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Internal Complaint Committees a must in every hospital: Dr Mona Desai, IMA

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To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, FOGSI’s e conclave discussed the need to safeguard female healthcare workers from violence

In the run up to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG), which is marked on November 25, the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) organised an e-conclave for the Prevention and Elimination of Violence against women and Girls (VAWG).

Since the work of FOGSI spans almost 50 per cent of India’s population from adolescent, teenage, reproductive age, menopause to geriatrics, the e-conclave held on November 22, was significant for its constituents. Over 1000 participants attended.

As per the release, through its community connect social programmes, FOGSO’s goal is to reach the UN Goal of Elimination of VAWG by 2030.

Titled #SayNotoVAWG, the whole day programme aimed to spread awareness about violence against women and girls. FOGSI tied up with UNICEF, Indian Academy of Paediatricians, Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) and The Association of Surgeons of India in order to take the message to as many citizens as possible.

Experts from different fields such as  Sumitra Mahajan (former speaker, Loksabha), Laxmi Agarwal (acid attack survivor), RJ Devaki, Rekha Sharma (Chairperson, National Women’s Commission), Sutapa Sanyal (Retd IPS, DG from UP), Anuradha Kapoor (Founder of NGO Swayam), Amodh Kant (Retd IPS-DGP), Preeti Patkar (Founder NGO Prerna) spoke at the e-conclave. Actor Sharmila Tagore and Virendra Sehwag also lent their support. Torrent Pharma was the scientific partner to the event.

Prominent gynaecologists participated in the panel discussions throughout the day- on subjects ranging from selective violence in childhood and adulthood, acid attack, harassment at workplace, domestic violence, sexual violence, women’s rights and women’s empowerment and a demonstration of safety tips.

During the discussion on harassment of women in healthcare workplaces, Dr Mona Desai, IMA revealed that there has been exploitation everywhere, even in hospitals. “But the worst thing is that even though we have Vishaka Guidelines stipulated by the Supreme Court of India laying down guidelines to be followed by establishments in complaints of sexual harassment, many hospitals do not have Internal Complaint Committees (ICCs). Women tend to tolerate harassment at workplace due to reasons ranging from financial crunch, fear of society and so on. ICC should be there in each and every corporate hospital as well as middle sized hospital with more than 10 employees.”

Dr Mandakini Megh highlighted that one in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violence.  Dr Megh also brought to light that since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, had intensified.

Dr Jaydeep Tank, secretary general, FOGSI opined that while he has no doubt that harassment of women at the workplace exists, but there is limited data to show that it is quite pervasive. “The 2017 survey done by the Indian National Bar Association, which surveyed 6000 employees found that sexual harassment was pervasive in different job sectors ranging from lewd comments to outright demand for sexual favours. Unfortunately they also found that most women chose not to report sexual harassment to the management because of the stigma, fear of retribution, embarrassment and frankly speaking lack of faith in redressal mechanisms which were existing at that time or generally exist in our country. The important thing is that such surveys also need to take into account the end point of harassment, for example, how many women had to leave the workforce because of the sexual harassment.”

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