Defamation threat dissuades women from reporting sexual harassment: IWPC

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New Delhi: The Indian Women's Press Corps on Tuesday expressed concern at growing instances of sexual harassment in the media and said the threat to use defamation law can have an effect of dissuading women from complaining or compel them to withdraw their complaints.

It urged the media organisations to send a strong message that there will be zero tolerance for such behaviour by not only setting up robust mechanisms required under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act but also by reacting proactively as and when such instances are reported.

In a statement, IWPC said while it was concerned at the growing instances of sexual harassment in the media, it was equally concerned that narratives and complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace were often threatened by defamation "as in the recent instance involving a senior woman journalist who detailed her harassment in a magazine."

The allegations pertained to a news anchor who denied them and sent a defamation notice to the said magazine, woman journalist and the concerned reporter who filed the story.

"The IWPC recognises that sexual harassment at the workplace is a pervasive phenomenon and that women still find it difficult to report such instances, whether they have occurred in the present or in the past. The threat to use defamation can have the effect of dissuading women from complaining or compel them to withdraw their complaints," it said.

The organisation said it believed there should be constant support and encouragement to women to speak out against the harassment they have faced.

"It also believes that proper processes of inquiry be initiated by the appropriate forums in all cases of sexual harassment at the workplace including in instances where the incident may be dated," it said.

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