We like to believe that as a society, we've made a good amount of progress but as soon as a woman steps out of the house, reality hits us smack in the face. We're not that progressive after all.
It's unfortunate that women have to live in constant fear, even in this day and age. This is especially true for working women. There's always a fear nagging us that someone around us might be a sexual predator. Now, imagine this fear actually coming true.
What 6 women working in a spinning mill in Tamil Nadu went through is a sad reminder of how common workplace harassment is. In a cringeworthy letter, the women wrote about their male supervisor that brings forth the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace.
Sent to the social welfare officer in Dindigul, a district in Tamil Nadu, the 8-page letter stated:
He 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 everyday. Please help us.
"There is constant use of vulgar language and other male workers are also encouraged to seek sexual favours from us," the letter said.
"Some desperate women go along with the exploitation and they are exempt from over time work. But those of us who resist are forced to complete the work orders. Any show of protest results in wage cuts."
"We don't mind the wage cuts and the overtime work. It is the sexual harassment that we cannot bear," the women stated in the letter. "It is something we cannot talk to our families about. We dread going to work every day."
This isn't the first time that the male supervisor has come into light because of such a complaint. "There were unsubstantiated allegations against the same person around a year back by a woman worker," K.R. Shanmugavel, senior manager at the spinning mill, was reported as saying.
"We gave him a warning and also terminated the employment of the woman worker to avoid further problems."
See how easy it was for the management to get rid of the woman who raised her voice? Apparently, what she said was 'unsubstantiated' and the warning given to the supervisor was the 'solution' to the complaint.
"Women normally share their experiences only after quitting their jobs," said S. Thivyarakhini of the all-women Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union.
"This is the first time we have such raw details of ongoing exploitation. The letter has exposed the underbelly of the textile industry in the region."
The women working in the textile industry in Tamil Nadu hail from poverty-stricken families and make clothes available at various high-end fashion shops to make ends meet.
While the management at the spinning mill claims that it has received no official complaint of this nature, Dindigul social welfare officer G. Shanti informed the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they were in the process of putting together an enquiry committee to look into the allegations.