Surrogacy – A Boon for Working Women?

A surrogate mother and delivery of a child costs approximately US$12,000 (Rs 720,000) in India. A mid-level female professional’s annual salary is more than twice this amount. Add to it the salary loss a female has post-delivery is she takes a break. Then consider the opportunity loss she suffers for the year she is pregnant and post-delivery, and the long-term impact on her career. The idea of surrogacy appears cost-effective.

If profit and loss analysis is done, surrogacy is the best option for working women. However, not all decisions can be based on money alone. So let us talk about the ethical, emotional, and social dilemmas of surrogacy. Maybe then surrogacy doesn’t sound like that great an option.

1)     Surrogate Mother’s Perspective

In India poor women who have one to two children opt for becoming surrogate mothers. They earn Rs 500,000 to Rs 600,000, which is equivalent to 8-10 years of their salary. The reason they consider this venture is that they can provide for their own children. For them it is good money since they do not have any other viable and legal means to earn a similar amount. It is a way out of extreme poverty.

However, in most of the clinics, surrogate mothers stay at a special accommodation and are provided food, lodging and medical facilities. They are allowed to meet their own family but not stay with them to reduce risks. Hence, the children of the surrogate mother suffer separation and lack of motherly care for 9 months of delivery time. They are forced to make that sacrifice, as their parents are concerned about their future. Is it right for the society and parents to ask children to make this sacrifice for their future?

The next issue is that the surrogate mother goes through a cesarean operation to deliver. She is taking all the delivery risks and health risks to deliver a child of an unknown couple. She carries the child within her womb for nine months and then hands it over to strangers. Doesn’t this amount to exploitation due to poverty?

2)     Child’s Perspective

unborn babyAs such a child has no say in how it is conceived. However, a question needs to be asked to child born from surrogacy – would they have preferred natural birth?

According to medical studies, a child recognizes the voice of the mother from the womb. It also develops physically according to the food provided and psychological stress of the mother. A study showed that the children born to mothers pregnant during the Dutch famine in 1944 ( known as Hunger Winter) developed health problems later in life because they survived on scarcity in the womb. Their bodies developed physically to survive on scarcity. Later on in life when there was abundant food supply their bodies couldn’t adjust.

Considering this, the child will develop physically and psychologically according to the stress and health levels of the surrogate mother. It will get attached and look for security in the voice of the surrogate mother. It will want milk from the surrogate mother.

As a society we are concerned when mothers abandon their children. However, in surrogacy, a child faces physical and psychological separation from the surrogate mother on the day it is born. A study shows that children born through surrogacy face higher level of depression and suffer from emotional issues. Hence, the question is – will they face lifetime abandonment issues due to surrogate birth.

3)     Adoptive /Genetic Mother’s Perspective

A professional women’s biggest dilemma is to have a child or not. If she does, she has to sacrifice her career, if she doesn’t she has to sacrifice her basic need of feminine fulfillment. While a man is not  questioned about his professional competence after becoming a father, a woman has to face doubtful superiors till her child becomes an adult.

The modern day medical science has provided her with an option to go for surrogacy. Nevertheless, will these nine months really have a long-term impact on her profession when she will be questioned every time she asks for leave because her child is sick.

Is it ethical for organizations and society to expect a woman to make a choice between professional success and personal happiness? When professional women talk about guilt of leaving the child home, won’t she feel guiltier on not having her child biologically?

Moreover, will she be able to form a strong relationship with her child born from surrogacy? Will the relationship be that of a mother and adopted child? What will be the long-term psychological and emotional impact on the mother when a child withdraws from her or she feels guilty because she didn’t physically bear the child.

The situation is different if the mother suffers from health issues and there is risk to her child or herself. Then she is fulfilling a dream through someone because she herself is incapable. However, when she is physically fit, the issue takes different proportions.

4)     Biological Father’s Perspective

A man’s biggest psychological insecurity is that he doesn’t know whether the woman is carrying his child or has he been fooled. Before DNA tests, men compensated this insecurity by falling in love, getting married and demanding fidelity from the mother of their child. The social norms were geared to ensure that a man doesn’t bring up a child, which is not his.

To this day, men are willing to sacrifice much for the mother of their children. Even when they don’t get along, they bestow respect and care to the woman for bearing their child.

Now contrast this with the option that they are bearing a child from a woman whom they don’t know and is not their wife. How is the man supposed to psychologically shift gears, care for his wife while ignoring the surrogate mother? He has to change generations of social thinking built into his psychologically.

Moreover, is his wife is healthy enough to bear children, then he has to struggle with the fact that she doesn’t want to physically trouble herself by having his child. She is not willing to make any sacrifices for him or his children. In such a situation, will the man feel loved by his wife, and will he be able to continue to love his wife? What will be the long-term impact on the marriage if a woman chooses to use a surrogate mother without the willingness and consent of the father? Moreover, will the man be able to have the same relationship with the child or will he feel like an adoptive father?

