Workplace sexual harassment has been a pressing concern for women all over the world but this story is bound to make you sit up. Six women from a textile mill in Tamil Nadu reported of constant touching, forced hugging and everyday harassment in an anonymous letter to the Social Welfare Officer in their distrct Dindigul in Tamil Nadu.
As reported by Reuters, the letter contained horrific stories like these. “He (the manager) forces himself on us, constantly hugging us and squeezing our breasts. Any worker who resists his advances loses part of her salary. We need this job and don’t know who to talk to about the abuse we face every day. Please help us.”
The letter was sent to the social welfare officer on 29 August this year. Exactly a week after another letter from anonymous sources was reportedly pushed under the doors of Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU) office in the wee hours.
“The letter was about eight and a half pages long written and has frank details of women explaining how manager was misbehaving with the women workers,” said Thivyarakini, General Secretary of TTCU to SheThePeople.TV.
Thivyarakini says she along with her team started investigation in the textile mill case soon after receiving complaints. “The first three times that we went to the village, we could not meet any woman as in that particular mill only the day shift was available for the women. So morning 6 o’clock they go to the mill for work and evening 6.30p.m. they return from the mill.”
“We couldn’t have straight away gone and questioned the manager as the women had written to us that ‘we are pouring all our feelings and mental trauma to your organisation but we are not sure how much protection you will be able to give us for our life and livelihood’ so we went through and but to no avail,” added Thivyarakini, insisting their intent was to be sensitive and careful about the situation.
Upon several visits to the village her team discovered that almost everyone -the shopkeepers, hotel owners etc – knew about the matter but didn’t want to talk about it.
When after many trials, the mill produced a woman for enquiry by the TTCU but it is alleged that the woman is “favoured” by the manager and hence nothing could come out of the enquiry. Even in the letter apparently the women had mentioned about this particular employee.
“We now have a plan of meeting the owner of the mill and addressing this matter. It has been found that the owner is from North India and does not understand Tamil. This has posed as an issue for these women to not being able to talk to him personally as they have to take the manager’s help to get through to the owner,” said the General Secretary.
Just some time back a video showing similar case of sexual harassment at workplace went viral. That video was from a company in China, closer home this case has laid bare the dark reality of exploitation inside the four walls of our own companies. These women have no choice whatsoever as they have to earn a livelihood for their own and their families.
At one side when we talk of women entering the workplace, we also need to make the workplace safe enough for women to feel the freedom of coming out of their homes. Who wants to come out of one cage to be caged in another one?