news Thursday, June 18, 2015 - 05:30
Image for representation Four days after a former Greenpeace India employee’s article, on allegedly being sexually harassed and raped by her colleagues, was published in Youth Ki Awaaz, the organisation released a statement on Tuesday stating that the "two staff members who were the subject of complaints have been told to clear their desks and not return".  The two staff members had put in their resignation papers earlier and were only serving their notice period. Greenpeace India asked them to leave without serving their notice period. Apart from these two employees, two other Greenpeace India staff members had earlier left the organisation- the director and HR Manager who were initially handling the ex-staffer’s complaint.  Speaking to The News Minute, the ex-staffer says that leaving the organisation is hardly a punishment. “They left the organisation. They were not sacked. They were given the privilege to walk away,” she says. "But it took too long for that to happen, and it’s also clear that simply removing these staff members alone won’t address the deeper issues that have come to light. The response by Greenpeace India to the complaints made by our colleagues fell far short of what it should have been. Very far short. " -Greenpeace India It is in February that the ex-staffer (name withheld) published a Facebook post alleging she had been sexually harassed by her colleagues and was even raped by one of them. The alleged incidents took place in between 2012-2013 and in 2014 she resigned. After the post was widely circulated via social media, the organisation issued a public apology and also wrote to the ex-staffer saying they wanted to re-investigate her allegations of sexual harassment.  The ex-staffer says that she does not understand why Greenpeace India chose to use the word "re-investigate" when the incident was never investigated in the first place for a "re" to happen. She however turned down their request stating that the system had earlier failed to act on her complaints and she did not trust them any more to conduct a fair probe. When the ex-staffer had complained to the senior management, she said, they didn’t bat as much as an eyelid. Her complaint was also termed as one which "does not fall under sexual harassment". There was no-follow up, nor did the organisation communicate to her in this regard. "Her disillusion with the organisation and anger is completely valid. Greenpeace India failed to act on her complaints," says Divya Raghunandan, Programme Director, Greenpeace India. The ex-staffer had made a formal complaint, against the person whom she accused of sexually harassing her, while she was still working for Greenpeace India. She however, approached the HR to file a complaint against her alleged rapist after she had quit the organisation in 2014. But it was not considered since she was no longer an employee with Greenpeace. The ex-staffer has also not registered a formal complaint with the police.  When asked what took so long for Greenpeace India to act on such grave allegations, Divya said that there had been a process failure. She also said that the organisation though has now acted upon the allegations of sexual harassment; they could not carry forward their probe into the allegations of rape as the complainant has not filed an FIR and that details about the case were not known. She says, "It is a huge problem if our employees do not feel like filing a complaint. It then points to the organisation’s culture." The ex-staffer however said that her biggest concern at the moment was not filing an FIR (which she has not filed yet, but also does not rule it out), but to ensure that strict action is taken against those accountable for her ordeal, both directly and indirectly. "This is an institutional failure. And it is not just me, but many others have also suffered. If they had taken prompt action when they had received the first complaint, I may not have had to go through all this," she says. *** After her Facebook post went viral in February, the NGO’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) convened in March and recommended the termination of the offender, the one accused of sexual harassment. However, Executive Director Samit Aich overrode the ICC’s recommendation citing that the committee’s decisions had been leaked. The organisation then dissolved the three-month-old committee and reconstituted it. When asked why the organisation did not follow the Committee's decision of terminating the offender, Aich said a strong warning was given to the person. "I have given a strong warning to the person and as a result, he has put in his papers. I admit that there have been flaws in our earlier system and we will tighten our disciplinary actions in future,'' he added. Ex-senior manager Reema Ganguly, who was a part of the ICC, told IANS that she quit Greenpeace in May after Aich overrode the committee’s recommendation. "The committee’s suggestion of terminating the molester was overturned by the executive director, and they dismantled the committee which was only three months old, whereas the duration (for such a committee) is for three years. It was very clear that the committee is an eyewash by the NGO,’’ said Ganguly. To this, Divya retorted that it was a “breach of confidentiality” and the ICC’s recommendations were not accepted since “the process seemed to be flawed”. Soon after, the ex-staffer says, the senior management ordered her harasser to send her an apology over email. “I feel, I owe you a personal apology for my insensitive behaviour towards you. You have been a wonderful colleague and friend, and I would not intentionally hurt your feelings. Please accept my apology. I hope you will be able to forgive me. I respect you and your abilities, and I hope we can continue to work well together and be good friends,” the person wrote to her. It is then that the ex-staffer decided to get her blog published on the web forum. “One night at a hotel, on a work trip in October 2012, the man in question was drunk when he made an official call to me at around 10-11pm, telling me to vacate my room and insisting I sleep in his. He approached me physically despite my obvious discomfort, followed me around, insisted on force feeding me my birthday cake and sat next to me at breakfast when there were multiple other seats empty.”  She also wrote about the misogynistic comments she was subjected to by some of her colleagues. “It’s easy for you, you just have to smile and the supporter would cut off a hefty cheque for you”, “Who’s in her room today?” and “Is that person in her room, or in her?” is what some said.  ***  An independent review by Greenpeace International, the global head office based in Amsterdam, into the issue found that “In the earlier cases it was a major failing for the then HR Manager to have declared these cases not to have been ‘sexual harassment’” and that “it appears that there is an internal cultural problem in Greenpeace India”. For the ex-staffer however, Greenpeace India’s action is a “little to less” and has come a “little too late”. Read: An Assamese 'trans-queen' who is one of Kerala's most sought after make-up artists