5)     Social Perspective

Presently, the number of children born through surrogacy is low. However, with the strides in surrogacy, cloning, and medical science, it is possible that in the next couple of decades surrogacy becomes more prevalent.

Then a couple of social behavior and culture issues need to be thought about. If the number of surrogate children increase will social conflict and disturbances occur on lines similar to ethnicity, race and color. Will the surrogate children feel discriminated against and should there be special guidelines formed to deal with the issue?

Will the society suffer from lessor level of social bonding? What will be the effects on altruistic nature of humans because childbirth is considered altruistic – a mother sacrifices and risks her life for it. Will the generation become more detached from their parents and face issues of isolation, abandonment, and depression. Will it suffer identity crises?

Closing Thoughts

To some questions there is no easy answer. Humans may be able to justify surrogacy when the mother suffers health issues. However, it is difficult to justify surrogacy from a monetary perspective when the moral, emotional, and psychological cost is so high for all parties concerned. It is not a onetime cost, it is a lifelong cost that each family member has to pay. So do you think surrogacy is an option for working women? Share your views here.

 References

 

Cultural Complexities and Conflicts

Two weeks back I had given my laptop for repair. The computer guy first said that he would repair it in a day for Rs 1500. Then he called up and said it will take two days. Then he called up and said it will take Rs 2500. I asked him to return the laptop without repairing and ended up paying Rs 350 as service charges as he had identified the problem. Last week I asked a person to recharge my TV subscription and I am still waiting for the same. Why am I ranting on the blog?

Reason is these things happen in India. Based on these experiences the foreigners visiting India formulate an opinion on India. Secondly, the foreigners either formulate opinions on Indians from media reports or base it on their experiences of Indians living abroad. Media thrives on negative information and hardly report on positive aspects. Indians living abroad are just a small slice of the country and they do not completely represent the culture at home.

Some westerners visit India to understand it better as it is a growing economic power. However, whenever I have read their views, I feel they have a superficial picture and do not really understand the cultural complexities of India. They attempt to dissect each part independently and try to fix the jigsaw puzzle. However, Indian culture is akin to a seven-layered cake. The multitudes of flavours need to be tasted as a whole.

In India, there is a saying. To understand the water flowing in Ganga check the origin from Gangotri. To understand the culture of the country and the behaviour of the people, one needs to see the history of at least 100 years. I know in this age we believe world is changing so fast that people change quickly. However, I was reading Gandhi ji’s autobiographies and was surprised that most of the causes of conflict and misunderstandings between western people and Indians remain the same. For example, I understand what is being said by a westerner but sometimes I don’t get the logic behind the behaviour. From an Indian context, it just doesn’t make sense.

1)     The Western Civilization

The difference lies in the approach to life. The western civilization conquered the world in past centuries with the primary motive of getting richer. Though they entered as traders in countries, they soon became rulers. Establishing supremacy by war, brute force, aggression and breaking the spirit of locals were considered good tactics. The morality of their decisions and the suffering caused to human race wasn’t an aspect that got importance. The enemy had to be destroyed by whatever means possible.

So even today, the western corporates mostly have an aggressive organization culture with profit motive. Money is still the primary driver for most activities. The star performers are aggressive men who achieve their positions by cutthroat completion in the dog eat dog world. Ethical competition was until the last few decades an alien concept. Deception, cunning, and breaking the rules are valued traits for winning the game. There are few women at the top, as feminine traits were never respected. They are considered too soft.

2)     The Indian Civilization

In contrast, the Indian civilization since ancient times valued simplicity and the focus was on progress of the soul. In young age, a person was required to set up family, have a career and earn sufficient amount to keep the family in comfort. In old age, an Indian gave up all attachments and desires to focus on purifying the soul. Hence, during their lifetime Indians were required to develop virtues of truthfulness, simplicity, humility, patience, perseverance, frugality, and  other worldliness.

Cunning, aggression and deception were looked down. As Gandhi said – “a thing secured by a particular weapon can be retained only by that weapon” hence enemies weren’t destroyed but converted to friends wherever possible. That is why Indians used non-violence in the struggle for independence. Even when wars were fought, rules were to be followed and the person breaking the rules was considered unprincipled and cowardly. Breaching trust was shameful, contrary to the western opinion where the person whose trust is broken is considered a fool for trusting.

In respect of leadership also, since centuries India has propagated servant leadership and not that of arrogance and supremacy.

3)     The Global Organization

With globalization, one can see these two divergent approaches to life in close quarters interacting daily. I have heard many of my western colleagues comment about a mild-mannered Indian – “X is not aggressive enough, will he get the job done?” Whereas the Indian colleagues say – “What is wrong with this person, why do we need to fight? We can cooperate and get the work done peacefully.”  Team workers are always more valued than star performers. Cooperation is encouraged than competitive behaviour.

