NEW DELHI – More than half of the working professionals in India admitted to being subjected to inappropriate touching or other physical advances at workplaces, revealed a recent survey by Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (WICCI) Council of Ethics. Most women who faced such sexual harassment also decided against reporting the incident to appropriate authorities.

The conclusions were based on 23,584 unique responses from 1,101 individuals. Almost 81% of the respondents were below the age of 30 years. All this was a part of the second edition of their annual review on the state of sexual harassment in India which was started by the council last year. This year’s report included workers from the informal sector as well as gig workers.

The survey included a list of inappropriate behaviours that have been defined as offensive under the Indian laws. When employees in the formal sector were asked to mark the ones that they had experienced:

  • 70.6% marked “Inappropriate touching, including pinching, patting, rubbing, or purposefully brushing up against another person”,
  • 70.1% marked “sharing images or videos, including pornography or indecent gifs”
  • 69% marked “a demand or request for sexual favours”

Other common offensive behaviours included physical advances without consent, remarks about a woman’s body or clothing, making lewd jokes and asking personal questions about a person’s sex life including their orientation. Despite this, only 44.8% of those who faced sexual harassment had registered a formal complaint.

The informal sector which includes street vendors, rag pickers, domestic workers, those working from home, contractual workers and self-employed people. Volunteers from the women’s development cell of Delhi University’s Sri Venkateswara College, the executive and non-executive MBA batches from JAGSoM University, and the India chapter of the Asian Medical Students Association gathered responses from across the country. In the informal sector, the workers experienced

  • sexually suggestive remarks about appearance, clothing, or body parts (55%);
  • sexual questions, such as inquiries about sexual history or sexual orientation (40%);
  • demands or requests for sexual favours (36%);
  • lewd jokes or sexual anecdotes (43%); and
  • offensive comments about sexual orientation or gender identity (31%).

In its conclusion, the report states, “In order to create safer spaces for every individual, it becomes pertinent to acknowledge Conclusion 77 Conclusion Council of Ethics 2022 the need for these systemic changes. This must involve acknowledging that all genders face sexual harassment as well as the social dynamics that come into play when someone harasses another individual.” The review also includes a lot of case studies of people who experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, the lacunae of the legal system and some suggestions to improve the reporting process.