It is a core goal principle of Dr. Ambedkar Sheti Vikas Va Sansodhan Sanstha (hereinafter referred to as “ASVSS”) to ensure gender equality and gender justice through all of ASVSS interventions and practices. In keeping with this principle, it is important to ensure an organisational climate free from discrimination and harassment with a particular focus on sexual harassment. Sexual harassment of employees occurring in the workplace or in other settings in which employees may find themselves in connection with their employment is unlawful and will not be tolerated by this organization. Further, any retaliation against an individual who has complained about sexual harassment or retaliation against individuals for cooperating with an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint is similarly unacceptable and will not be tolerated. To achieve this goal, the conduct that is described as “Sexual Harassment” in this policy will not be tolerated and we have provided a procedure by which inappropriate conduct will be dealt with, if encountered among employees.
ASVSS will also take all the appropriate steps necessary to protect staff from retaliation. Such Steps include:
- Action to stop retaliatory behavior
- Providing required security measures.
- Counseling help to Complainant and Accused
ASVSS takes allegations of sexual harassment seriously, and will respond promptly to complaints of sexual harassment and where it is determined that such inappropriate conduct has occurred, prompt and appropriate corrective action as is necessary, including disciplinary action, will be taken.
While this policy sets our goals of promoting a workplace that is free of sexual harassment, the policy is not designed or intended to limit the authority of ASVSS to discipline or take remedial action for workplace conduct which we deem unacceptable, regardless of whether that conduct satisfies the definition of sexual harassment.
Scope of the Policy
This policy shall extend to all Staff of ASVSS and project partners and includes external incidents involving such staff. (This policy is mandatory to all associated partners which involved in every intervention of ASVSS)
For the purposes of this Policy
- “Staff” shall mean any person employed by ASVSS including ASVSS associates whether full-time, part-time, temporary, voluntary, seconded, contracted or casual and also researchers, trainees, consultants and employees of project partners.
- “Sexual harassment” includes any unwelcome sexually determined behavior (whether direct or by implication) such as
- physical contact and advances either physical and non -physical
- a demand or request for sexual favours;
- sexually coloured remarks
- showing pornography
- creating a hostile work environment
- any other unwelcome “sexually determined behaviour” be it physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature
- creating a “hostile work environment”
Explanation 1: Unwelcome “sexually determined behaviour” shall include but not be limited to the following instances:
- where submission to or rejection of sexual advances, requests or conduct is made either openly or completely a term or condition of employment or as a basis for employment decisions; or,
- such advances, requests or conduct (whether direct or implied) have the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an threatening, unfriendly, embarrassing or sexually offensive work environment.
Explanation 2: Creating a “unfriendly work environment” means
(a) Creating a workplace where Sexual Harassment may go unheeded, where despite complaints no action is taken, where there is nexus between accused/aggressor & higher management, and where complainant is placed under fear, disadvantage or threat of victimization.
(b) It will also mean Retaliation which includes :
- marginalizing someone in the workplace with regard to his / her roles and responsibilities
- socially ostracizing
- intimidating someone physically, psychologically, emotionally or someone close to or related to the victim
- spreading canard
(c) And any other behavior that may commonly be construed as retaliatory
Explanation 3: “Sexual Harassment “in ASVSS and its associates shall also mean :-
- Direct or implied requests by any staff for sexual favours in exchange for actual or promised job benefits such as favorable reviews, salary increases, promotions, increased benefits, or continued employment constitutes sexual harassment.
- Other sexually oriented conduct, whether it is intended or not, that is unwelcome and has the effect of creating a work place environment that is hostile, offensive, intimidating, or humiliating to staff may also constitute sexual harassment.
Explanation 4: In addition the following are some examples of conduct which if unwelcome, may constitute sexual harassment depending upon the totality of the circumstances including the severity of the conduct and its incidence:
- Unwelcome sexual advances — whether they involve physical touching or not;
- Sexual stickers, jokes, written or oral references to sexual conduct, gossip regarding one’s sex life; comment on an individual’s body, comment about an individual’s sexual activity, deficiencies, or competence;
- Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons, displaying body parts;
- Unwelcome leering, brushing against the body, sexual gestures, suggestive or insulting comments;
- Investigation into one’s sexual experiences; and,
- Discussion of one’s sexual activities.
