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Frequently Asked Questions about the Policy on Prohibition of Sexual Harassment

by Sumandro Chattapadhyay last modified Oct 22, 2021 06:14 AM
Here are the answers to some of the frequently asked questions about the Policy on Prohibition of Sexual Harassment at the CIS. Please write to ic.cisindia[at]protonmail[dot]com for any further clarification, including other questions, as well as to submit a complaint.

 

Policy on Prohibition of Sexual Harassment



1. What constitutes sexual harassment?

Illustratively, physical harassment includes touching, hugging, kissing, pinching, blocking path, brushing against someone, invading someone’s personal space in a bid to attempt body contact.

Verbal harassment includes using obscenities, making suggestive comments or jokes, inappropriate humour, making threats, repeatedly making romantic propositions against a woman’s wishes, making sexual propositions, remarks on clothing or physical attributes.

Non-verbal harassment includes staring, obscene gestures, displaying/ sending sexual content on print/ computer/ phone/ other media, sexually suggestive glances.

However, if in pursuit of a legitimate professional objective or in the ordinary course of work it is necessary to carry out any activity, including discussion, viewing, reading or other handling of issues or material related to sex, sexuality, pornography or other activities of a sexual nature, such activity will not amount to sexual harassment provided that care is taken to ensure that such activity is carried out in a professional, respectful and dignified manner.

Finally, it should be noted that sexual harassment is made out from the experience of the aggrieved woman, and not by the intentions of the accused.

Under CIS’ policy, any woman can make a complaint against any such non-consensual acts or behavior. CIS has zero-tolerance for any kind of harassment.

For the purposes of this policy, woman refers to persons self-identifying as women, including cisgender and transgender women. 

2. What is consent?

Legally, consent means an unequivocal voluntary agreement when a woman by words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, communicates willingness to participate in any sexually determined behaviour or pattern of conduct.

Consent must be ongoing and applies only to the specific sexually determined behaviour or pattern of conduct the initiator seeks to engage in.

Consent can be revoked at any point. Silence or lack of resistance cannot be construed as consent.

3. Who can make a complaint against sexual harassment? Can a third party file a complaint?

The policy applies to everyone at CIS’ workplace, and protects all women, whether employed contractually or not. CIS members and third-parties (women) can submit a complaint under this policy, against any CIS member or third-party to report an incident that occurred at the CIS workplace or committed via any other mode of communication. For the purposes of this policy, woman refers to persons self-identifying as women, including cisgender and transgender women. 

Members include anyone engaged by CIS for any work, whether whether of regular, temporary or ad hoc basis, either directly or through an agent, including a contractor, with or without the knowledge of the Executive Director, whether for remuneration or not, or working on a voluntary basis or otherwise, whether the terms of employment are express or implied and includes a co-worker, a contract worker, probationer, trainee, intern or apprentice.

CIS’ workplace includes its offices in Delhi and Bengaluru as well as any place or medium of interaction, nationally, internationally and virtually, where the members visit in the broad context of their work, during the course of employment and/or arising out of any form of engagement with CIS. The policy will also apply to all attendees for events organised by CIS.

4. What is the limitation period for making a complaint? In other words, how soon should the aggrieved woman make the complaint?

A complaint should be made within three months  from the date of incident and in case of a series of incidents, within a period of  three months from the date of last incident. A complaint may be considered if it falls in the scope of the Extraordinary Situations clause of the Policy.

We urge aggrieved women to make a complaint at the earliest.

5. How can an aggrieved woman make a complaint? Can another person file a complaint on behalf of the aggrieved woman?

An aggrieved woman may prefer a complaint, in writing, to the IC at ic.cisindia[at]protonmail[dot]com, or any member of the current IC (details given below).

Where the aggrieved woman is unable to make a complaint on account of her physical or mental incapacity or death or otherwise, her legal heir, relative, friend, co-worker, or any woman having the knowledge of the incident may make a complaint to the IC, any member of the IC.

Name Location Designation E-mail
Saumyaa Naidu Bengaluru Presiding Officer saumyaanaidu[at]protonmail[dot]com
Laxmi Murthy
Bengaluru External Member murthy.laxmi[at]gmail[dot]com
Divyank Katira Bengaluru Member divyank.cisblr[at]protonmail[dot]com
Pallavi Bedi Delhi Member pallavibedi[at]protonmail[dot]com
Aman Nair
Delhi
Member
amannair[at]protonmail[dot]com
Yesha Paul
Delhi Member
yeshapaul[at]protonmail[dot]com

6. Can CIS investigate incidents of sexual harassment in the absence of a complaint?

Yes, in the absence of a complaint, the IC shall have discretionary powers to conduct an inquiry into incidents that may amount to sexual harassment after obtaining due consent from the aggrieved woman, in writing.

7. Once a complaint is made, how will the inquiry proceed?

Once a complaint is properly received, the IC shall take cognizance of the complaint at the earliest and in any case within 10 working days of receiving the complaint. Once the complaint and reply (from the accused) are received, before initiating the inquiry the IC may take steps to conciliate the complaint between the aggrieved woman and the respondent. Conciliation shall be initiated only if requested by the aggrieved woman.

If the aggrieved woman wishes to proceed with the inquiry of the complaint, the IC shall conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial inquiry. Both parties shall be given the opportunity to appear before the IC and present their case and/or submit the name  of any witnesses or documentary evidence substantiating their case. The IC shall have the power to call upon any such witnesses and record their statements. The proceedings shall be conducted in such language as may be familiar to the complainant and the respondent.

The quorum for Inquiry Committee will comprise at least 3 members, including a woman member. The quorum will not be changed throughout the process, except where a reasonable case is made regarding a member’s conflict of interest.

The Inquiry Report of the IC, including its decision and recommendations, and reasons for arriving at such a decision, shall be communicated to the concerned parties and the Executive Director, in writing, at the earliest and in any case within 7 days of completion of the inquiry.

The IC will make every effort to complete its inquiry within ninety working days of a report of sexual harassment.

If the allegations against the respondent are proved to be true, the IC shall also recommend the penalties or corrective action that may be taken against him to the Executive Director.

The Executive Director shall act on the recommendation of the IC within a period of 60 days from the date of the receipt of the Inquiry Report, unless an appeal against the findings is filed within that time by either party.

8. What protection and interim relief is the aggrieved woman entitled to during the course of inquiring into a complaint?

The identities of the parties, witnesses, statements and other evidence obtained in the course of the inquiry  process, recommendations of the IC, and action taken by the Executive Director will be protected as confidential material, and never published or made known to the public or the media.

The IC shall also take note of the inherent power asymmetry and/or the vulnerability of the complainant in such cases and take steps to ensure that the complainant is not subjected to a hostile environment during the inquiry.

9. Does making a complaint bar the aggrieved woman from obtaining relief under criminal law, or resorting to another legal recourse?

No.

The aggrieved woman can alternatively choose to file a criminal case under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act and/or file a civil suit. Depending on the facts of the incident, sections 294, 354A, or 509 of the IPC may be invoked. Further a suit claiming damages on grounds of mental anguish and harassment can be filed under tort law.

CIS is legally obligated to provide assistance to the aggrieved woman in filing such complaints, should they choose to do so. The aggrieved woman shall need to approach the police, if they wish to file a criminal case.

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