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Rape, sexual harassment allegations rock Greenpeace India

IANS 16 Jun 2015, 8:03:43 IST
IANS

New Delhi: Environment rights NGO Greenpeace India could be in for more trouble as an ex-staffer has gone public with allegations of rape and sexual harassment by her colleagues.

The organization's inaction against the perpetrators has spurred more female ex-employees to come out with similar accusations. Now, the NGO is at the receiving end with activists lambasting the organization's irresponsible handling of the cases.

Recently, Greenpeace was in the news after the government froze it's accounts for non-compliance of norms. The Delhi high court, however, released two of its accounts so that it could function.

In an article published on a web forum last week, an ex-employee (name withheld) of Greenpeace alleged that she had to leave her job in 2013 after being sexually harassed and raped by her colleagues.

Narrating her ordeal, she said that it started a year after she had joined the NGO at their Bengaluru office. The first incident happened during an official trip in October 2012. "I got a call from a senior colleague at 11pm, asking me to vacate my room and insisting that I sleep in his suite. In another incident, he approached me physically despite my discomfort, insisted on force-feeding me birthday cake," she told IANS.

Though she registered a written complaint with the HR manager, she did not receive any verbal or written communication from the internal complaints committee (ICC) of the organization, which looks into sexual harassment cases. To her shock, she learnt that the person was a serial offender and no action had been taken against him despite his misbehaviour with two other female employees.

However, she said, she was blamed for registering the complaint. "Once in an official meeting, in my absence, two senior employees indulged in character assassination against me. Even some female colleagues, part of the ICC, made me feel that I was at fault, that I didn't know how to 'set boundaries'," she said.

However, matters came to a head in 2013. "It was after a party, when a male colleague whom I knew quite well found me unconscious and raped me. You cannot imagine the pain and fear I went through. I was terrified to speak and I knew even if I had, no one in this organization would come to my aid. I did not have the strength to report my rape, neither to the police, nor to my employers. How could I, when the processes had failed me once already?" she asked. Traumatized, she left the NGO after a few months.

She said it took her long to overcome the incident, and finally, she decided to tell her story through a Facebook post in February this year. Immediately after her post, Greenpeace issued an apology on their website and promised her to re-investigate the case in an adequate manner. Admitting the lax attitude in dealing with the case in 2012, the statement said, "The victim deserves both an apology and a meticulous examination of what happened."

However, the victim pointed out that the NGO's subsequent actions exposed their empty talk. "The ICC, which convened in March, recommended the termination of the offender, but the executive director overrode the decision on some pretext and the only thing I received was a written apology from the molester,"" she said.

Supporting the claims of the victim, another ex-senior manager Reema Ganguly, who was a part of the ICC, told IANS that she quit Greenpeace in May after executive director Samit Aich overrode the committee's recommendation. "The committee's suggestion of terminating the molester was overturned by the executive director, and they dismantled the committee which was only three months old, whereas the duration (for such a committee) is for three years. It was very clear that the committee is an eyewash by the NGO," said Ganguly.