Punjab: ‘70% women labourers won’t talk about sex harassment at workplace’

Anju Agnihotri Chaba
According to the study, several women labourers are living in semi-pucca and dilapidated houses. Nearly 69.12 % have no separate kitchen in their houses. (Representational Image)

Among the women labourers in Punjab's rural belt, 5.01% of the respondents admitted to having faced sexual harassment at their workplace, a study led by Dr Gian Singh, former Professor at Department of Economics, Punjabi University in Patiala, revealed.

The study was part of a book co-authored by Dr Gian Singh - 'Economic, Social and Political Participation of Rural Women Labourers in Punjab', released on Tuesday in Punjabi University.

A sample of total 1017 women was taken for the study and 70.60% of the respondents did not reply preferring to keep the reply to themselves.

"They are silent because they will not get labour work if they raise the voice. Sexual harassment hampers women's constitutional rights to equality and dignity," said Dr Gian Singh.

Four districts from Majha, Doaba and Malwa regions of Punjab were selected for the study which is based on multi-stage systematic random sampling technique is related to the year 2016-17. These districts include Amritsar, Jalandhar, Fatehgarh Sahib and Mansa.

One village of each block of these districts was selected from where 15% of households from the total rural women labour households were randomly selected and investigated.

'Financial needs forcing to stay at work'

"Several women revealed that their employers abused them sexually but they cannot leave work as they have to look after their children and their studies," said Prof. Gain Singh, He further said that silence of majority women on this question revealed about the actual condition of them as they are under huge stress and no one is there to save them from this.

"Not replying this question is a cause of concern as their silence on this question may be because of social implications," said Parminder Kaur and Amandeep Kaur, women labour leaders.

About 90% have not got any basic facilities at their workplace and 16% are forced by their families to go on work even if they are ill.

'Caste discrimination at workplace'

Many of these women also face caste-based discrimination at their workplaces, the study said.

Around 92% of them belong to the Scheduled Caste category, 7.08% and 0.49% belong to the Backward Class and General categories respectively. As many as 32.38 %, 23.77 % and 18.08 % in Majha, Malwa and Doaba region respectively complained caste-related discrimination at the workplace. The study also revealed that 67.35 % of the rural woman labourers are illiterate. Among the literate, majority of them have education up to the primary level.

'Poor living conditions'

According to the study, several women labourers are living in semi-pucca and dilapidated houses. Nearly 69.12 % have no separate kitchen in their houses.

Although, 83.97% have access to bathroom or toilet, yet these are not proper in any respect, the study states..

The study further claimed that 11.70 % of the respondents have no source of potable water and they depend upon the neighbours or other sources for potable water.

Dr. Dharampal, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, GGDSD College, Kheri Gurna (Banur), Dr Gurinder Kaur, Professor, Department of Geography, Punjabi University, Patiala, Jyoti, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, GGDSD College, Kheri Gurna (Banur) and Dr. Veerpal Kaur, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University College, Ghudda (Bathinda) are the other authors of the book, a copy of which is with The Indian Express.

"Government must launch some kind of campaign to educate and make them aware about their rights and also to help them in case of sexual harassment," stressed all other authors.

Prof Gian Singh also led the study 'Indebtedness among Farmers and Agricultural Labourers in Rural Punjab' in 2017.