#MeToo Accused NGO Director Reinstated 5 Months After Ouster

The survivor told The Quint that she feels completely defeated by the NGO’s decision to reinstate the accused.

Updated23 Oct 2019, 11:25 AM IST
4 min read

Only five months after the director and founding member of a Delhi-based NGO was accused of sexual harassment and asked to step down, The Quint has learnt that he was reinstated by the NGO.

On 15 May, the organisation’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) recommended the accused’s administrative responsibilities be revoked till he sent an “unconditional apology” to the survivor. He was further advised to attend classes on anger management and gender sensitisation. Neither has been done yet.

When The Quint asked the NGO about the director’s reinstatement, they refused to comment, only adding that the matter is ‘subjudice’.

The NGO works in the areas of health and gender sensitisation, especially among the marginalised communities.

The NGO’s website states that “gender equality is only possible if men too believe in equality and change their own beliefs and practices accordingly”.

Not only the organisation’s founding member but also its deputy director was accused of sexual harassment. He was asked to tender an unconditional apology to the survivor and take gender sensitisation classes, neither of which has been followed.

‘Feel Let Down’

The sexual abuse survivor told The Quint that she feels completely defeated by the NGO’s decision to reinstate the accused. The survivor joined the NGO in September 2012 and quit shortly after she filed her first complaint against the two men in March 2014.

“The ICC had come out with a strong and positive report which addressed the issue and took action on the two powerful men. Despite the report, the NGO has set up a new board that has the accused at the helm of affairs. The board has come up with a resolution that completely denies the harassment and gives a clean chit to the two perpetrators. It does not even consider the recommendations given by the ICC.”

She has decided to take on the matter legally.

“Yes it bothers me so much, I am taking it up in the court. I feel completely let down.”  

Nature of Allegations

The survivor alleges the harassment started two weeks into her work at the hands of the director and the deputy director.

“The structure of the organisation was such that there were two top (male) directors and a bunch of young women working in different departments. I was hired as the third member of the senior management. One of the directors, who was also a doctor, had a cabin to himself. The walls of his cabin were opaque. I was sharing my cabin with the other director. I would thus get sandwiched between the male directors.”

The survivor alleges the directors would often fetishise her young daughters.

“Once I was in a meeting with both the directors when they suddenly started discussing my daughters. The discussion centred around how I dress, and how sexy my daughter was. One of them even went to the extent of rating my daughter, saying that she would fetch a lot of money, if need be. This conversation was loud and so disgusting that I could not keep my tears and started to cry helplessly. The deputy director took the conversation forward by saying that my assets could be sold for the release of the team if they were ever caught by the Naxalites in Odisha. Others also chimed in and made dirty remarks trying to put me down.”

Her harassment wasn’t limited to inappropriate comments, she recounted. She was subjected to unsolicited touching and her physical space being invaded.

“The physical encroachment of my space would bother me a lot. The director would call me into his room and keep having an inconsequential monologue about himself and his work. I would just tolerate and come out. By then physical touches happened. Initially, I would ignore, thinking that it must have happened by mistake. But then they escalated to the extent that I would try to hide from his prying eyes every time I’d go to office.”

On 3 March 2014, she put down her papers. She wrote an email to the governing body of the organisation, detailing the trauma and the harassment that she went through. One of the members responded and said they would set up an ICC meeting.

“It was a one-sided ICC that was set up. The report came after four months and it dismissed my charges. It said that the allegations could be ‘bad behaviour’ or ‘anger’, but not sexual harassment.”

After the #MeToo movement gained momentum in 2018, she decided to share her ordeal on social media. That’s when international donors of the NGO took cognisance of the complaint and set up another ICC to re-investigate her complaints. However, the recommendations of the second ICC were flouted by the organisation.

‘Matter Sub Judice, Can’t Comment’

When The Quint reached out to the NGO, they said that the matter is in the High Court and that they can’t comment.

The Quint’s questions:

  • Did the ICC find the accused guilty of sexual harassment?
  • What recommendations did the ICC give? Were they implemented?
  • Has the accused been reinstated as one of the Board of Directors?
  • What is the organisation's stance on sexual harassment at the workplace since it works in the area of gender justice?
“The board is seized of the matter and is making sure that it is compliant with the law. Since the matter is sub judice, it is in the Delhi High Court and the complainant has been served notice, we are not able to discuss anything in the public domain and the board cannot give any comment. We affirm that we take the issue of creating a safe working environment for women very seriously.”

When we asked the survivor about the notice, she claimed she hasn’t received it.

Despite everything, she refuses to concede and is determined to fight whatever comes in her way.

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Published: 23 Oct 2019, 11:12 AM IST

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