India’s Catholic bishops are releasing a document this week that proves guidelines to prevent and deal with sexual harassment, especially of women, in Church-run institutions. “CBCI Guidelines to Deal with Sexual Harassment at Workplace” is the title of the document that will be released on Thursday at a press conference at the CBCI Centre in New Delhi.
All forms of harassment
“The Church, while wanting to ensure the protection and respect for women at workplace and without in any way underestimating the seriousness of sexual harassment of women at workplace, wants to address all forms of sexual harassment at work place,” said the Council for Women of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), in a statement on Monday, ahead of the release of the document on Thursday.
The statement signed by council chairperson, Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas of Gurgaon and secretary, Sr Talisha Nadukudiyil SD, explained that the Sept. 14 document “is gender inclusive and has been formulated to create a safe, healthy and loving environment that enables its employees to work without the fear of prejudice, bias and sexual harassment and creates a mechanism for prevention of any form of harassment.” The document provides “the process of handling cases of sexual harassment, if and when they occur and also tries to safeguard people from false allegations.”
Harassment continues despite legislation
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.
A survey by the Indian National Bar Association earlier this year revealed that that demands for sexual favours, inappropriate touches and lewd comments still continue to afflict offices in the country, with the national Capital being the most undesirable city for female workers. Of the 6,047 people who participated in the survey, 78 per cent were female and 22 per cent male. The study found that 38 per cent women/girls had faced sexual harassment at workplace. Of these, 68.9 per cent said they refrained from making a complaint due to fear, embarrassment and lack of confidence.
Recently, some cases of sexual harassment and molestation in Church institutions in India have resulted in arrests.