- Abuse of authority – demand by a person in authority, for sexual favours in exchange for work related benefits (e.g. a wage increase, a promotion, training opportunity, a transfer or the job itself).
- The behavior that creates an environment that is threatening, unfriendly, or offensive for members of one sex, and thus interferes with a person’s ability to work.
Consistent with the existing law under Vishaka, ASVSS shall take all reasonable steps to ensure prevention of sexual harassment at work. Such steps shall include:
- Circulation of ASVSS’s policy in English in regional offices on sexual harassment to all persons employed by or in any way acting in connection with the work and/or functioning of ASVSS;
- Ensuring that sexual harassment as an issue is raised and discussed at ASVSS meetings from time to time
- Conduct or cause to carry out in-house gender training on sexual harassment and addressing complaints to staff FIPS as well as members of the ASH Cell.
- Widely publicize that the SH is a crime & will not be tolerated. [Incase when they get appointed by other employer(s)].
1. There will be an Anti-Sexual Harassment Cell (hereinafter referred to as “ASH Cell”). The CEO of ASVSS shall assume primary responsibility for effective constitution and functioning of the ASH Cell. It shall be the primary responsibility of the CEO to constitute the ASH Cell in consultation with the Board and renew its composition on the expiry of its term and to fill up vacancies as and when they may occur.
2. The ASH Cell shall comprise the following members:
- Five persons of whom three shall be women including a Chairperson who shall also be a woman; Chairperson should be at least a senior staff of ASVSS.
- One person selected from ASVSS coordinators cluster;
- One person selected from ASVSS grades admin and accounts cluster;
- One member shall be a clinical psychologist; It is advisable that the clinical psychologist is external to ASVSS.
- One third party/NGO representative/lawyer familiar with the issue of sexual harassment;
- In addition to the five persons, ASH Cell may also include an advisor or invitee who should preferably be female.
3 Membership to the ASH cell shall generally be for a period of two years. Thereafter, new appointments shall be made. At least 2 members and not more than 3 should be retained for continuity. Tenure of a particular member may exceed two years to the extent necessary in order to ensure continuity as mentioned above.
4 ASH Cell will play a strong preventive role. In case of any complaint, the ASH Cell will have to appoint a Committee (henceforth referred to as Enquiry Committee) to conduct an enquiry. The Enquiry Committee (EQC) shall consist of three persons which may include no more than 2 members from the ASH Cell.
5. A member of the ASH Cell shall cease to hold membership should any one of the following conditions arise:
- Upon s/he ceasing to be a staff of ASVSS, in case the member is an ASVSS employee
- Any member of the ASH Cell remains absent without permission of the ASH Cell from three consecutive meetings
- Any member of the ASH Cell against whom a complaint of sexual harassment, violation of ASVSS conduct of code or criminal charges are made and prima facie established
In the event of any vacancy on the ASH Cell due to resignation, termination, death or for any other reason whatsoever the same shall (within a period of three months of such vacancy) be filled in accordance with the procedures prescribed by this policy.
6. Each complaint will merit the formation of a new EQC. In other words, EQCs may be constituted on a case to case basis.
7. The Chairperson of the ASH Cell will be required to present a quarterly report on the activities of the ASH Cell to the President. Care must be taken not to breach confidentiality in these reports.
8. All meetings of the ASH Cell shall be fixed by the chairperson through mutual consultation among the members.
The First Instance Persons (FIPs)
- FIPs will be nominated by the organization, after an appropriate process of consultation within the regional offices.
- FIPs need to have a strong commitment to women’s rights and gender equality. They should also understand that complaints of SH are of a sensitive nature and confidentiality of all parties concerned, especially the complainant and accused has to be respected.
- FIPs will need to co-ordinate preventive activities within their Region to create a Sexual Harassment free atmosphere. The responsibility for ensuring that such activities take place lies with the Management of ASVSS.
- FIPs will be responsible for taking steps to ensure that cases of Sexual Harassment in ASVSS are brought to the notice of ASH Cell.
- FIPs are empowered to deal with informal complaints of Sexual Harassment.
- The CEO/ Program President / Governance officer of ASVSS will in coordination with the chairperson of the ASH Cell, ensure that at least 1 inputs session are held every year to enable FIPs to upgrade their knowledge and skills.
- FIP has to inform all new staff of ASH Policy.
