The harasser, a male colleague, was directed to retire from service compulsorily after the charges of sexual harassment were proved.

Woman kabaddi coach from AP wins 6-yr-long battle in sexual harassment caseRepresentational image
news Sexual Harassment Friday, June 29, 2018 - 12:18

It took six long years of grim battle. Justice may have been delayed but it’s certainly not denied for Indira*, a senior kabaddi/kho kho coach with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), in a case of sexual harassment at the workplace.

Victory finally came Indira’s way, thanks to her courage and steely resolve. The stigma inevitably attached to survivors of sexual harassment and the hostile environment created by her harasser failed to defy her fighting spirit.

The SAI Director General directed the harasser to retire from service compulsorily after the charges of sexual harassment were established through a series of inquiries. His direction was followed by a letter dated May 17 (a copy of which is available with TNM) from G Kishore, Principal of Lakshmibai National College of Physical Education, Thiruvananthapuram, an arm of the SAI, and head of the inquiry committee.

The inquiry officer in his five-page letter observed that he concluded in favour of awarding a severe punishment to the accused after ‘application of my mind carefully’ into all the facts and circumstances of the case, the inquiry committee report and records relating to the examination and cross-examination of the victim, harasser and witnesses.

After receipt of the inquiry committee report, the officer recommended that the Director General direct the accused to take compulsory retirement from service.

Traumatic experience

Indira’s tale of untold miseries began during her stint as coach in Andhra. Her harasser was a male colleague working as a field assistant-cum senior accountant. Incidentally, both knew each other before they joined the service.

Unable to tolerate the harassment which went on for many years, Indira filed a complaint with SAI leading to the constitution of an inquiry committee in 2012. There appeared no respite for the survivor even after she was transferred. The accused, a married man with children, also got deputed to the same workplace and allegedly continued stalking her and making advances. Indira, who is single, deposed before the inquiry committee several times and stated that the accused took advantage of her living alone and allegedly began intimidating her for not accepting his demands.

Speaking with TNM, Indira recalled one of her depositions before the inquiry committee regarding her traumatic experiences with the harasser. “During tournaments, he used to stand close to me deliberately touch me. When he held my hand on one such occasion, it was the last straw,” she said.

“Harassment in my case had different facets. The harasser used to touch me several times. During tournaments he used to stand close to me and try to brush his body against mine,” the survivor narrated her tale of agony in the complaint.

“Although I began feeling that I was being sexually harassed by him well before 2001, I resisted from complaining to the SAI authorities keeping in mind his family. Even as I was giving him enough rope, the harasser started indulging in character assassination by weaving concocted stories about me. In the process, I was isolated by the people around me and some people even began finding fault with me,” she recounted.

Justice delayed

Though the inquiry committee found prima facie evidence in the charges made by the survivor in 2012 itself, the relief reached her only in mid-2018 for different reasons. The harasser tried to buy time by approaching the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), seeking a fresh round of inquiry in his presence and enabling him to cross-examine the witnesses. Indira said the accused used this opportunity to threaten witnesses and weaken the case.

On the delay of the judgement, she said the lack of prompt action in cases of sexual harassment results in the accused getting emboldened and witnesses getting intimidated. At the end of the day, the survivors tend to lose self-confidence, she says.

Indira profusely thanks her father Ramesh*, a retired high school headmaster, for standing by her all along. The octogenarian took up the battle on his daughter’s behalf and ran from pillar to post petitioning the people at the helm in SAI until she got justice.

Indira urged official agencies to ensure that committees against sexual harassment are constituted at all workplaces and steps be initiated to ensure they functioned properly as per the mandate of the National Commission for Women (NCW).

*Names changed

 

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