Each group doesn’t get the motives and thought process behind the other group’s behaviour. Westerners can’t figure out how Indians succeed in business with all these traits and attributes. They predict failure, and see success in the long run. Quite a few Indians considered unemployable by western standards (unassertive, weak, too humble, or polite) have successful careers in India.

While both groups now attempt to understand the behaviour of other, it is quite impossible to change it in a short time. A person brings to an organization the culture s/he has been raised in. The personal values and attributes can’t disappear on joining and neither can they be left at home during office hours. Respecting the person’s culture and giving space is the best approach.

Closing thoughts

The oriental nations – India and China – are the biggest emerging markets. The western world can’t ignore it and neither can they change it. Hence, they have to understand it and learn to survive in the oriental culture. It is among the biggest opportunities today to bring peace and prosperity in the world. In my view, to reduce the cultural risks and related conflicts more Indians should educate the western population about their historical and social culture. This will give deeper understanding and remove prejudices. The 21st century is bringing change; it is up to us on how we manage it.

iGate’s Failures in Risk Management

phaneeshiGate fired its CEO Phaneesh Murthy for sexual misconduct after Araceli Roiz; an American employee accused him of sexual harassment. As per media reports she has claimed that the relationship started soon after she joined the organization in 2010 and is pregnant with his child.

Mr Phaneesh Murthy has the dubious honor of facing two similar charges while working as a senior manager in Infosys in 2002. Reka Maximovitch and Jennifer Griffith had both received huge out of court settlements previously. Now he faces the similar charges from Araceli Roiz. Mr Murthy has acknowledged that he had sexual relationships with Ms Roiz. However, it was with her consent. He has alleged he is being defamed and this is an attempt at extortion.

With the limited information available in the media, one cannot comment on the details of the personal relationship.

However, this disaster teaches a few lessons. iGate could have prevented this reputation damage and legal risks if it would have taken a few timely steps.  iGate board and senior managers failed to take due care of the following risks.

1.     Pre-employment Background Screening

Mr Murthy has an excellent academic and professional achievement record. He was credited for taking Infosys turnover from $ 2 million to $ 700 million. However, when he was hired by iGate in 2003 he was in the news for all the wrong reasons. The sexual harassment cases were all over the media.

iGate needed a CEO who could deliver results. My guess is the board looked the other way or considered Mr Murthy’s infidelities small or insignificant. However, if a junior or middle manager had the same reputation, his career would have been over. No organization would have hired him.

Hence, when generally senior managers background screening is more stringent  than junior or middle managers, iGate board took the opposite stance.  It appears that the same yardstick isn’t being applied for background screening or it is being given lip service.

2.     Failure to Monitor & Control CEO Behavioural Risks

iGate board and senior managers chose to ignore the CEO behavior  As per media reports, the relationship was known to the staff. However, it appears no action was taken to guide or coach Mr Murthy.

Read these statements of Mr Murthy from prior interviews at the time of Patni takeover.

The National – “Everyone says that M&As are about ego. I’ve been a salesperson for 10 years. For every 100 doors that you knock on, 98 get shut in your face. That has knocked away most of my ego. I have two teenage boys who whip my butt in every game. They have gone from wanting to be on my team to not wanting to be on the loser’s team. Because of that, I have no ego left.”

Livemint – “Not at all. I am basically a conservative, middle-class south Indian Brahmin. As it is, we don’t like debt, and I am very uncomfortable with a $700 million (around Rs 3,180 crore) debt.”

Ms Araceli Roiz is 31 years old and Mr Phaneesh Murthy is 53 years old. In conservative South-Indian Brahmin families “divorce” is taboo. With two teen aged boys at home, he started an affair, if Mr Roiz version is true, when she was in her late twenties.

From a psychological perspective, it is a classic case of a talented man unable to deal with his own fallibility and mortality. Mr Murthy is a competitive man and the yearly success in his career may have made him feel invincible and powerful.  He is raised on Indian middle class values that look down on promiscuous behavior  He competes with his own children in games. He was heading an Indian IT organization where the average age of employees is 25-26 years. Does it look like he was suffering from mid-life crises?

The board members and other senior managers could have identified the emotional baggage he was carrying around and addressed the issue. The question arises, when the board knew about his weakness and character problem, was he provided any coaching or mentoring? Or did the board take the view, that as long as he is delivering the numbers, everything will be tolerated.

