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SH POLICY

EQUITY FOUNDATION’S MECHANISMS TO SAFEGUARD AGAINST THE VIOLATION AND ABUSE, INCLUDING SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND ABUSE

Equity Foundation has zero tolerance for all forms of sexual wrongdoing, whether perpetrated against a recipient of assistance or co-worker. Sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment violate human rights and are a betrayal of the core values of the Organisation. EF is working closely with other partners to put an end to such abuses through a range of actions.

POLICY FRAMEWORK

EF has a dedicated policy on the Prohibition of harassment, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination. The Equity Foundation Policy embodies the principle of zero tolerance for wrongdoing, including sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment.

PREVENTION

Equity Foundation conducts thorough pre-employment checks of staff and personnel to prevent the rehiring of known offenders. All staffs are required to undergo mandatory training on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment.

RESPONSE

Any form of sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment is prohibited, constitutes misconduct and will be addressed as a matter of priority by EF.

SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND ABUSE

Sexual exploitation and abuse refers to all forms of inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature committed by EF Staff against recipients of assistance and other members of local communities. Prohibited conduct includes, but is not limited to:
⦁ Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally. Mistaken belief in the age of a child is no defence;
⦁ Exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex or sexual favours. This includes any exchange of assistance due to recipients of assistance;
⦁ Sexual activity with prostitutes, whether or not prostitution is legal in the host country; and
⦁ Use of a child or adult to procure sex for others
EF Staffs are obligated to report allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse to the Office confidentially, in writing (form available in English and Hindi Language).
Equity Foundation team investigates all allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, imposes disciplinary and/or administrative sanctions when allegations are proven

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Sexual harassment refers to prohibited conduct in the work context and is defined as “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favour, verbal or physical conduct or gesture of a sexual nature, or any other behaviour of a sexual nature that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another person.”
EF Staff who has been affected by sexual harassment may choose to seek resolution through informal or formal mechanisms.
Informal Resolution: Affected individuals have the possibility to resolve their grievance in a consensual and non-contentious manner. They may, at any time, seek the assistance of a colleague or supervisor for confidential advice.
Formal Resolution: Affected individuals may also choose to file a formal complaint with the Office of Audit and Investigation Services through any of the mechanisms listed above. There is no obligation to attempt informal resolution before filing a complaint.
Staff members who believe that they have been the victim of retaliation may seek informal redress or make a formal complaint to the Ethics section.
Equity Foundation has institutional experience in responding to gender-based violence. It can also offer psychosocial assistance and medical treatment.

TRANSPARENCY

EF will publish annually, details of all investigations of wrongdoing, including those of sexual exploitation and abuse and of sexual harassment, as well as sanctions taken in response.

INTERNAL COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE

The Equity Foundation has established an internal complaints committee for investigation of Sexual Harassment situations. The ICC consists of 5 core members. A Presiding Officer, Two employee members, one member from NGO or Association working for the cause of women. What are the Qualifications to be a Member of the Committee?
As per Section 4 of the Act, the following are the qualifications for being a member of the Internal Complaints Committee in the workplace: –

PRESIDING OFFICER

The Presiding Officer is the Chairperson of the Internal Complaints Committee. The post must be held by a senior-level female employee at the workplace. The Act provides that in case a senior female employee is unavailable, there can be a nomination of senior female employees from other offices or administrative units of a workplace. Even if not available at another office, the act further provides that such presiding officer be nominated from any other workplace. The provisions have been enacted with a purpose to address the concerns of small workplaces, where female employees at senior levels may not be available. In such cases, the employer may nominate a presiding officer from outside the workplace.

EMPLOYEE

The ICC must also comprise of two or more members from its employees. It is desirable that they possess the legal knowledge, are experienced in social work or committed to the women’s cause. These characteristics are not mandatory and merely preferable because it may not be viable to find such employees.

OUTSIDE MEMBER

The ICC must also include a member who is a person familiar with issues relating to sexual harassment, or is a member of a non-governmental organization or association which is committed to women’s cause. Having an outside member gives room for an outside perspective to the ICC. The requirement was also prescribed by the Supreme Court in the Vishakha Guidelines.

TENURE OF THE MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE

As per Section 4(3) of the Act, the tenure of the members of the Internal Complaints Committee in the workplace, i.e. Presiding Officer as well as other members, must not be more than three years from the date of nomination.

WHO CAN FILE A COMPLAINT?

The complaint can be filed by the following persons: –
⦁ Aggrieved women
In case of her physical incapacity, the following persons can file a complaint –
⦁ Relative of Complainant
⦁ Friends of Complainant
⦁ Co-worker
⦁ Officer of National Commission for Women or State Commission for Women
⦁ Any person who has knowledge of the incident with the written consent of the complainant
In case of her mental incapacity, the following persons can file a complaint –
⦁ Complainant’s relative
⦁ Complainant’s friend
⦁ Special educator
⦁ Qualified psychiatrist/psychologist

The general duties of the Committee

The Committee has a major role to play at the workplace where it has been constituted. A general list of duties of the Committee is enumerated as follows: –
⦁ Implementation of the Anti–Sexual Harassment Policy at the workplace
⦁ Submit an Annual Report
⦁ Create awareness at the workplace by way of documents, notices, workshops, seminars, etc.
⦁ Publicize the policy framework
⦁ Provide a safe and accessible mechanism of complaint to the victims
⦁ Initiation of inquiry at the earliest
⦁ Redress the complaints in the best possible manner
⦁ Provide for interim relief
⦁ Provide an opportunity for conciliation
⦁ Follow the principles of natural justice at all stages of the proceedings
⦁ Forward the complaint to the police, where required
⦁ Submit recommendations along with the inquiry report
⦁ Maintain confidentiality in regard to the proceedings taking place before the Committee

CONSTITUTION OF THE INTERNAL COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE

CORE COMMITTEE MEMBERS

ROLE

CONTACT DETAILS

Dr. Renu Ranjan
Chairperson, Equity Foundation (A Forum for Women & Child) Chairperson (Presiding Officer) prof.renuranjan@gmail.com
Phone- 9334128460

Dr. Sharad Kumari External Member Sharad.kumari@actionaidindia.org
Phone- 9334336343

Ms. Meeta Mohini Lawyer/ External Member meetamohini@hotmail.com
Phone- 9431033035

Kumar Saurabh Member/Employee kumarsaurabhsonu@gmail.com
Phone- 8292920086

Ms. Nina Srivastava Member/Employee equityasia@gmail.com
Phone- 9431055965
As of 01January 2020