- The names and contact details of all members of the ASH Cell as well as First Instance Persons (FIPs described below) shall be prominently displayed on the main notice board of all ASVSS offices.
- First Instance Persons (“FIP”s) at the various levels of ASVSS (as it shall deem fit)`shall be appointed by the management. They may provide first instance intervention in case of any complaint of sexual harassment. The ASH Cell shall undertake to impart training to such FIPs to equip them to respond effectively to first instance reports of sexual harassment. Details of the role of FIPs are given in the section below.
Procedure of Dealing with Complaints of Sexual Harassment
- If any staff at ASVSS believes that he or she has been subjected to sexual harassment, such person (or FIP who may have assisted the complainant or those who have otherwise observed sexual harassment at ASVSS) shall have the option to file a complaint with ASH Cell. This may be done in writing or orally. Even if it is done verbally initially, it is always preferable to have the complaint in writing.
- A complaint may be filed by contacting any one of the members of the ASH Cell. The ASH Cell as well as FIPs will also be available to discuss any concerns staff may have and to provide information about ASVSS’s policy on sexual harassment and the complaint process.
- Informal complaints of SH maybe made to the FIP within the Region or directly to the ASH Cell or any of its members as stated above.
- Informal Way of dealing with complaints of Sexual Harassment:
- An informal approach to resolve a complaint of sexual harassment can be through mediation between the parties involved and by providing advice and counseling on a strictly confidential basis. The procedures though less stringent than formal procedures will be conducted in the full spirit of this policy document.
- The case will be taken up for investigation at an informal level by the FIP or a member of the Enquiry Committee in a confidential manner. The matter will be reviewed and the alleged offender will be approached with the intention of resolving the matter in a confidential manner.
- If the incident or the case reported does constitute sexual harassment of a higher degree the member will suggest taking it up for disciplinary action or with the agreement of the complainant, the case can be taken as a formal complaint.
- Once such complaints are dealt with, the FIP must inform the ASH Cell and the Region head.
- The choice whether to deal with the complaint in the informal way or through the formal mechanism (whether the case constitutes sexual harassment of a higher or lower degree) should depend entirely on the complainant.
- All formal complaints of SH have to be referred to the ASH Cell by the FIP. Regional heads / Unit Heads, in consultation with FIPs or any other staff.
- The investigation into a complaint will be conducted in such a way as to maintain confidentiality to the extent practicable under the circumstances. The Enquiry Committee (EQC) has to be set up within 2 weeks of receiving the complaint. The ASH Cell is responsible for setting up the EQC with support from the ASVSS Management.
- The EQC has to investigate and submit report to ASH Cell within 6 weeks. The ASH Cell will have to decide on recommendations and forward it to CEO; within 2 weeks of receiving report from EQC (If the CEO is alleged then it should be reported to President.)
- In case of exceptional circumstances, the time limit for investigation may be extended by the ASH Cell. The ASH Cell has to inform the CEO/ President who will then inform both the complainant and accused.
Process of Inquiry:
- Upon receiving a formal complaint, the Committee shall ask the complainant to prepare a detailed statement of incidents if written complaint is vague. A statement of allegations will be drawn up by the Committee and sent to the accused.
- The accused will be asked to prepare a response to the statement of allegations and submit to the Committee within the given time.
- The statements and other evidence obtained in the inquiry process will be considered confidential materials.
- An officer in the organization could be designated to provide advice and assistance to each party if requested by either of them. Similarly, the complainant and the accused will have the right to be represented or accompanied by a member of staff of ASVSS, a friend or a colleague.
- The Committee will organize verbal hearings with the complainant and the accused.
- Statement of Complainant will be recorded first in the presence of the accused. The accused may cross question the complaint if there is a need to do so in the presence of the Enquiry Committee.
- The Committee will take testimonies of other relevant persons and review the evidence whenever necessary. Care should be taken to avoid any retaliation against the witnesses by giving necessary protection.
- The Committee will take its decision after carefully reviewing the circumstances, evidence and relevant statements in all fairness.
- If the accused, being provided fair opportunity to participate in the inquiry and defend him/her fails to participate in the inquiry, the Committee may conduct the inquiry expert.
- The Committee will ensure confidentiality during the inquiry process.