3.     Lack of attention to work culture

The board and management knew that Mr Murthy had a marked reputation in respect to female employees. Secondly, it appears that is relationship with Ms Roiz was an open secret. From his own words, it doesn’t seem that he took sexual harassment or company policies seriously. In the interview, he stated:

“It was a personal relationship. The company policy states that any two employees having a relationship have to inform the superiors. It is a small note in an employee handbook. I did inform the company about the relationship. Though it was a question of timing from my side as I disclosed this only a few weeks ago, only after the relationship was over.”

According to him, “it is a small note” in the company handbook.  He didn’t believe in walking the talk in personal ethics or corporate code of conduct. Hence, the question arises, what attention iGate paid to maintain the corporate culture.

With previous cases of sexual harassment against the CEO and an on-going affair, did iGate management ensure that the sexual harassment policies were implemented in spirit? If a woman, as per Roiz’s claim, was forced into a sexual relationship by the CEO, what effect did it have on other female employees and work culture? Did it not set the stage for the hostile work culture where women would feel insecure to report cases of sexual harassment? Let us say, another female employee was harassed by a male senior manager, what options does she have when she knows that the CEO is doing something similar? How seriously was sexually offensive behavior taken by the management?

 The organizations pay a heavy price in respect to sexually harassing culture. The direct costs are of course legal penalties and cases, however, the indirect costs are absenteeism, disengagement, high turnover and lower productivity. The iGate management appears to have ignored these aspects while hiring Mr Murthy and during his tenure.

4.     Ineffective Crises Management

iGate public relations team issued the statement – “The investigation, which is on-going, has reached the finding that Murthy’s failure to report this relationship violated iGATE’s policy, as well as Murthy’s employment contract. The investigation has not uncovered any violation of iGATE’s harassment policy.”

It gave information on the interim CEO and search for the new CEO, to rest fears of the investors.

This appears more of an attempt to limit legal risks. According to US laws the company is responsible for sexual misconduct by its employees. Subsequent to the above news, the company has not made any statement or explanation on what it did to prevent such incidents.

According to media reports, the Indian employees received an explanation from the senior managers on the incident and were instructed not to talk to people outside and within the organization. An instruction not to communicate with the media or put comments in social media is sound. However, not to communicate with fellow employees sounds like an attempt to silence. Can management stop the discussion outside office hours between the employees?

In such instances, various stakeholder expectations need to be addressed. It is a sensitive issue that gets the attention of public, bloggers, activists, women lobbies etc. Even the employees psychological stress levels increase and they need to be managed. However, from the information available in the media, there isn’t much effort being done to manage the crises.

Closing Thoughts

Sexual harassment cases cause huge reputation damage and legal risks. I am not sure whether after Mr Murthy’s previous cases, iGate got proper insurance coverage for directors and senior manager liabilities. Implementing sexual harassment policies and holding everyone to high standards of conduct is something organizations need to concentrate on. The issue was taken lightly previously, but now women workforce is increasing and so are the cases of harassment. Unless companies wish to have their name tarnished, they need to take the right steps.

References:

  1. Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/business/technology/rise-and-fall-and-rise-again-of-it-star-phaneesh-murthy#ixzz2UBKIGikk
  2. http://www.financialexpress.com/news/phaneesh-murthy-i-will-fight-sexual-harassment-charges-vigorously/1118857/1
  3. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/careers/job-trends/Murthy-scandal-iGate-staff-gets-social-media-code/articleshow/20222185.cms

Human Rights Risk Management Process

Bangladesh Building Collapse

The fire in a nine-story factory building in Bangladesh killed 400 people. More than 600 people remain unaccounted for. It housed five garment factories that supplied to international brands – J.C. Penny, The Children’s Place, Dress Barn, Primark, Wal-Mart etc. The workers were asked to come to work even when cracks appeared in the building the previous day.

Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of clothes and the workers get the lowest compensations. Just around USD 37-40 per month. The question arises why are the multinational organizations not following the UN Guiding Principles for Human Rights protection. The reason is simple; they want to show higher and higher profits to the investors.

In Delhi, in Munirka one will find numerous small factories full of workers making export garments. A friend of mine also ran one. I had bought a few shirts from her at cost price ranging from Rs 300-500 (USD 6-10). In one international visit, I found the same shirts selling in range of USD 15-30. The fivefold increase in price was because of the brand tag attached to the shirt.

The multinational buyers push the prices down and some supplier gives a rock bottom price. The others are forced to match that price to get the business. End result is that basic facilities are not provided to the workers and they work at really low wages. Unknown workers are paying with their lives in developing countries to satisfy the growth targets set by CEOs to earn their bonuses and keep investors happy.  It is the dark side of capitalism which organizations want to hide.

In most companies, human rights risk management is not a focus area. The 2013 Global Risk Management Survey conducted by RIMS identified seven risks related to human resources among the top fifty risks. Though worker injury and harassment were included there was no specific emphasis on human rights risk management.

