work is an international feminist collaborative of gender experts, and was founded in 2001 to focus specifically on bridging theory and practice, integrating insights from organisational studies, gender and development and feminist political analyses. G@W’s aim to transform organisations, to fundamentally change the rules (and deep structure) and contribute to a new way of thinking.
* The archive of statements by NWMI on sexual harassment at the workplace can be found here