- In the course of investigating any complaint of sexual harassment, the ASH Cell shall ensure that the principles of natural justice are adhered to namely:
(i) Both parties shall be given reasonable opportunity to be heard along with witnesses and to produce any other relevant documents before the ASH Cell;
- Upon completion of the investigation, both parties will be informed of the results of that investigation.
- Documents which form part of the official record shall also be given to the complainant if need be.
- The ASH Cell shall be empowered to do all things necessary to ensure a fair hearing of the complaint including all things necessary to ensure that victims or witnesses are neither victimized nor discriminated against while dealing with a complaint of sexual harassment. In this regard the ASH Cell shall also have discretion to make appropriate interim recommendations vis-à-vis an accused person pending the outcome of a complaint including suspension, transfer, leave, change of office etc. The complainants should have the option to seek transfer of the perpetrator or seek his/her own transfer.
- In the event, the ASH Cell determines that sexual harassment has occurred, it will make appropriate recommendations as to necessary action to be instituted to remove the offensive conduct and, where appropriate, to institute disciplinary action. The complainant’s views may be taken into consideration for this purpose.
- Given that ASVSS views any finding of sexual harassment a serious violation of human rights, if it is determined that inappropriate conduct has been committed by a staff, appropriate action will follow under the circumstances. Such action may range from counseling to termination from employment, and may include such other forms of disciplinary action the ASH Cell deems appropriate under the circumstances. The ASH Cell will be guided by CEO procedures for disciplinary action within ASVSS. If the aggressor is guilty of serious sexual harassment or has repeatedly (second time) committed acts of SH then he /she must be dismissed. In appropriate cases he/she may also be required to pay monetary compensation.
- Sexual harassment by line managers or by colleague senior to the victim, then such acts will be considered to be very serious and will attract higher penalties.
Sexual Harassment and ASVSS Partners
ASVSS is responsible for ensuring that its partners have a commitment to an SH free working atmosphere within their organizations i.e. the partner organizations. While respecting the autonomy of the partner organization, ASVSS will have to play a facilitating role within the partner organization, by
- Creating an Sexual Harassment free climate
- Helping in the formation of the ASH Cell
- Ensuring that complaints of SH are heard and investigated
It is necessary when complainant and accused are from 2 or more different organizations there should be an EQC with atleast representatives from at least one such other organization.
Third Party Harassment
Where SH occurs as a result of an act or omission by any third party or outsider, ASVSS will take all steps necessary and reasonable to assist the affected person in terms of support and preventive action.
- Management of ASVSS shall provide all necessary assistance for the purpose of ensuring full, effective and prompt implementation of this policy. It shall further be bound by the decisions of the ASH Cell and shall implement the same expeditiously.
- The support to be provided to ASH Cell includes :
- Secretarial and administrative support for training and other preventive actions.
- Helping to set up EQCs
- Secretarial support during SH enquiries
- Adequate financial resources for all activities
- Time planning for members of ASH Cell, especially ASVSS staff
- The responsibility for preventive activities (regarding SH) rests with the Management of ASVSS.
- The responsibility of taking prompt action on ASH Cell recommendations lies with the Country President of ASVSS. Recommendations of the ASH Cell shall be binding on the Country President. However, if the CD has a difference of opinion he/she may ask the ASH Cell to review its decision. The final decision will, however, be that of the ASH Cell. Action on ASH Cell recommendations should be taken within 2 weeks of the recommendation being made.
- ASVSS is expected to provide adequate protection to ASH Cell and Enquiry Committee members in case of threats and any retaliation. Support and protection must also be provided (by Management) if matters go to Court. Management should in all cases defend the ASH cell & the complainant.
- In the event the conduct complained of amounts to a specific offence under the Indian Penal Code or under any other law in existence, the ASH Cell, subject to the wishes of the complainant, shall take appropriate action in making a complaint with the appropriate authority. The ASVSS management will have to provide all manner of support required in such instances.
- The ASVSS Management will actively assist and do all that is necessary to ensure the safety of a complainant in the office premises or otherwise in respect to any duties/activities performed in connection with her work, which take place outside office premises.
- The ASVSS Managementhas to ensure that the ASH Cell and Enquiry Committee retain their autonomy and may work unhindered.
- The proceedings under this policy shall not be stalled or postponed merely because the complainant is proceeding against the accused under any other provision of law.
- The provisions of this policy shall not restrict the powers of the Management or the complainant to proceed against the alleged offender for any other misconduct or other legal remedies.