The risk management team can conduct annually or bi-annually a human rights risk management assessment. It requires attention not only from human resources perspective but from operational, financial, legal and reputational risks perspective. Any breach can result in huge losses.

Here are some of the steps mentioned in the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and guide “Investing the Right Way” issued by Institute of Human Rights and Business.

1.     Review the Human Rights Policy Statement

Human rights risk management is emerging as an important issue, especially with multinationals entering emerging markets and developing countries. They are expected to protect and respect rights of workers, communities and society. Investors can play a crucial role by influencing companies to promote human rights relating to gender equality, child labor, rights of indigenous people, land acquisition, mineral processing etc.

Hence, companies need to publish Human Rights Policy Statement on their websites. The UN Guiding Principle 16 states –

 “As the basis for embedding their responsibility to respect human rights, business enterprises should express their commitment to meet this responsibility through a statement of policy that:

(a) Is approved at the most senior level of the business enterprise;

(b) Is informed by relevant internal and/or external expertise;

(c) Stipulates the enterprise’s human rights expectations of personnel, business partners and other parties directly linked to its operations, products or services;

(d) Is publicly available and communicated internally and externally to all personnel, business partners and other relevant parties;

(e) Is reflected in operational policies and procedures necessary to embed it throughout the business enterprise.”

As a first step risk managers need to check whether the organization has a human rights policy statement and the above mentioned steps have been adhered to.

2.     Human Rights Impact Assessment

The second aspect of UN Guiding Principles is for companies to establish human rights due diligence processes. Guiding Principle 17 states:

 “In order to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their adverse human rights impacts, business enterprises should carry out human rights due diligence. The process should include assessing actual and potential human rights impacts, integrating and acting upon the findings, tracking responses, and communicating how impacts are addressed. Human rights due diligence:

(a) Should cover adverse human rights impacts that the business enterprise may cause or contribute to through its own activities, or which may be directly linked to its operations, products or services by its business relationships;

(b) Will vary in complexity with the size of the business enterprise, the risk of severe human rights impacts, and the nature and context of its operations;

(c) Should be on going, recognizing that the human rights risks may change over time as the business enterprise’s operations and operating context evolves.”

Human rights risk management is complex and challenging. If ignored, they can increase political risks and deteriorate relationships of the organization with the government. For example, Tata Motors wished to establish Nano manufacturing plant in Singur, West Bengal. The government allocated agriculture land using 1894 land acquisition rule, meant for public improvement projects, to take over 997 acres farmland. The farmers protested with help of activists and the then opposition leader Mamta Banerjee. Tata Motors moved out of West Bengal and established the factory in Gujarat. Multinationals looking for large tracts of land to establish factories are facing similar challenges in India.

Another aspect to look into is that scrap, waste disposal, sewage, environment pollution etc. from factories can impact food, water and health of local communities.

Decision needs to be taken whether investments should be made in countries or states with poor human rights record. In India, the Naxalite area is extremely conflict prone and business operations can have severe human rights impact.

Risk managers should evaluate the strategy and operations of the company from human rights, environmental, social and governance factors. The companies can face operational risks (project delays or cancellation), legal and regulatory risks (lawsuits and fines) and reputational risks (negative press coverage and brand damage). The impact assessment should be done from investors, customers, employees, society and supplier perspective. Identify business owners for the risks and devise appropriate risk mitigation plans to address adverse impact.

3.   Grievance Mechanisms

UN Guiding Principles state that victims of corporate related human rights abuse should have access to judicial or non-judicial remedies. Companies should provide some remedies themselves and cooperate in the remediation process.

UN Guiding Principle 29 states –

“To make it possible for grievances to be addressed early and remediated directly, business enterprises should establish or participate in effective operational-level grievance mechanisms for individuals and communities who may be adversely impacted.”

However, this isn’t followed by the companies in true spirit. “A Vigieo analysis of human rights records of 1500 companies listed in North America, Europe and Asia revealed that, in the previous three years, almost one in five had faced at least one allegation that it had abused or failed to respect human rights.”

Ideally the investors in the company should ensure that grievance mechanisms exist and address human rights issues. The transparency and disclosure of the same in annual reports would highlight the financial, legal and reputational risks. However, the investors don’t seem to be bothered by it.

See the case of Apple. It reported  Gross Profit Margin – 42.5%, Net Profit Margin – 26.7%, Revenue Per Employee – $ 2,149,835 and Net Revenue Per Employee – $ 573,255. It has 43000 employees in US and 20,000 outside US. However, Apple contractors hire an additional 700,000 people to engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products.

An Apple supplier in Taiwan, Foxconn was recently in the news for its workers attempting suicide. As per reportsWorkers are required to stand at fast-moving assembly lines for eight hours without a break and without talking. Workers, sharing sleeping accommodations with nine other workmates, often do not know each other’s names. They do not have much time to get to know each other. The basic starting pay of 900 RMB($130) a month – barely enough to live on – can be augmented to a more respectable 2,000RMB ($295) only by working 30 hours overtime a week.”

See the difference the company earns per employee and the payment made to the supplier’s employees. Apple shows profits at the expense of lives of Taiwanese workers.  The workers don’t have much of a grievance mechanism in China as the government stated that the suicides are within the normal suicide rate. Can Apple investors sacrifice some profit margin for safety and security of the contractual workers?

Another old example is the class action suit since 2001 on Wal-Mart Stores that involved 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart female employees. It is the largest workplace bias case in US history.

 4.    Human Rights Reporting

 The biggest challenge is that most of the human rights abuses are not reported. The victims of human rights exploitation hold little power in comparison to the exploiters. They can hardly take up the might of powerful businesses when they are struggling to get basic food and shelter. Secondly, in the developing and emerging countries, corruption levels are generally high. Hence, media, law enforcement agencies etc. are bribed by the power players to silence the victims. However, with internet and social media, things are gradually changing. People have a voice and collectively they can fight.

UN Guiding Principle 21 lays out the requirement for companies to communicate human rights impact externally. It states -

 “In order to account for how they address their human rights impacts, business enterprises should be prepared to communicate this externally, particularly when concerns are raised by or on behalf of affected stakeholders. Business enterprises whose operations or operating contexts pose risks of severe human rights impacts should report formally on how they address them. In all instances, communications should:

(a) Be of a form and frequency that reflect an enterprise’s human rights impacts and that are accessible to its intended audiences;

(b) Provide information that is sufficient to evaluate the adequacy of an enterprise’s response to the particular human rights impact involved;

(c) In turn not pose risks to affected stakeholders, personnel or to legitimate requirements of commercial confidentiality.”

 As per the UN principles, the reports must cover appropriate qualitative and quantitative indicators, feedback from internal and external sources including affected stakeholders.

Risk managers can evaluate the reports and the reporting process to ensure that all risks are properly addressed. They should evaluate whether cautionary steps are taken and nothing is being done to exacerbate the situation. They should highlight severe or irreversible risks to the management to ensure appropriate decisions are taken.

Closing Thoughts

 Inequalities in income are the main cause of human rights abuse. The rich want to get richer at the expense of blood and sweat of the poor, and sometimes life. The diamond manufacturers and sellers took the right step to publish that they do not source blood diamonds. Since 2003, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), supported by national and international legislation, has sought to certify the legitimate origin of uncut diamonds. Trade organizations – International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA) and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) – representing virtually all significant processors and traders – have established a regimen of self-regulation.

Other industries, be it technology, electronics or textile manufacturers,  need to come out with similar steps to stop human rights abuse. The risk managers have a vital role to play in it. If we do not do anything, we are cheating this and the next generation of their right to live happily.

References:

  1.  Investing the Right Way – A Guide for Investors on Business and Human Rights – By Institute of Human Rights and Business
  2. Singur farmland-  Tata Motors conflict
  3. Apple financial ratios
  4. Foxconn Case Study
  5. Diamond industry sales clauses
  6. 2013 RIMS Global Risk Management Survey

 

Happy Woman’s Day – Wishing More Power to Women

women wearing

Whatever a woman wears shocks some man on this earth. A bikini-clad woman will most probably shock Indian urban male sensibilities, a burqha-clad woman will shock a French man, and a woman wearing a ghoonghat would shock an American. Still people judge a woman by what she wears. In patriarchal societies, character and sexuality of a woman is the same thing. Chastity, virtue and good character of a woman are prime importance. Men do honor killings in its name. What purpose do they serve? If women are not supposed to have sex with men, then is society promoting gay behavior?

In India, a country that was progressive in before Christ era, the situation has deteriorated with each passing century. India is the 4th unsafe place for women in the world. Times of India reported that in Bangalore, 64% women feel unsafe to commute at nighttime. In rural India, situation of women is worse. They do not even have an education. Women face physical, emotional and psychological abuse every day.

1.      Virginity & Sexuality

The propaganda is that Hindu mythology books –Ramayana and Mahabharata – define the ideal woman. It is convenient; Sita the female protagonist in Ramayana is the ideal woman. Mahabharata depicts characters that are more realistic. For example, Draupadi, the heroine of Mahabharata had five husbands. In present day, men definitely can’t accept polyandry. Her mother-in-law, Kunti, gave birth to a son, Karan, before marriage. Her three sons after marriage were from different fathers as her husband was impotent. Draupadi was publicly disrobed and it is the men who are projected in negative light. The book shows both Kunti and Draupadi in positive light.

Presently, in Indian society looks down on women having sex with different men or having a child before marriage. Mahabharata was depicting a time period of 10th century BC, and we call ourselves broad minded.

2.      Marriage and Dowry

One of the most negative customs in Indian society is that of dowry. As a good girl of Indian society should have an arranged marriage, her parents have to pay a big fat dowry to get a bridegroom. A woman is supposed to let her parents choose her husband.

In ancient India, the concept of Swaimwar existed. The parents of the girl would organize a Swaimwar, inviting eligible men for the marriage of their daughter. The daughter could run tests on the men, and choose her own husband. Even kings had to take rejection gracefully when they attended a Swaimwar.  It was the woman’s choice, and neither the parents nor the participants could change the decision.

Rape was punishable in some cases with death and in all situations; a woman’s consent was required for sex. For sex or marriage, a woman did not need her parent’s permission and could independently decide.

Women received “Stridhan” (wealth of a woman) at the time of marriage. This money and property was given to her by her and her husband’s relatives to use in case of emergency and/or on death of her husband. Even her husband was not entitled to use the money generally.

However, now the girl’s parents are pressured to give money to the bridegroom’s parents, and the girl doesn’t get any of it. In some cases, in rural India, if a girl chooses a lover or husband, she is killed to retain family honour. Rate of female infanticide is high because parents don’t wish to have liability of a girl. Tragically, the olden concepts have been twisted to fulfill power and greed.

3.      Widowhood, Divorce and Re-marriage   

Widowed and divorced women are socially excluded, as they are considered unlucky. Both are a social stigma. Hence, remarriage of divorced or widowed women is difficult.

It is incredible, that Kautilya’s Arthshastra defines the conditions of divorce, desertion and widowhood. He also mentions the period of separation and remarriage for divorced and widowed women. Islam and Sikhism accepted divorce and remarriage since inception.

The social custom of sending widowed and deserted women to temples to live a life of abstinence was more of an economic need than religious requirement. Even Sati (wife burning herself on her husband’s pyre) was a way to save money, in the name of chastity and virtue. Widowed and deserted women then would not require significant monetary support if it is propagated that they should not live a life of luxury.

Again here, the social customs were twisted to suit monetary ends. The tragic part is that these are done in the name of religious mandate. Hence, few would challenge the customs openly. We need to change the mind-sets to succeed in a global environment. India can’t succeed when 50% of its population is tied up in such draconian customs. Let us focus on independence and liberation of women in this century.

Closing Thoughts

Well, one can only argue with men up to a point. So I thought let me be open-minded and consider their perspective. Maybe one can decide a character of a person by the clothes they wear. I need a little bit of help form my readers. Could you look at the following pictures, and tell me which man has the best character. I am not blind yet, so I could figure out who looks the sexiest, but drastically failed at assessing character.

men character

Wishing a Very Happy Woman’s Day to all my readers.

The Indian Management Model

I am asking my readers - Have you heard about the Indian Management Model. If not, then why not? India has a rich history of baniyas (business community) who excelled in trade. India controlled one-third to one-fourth of the world wealth in the classical period (1AD to 1279 AD). So why do we not have Indian management principles?

Indian business schools and colleges teach management concepts formulated by Peter Drucker and Fredrick Taylor. Granted America had a dramatic and glorious history of business growth. However, presently the media headlines proclaim just one thing – American business environment sucks! Indians have made great strides in adopting the American money market principles but shouldn’t we stop and redefine them.

Indians managers may think it is not possible, but Bollywood has taught us it is possible. Yeah, Bollywood has chosen the best of both worlds. Aamir Khan’s Lagaan reached the Oscars with dirty dhoti clad Indians singing, dancing, and playing cricket. Even Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire had a song and dance sequence. Bollywood movies contain high-octane emotional drama, no-brainer jokes, head over heels in love stories, superman fight sequences, songs and dances. Bollywood adopted the Hollywood technology, marketing and financing strategy, and retained the cultural core of Indian cinema. It presented itself to the world in various award functions without attempting to incorporate Hollywood sensibilities and tastes. It is now so popular that even US dance reality shows have with Ballad and Hip Hop, Bollywood dance form.

We need to do the same with Indian management rather than blindly adopting western best practices. Below are some of my rather radical thoughts on how we can do it. Read it and tell me what you think.

1.     Holistic Business

The stupendous success of American capitalism in 20th century resulted in making the money market model popular. India initially after independence followed socialistic model but after liberalization in 1990s is foraying into hard-core capitalism.

Now, after witnessing the pitfalls American business concept is undergoing change. More and more people are questioning the basic premise that business is for profit alone. People are propagating that business has responsibility to all its stakeholders – investors, customers, employees, suppliers and society. It cannot profit while harming the society.

From ancient times, India propagated the concepts of holistic business. The stories in Indian history repeat the same message. A businessman is required to conduct business ethically and responsibly and has to give back to the society.  Unlike the west, Indian philosophy focuses on balanced life and not the concept that more is better.

Hence, while the west was struggling with high CEO salaries, until recently, India was not having this problem. The Indian CEOs salary increases have occurred in the last 6-7 years. While the western public is protesting against these high salaries, Indians are acquiring the bad habit. The Indian business leaders need to look what they are copying from the western world under the guise of management nuggets, best practices and benchmarks.

2.     Non-violent Competition

Once a friend remarked – “You quote Mahatma Gandhi and profess to be a follower of non-violence principles, but you are always fighting”.

I responded – “When was Gandhi ji not fighting? He fought the British Empire for half his life. He just did it non-violently. He based his fight on humane principles and values.”

We need to introduce the concept of non-violent competition in the business world. The financial crises in the west showed that cut throat completion, aka dog eat dog world results in organizations with dysfunctional cultures. The banking regulators’ reports prove it.

Indian principles of non-violence (ahimsa) state – “do not harm anyone”. It does not say – “do not excel”. Indian business leaders must focus on achieving great heights based on knowledge, ideas, innovation and strategy. They must not focus on running down their competitors through industrial espionage, illegal acts or negative publicity.

The same applies to Indian employees. Excel on merit and not by creating misfortunes for your colleagues.

One thought to keep is – Non-violence and success aren’t two mutually exclusive terms.

3.     Teach Ethics Through Indian Philosophy

When I started blogging, an American blogger gave me feedback on one of my articles – Buddhism in Corporate Life. He said that in US they don’t mix religion with business ethics. Though I understood his point, I couldn’t see how Indians could adopt it. In India, religion is entwined with Indian philosophy in every aspect of life. The values and attitudes of a country’s population define its culture.  We cannot segregate business ethics from the whole piece and teach it in isolation.

The pujas, fasts and festivals of various religions of Indian sub-continent would account for 300 days in a year. There is a moral story behind the folk tales of numerous gods and goddesses. The western world is now talking about “storytelling” to give messages and sell concepts. The Indian mythology did just that. Then why not use it to educate on business ethics?

Let me put it another way. How many Indians would know the Utilitarian Approach of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill or the Rights Approach of Immanuel Kant? My guess is less than 5%.

Now how many Indians have heard of the Hindu philosophy of Karma? My guess is more than 70%.

Which ethics philosophy would be easier to sell to Indians? The one they are familiar with, and connect at emotional and psychological level.

Unfortunately, in India political parties create a ruckus whenever Indian concepts are included in the school course syllabus stating it is favouring some religious group. They don’t object to the introduction of western concepts. We need to stop being apologetic about Indian heritage and proudly learn from it.

4.     Inclusive Workforce

The term “Diversity Management” sends one clear message – “You were not welcome and we are doing you a favour by inviting you”. It applies to women, LGBT group and minorities.

In the last few years, LGBT rights have taken centre stage in the western world. Let me touch a bit of Indian history.  The British in 1862, introduced section 377 of Indian Penal Code prohibiting homosexual activity as British soldiers had sex in the ships travelling to India.

d5c60e9c0c1f11e1abb01231381b65e3_7Before British rule, Indians accepted homosexuality without aversion. Homosexuals were not considered inferior or abnormal. In Hinduism context, every person has a masculine and feminine side and the percentages vary in each human. No one is completely male or female. Hence, some pictures depict gods in the conjoined half-male half-female form.

My guess after reading the Da Vinci code is that Christianity propagated the concept of women being inferior to men. Before the Moghul rule in India, Indian women enjoyed equal rights. Hindus pray to their gods along with their soul mates – Ram- Sita, Krishna- Radha, and Shiv-Parvati. Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati represent power, wealth and knowledge. Ramayana and Mahabharata, depict king Ravan and Dhuryodhan respectively, as evil for sexually harassing women.

Before the misrepresentation of caste system in India, a community was defined according to the nature of work they were doing. And not on basis of religious inferiority or superiority.

Hence, in India we need to go back to 1 AD to understand the concepts of inclusive society to develop standards for inclusive workforce.

5.     Social Communities and Soft Skills

The American social concept is that an individual’s needs are superior over family and society needs. However, the Indian concept propagates superiority of family and society needs over personal needs. With nuclear families in the last twenty years, Indian society is transitioning towards American concept, thinking it is better.

Though if you read the latest American management mantras, they talk about:

a)  Building relationships – Transactional relations do not work in the long run, hence the use and discard policy is losing ground. Indians work with business partners after building a relationship of trust and respect.

b) Collaboration and teamwork – Being able to work with teams is a key strength. Employees are rewarded for collaboration. Individual star performers no longer enjoy the prestige of the last decade. Indians work well in groups as they have numerous members in family to cater to and learn in childhood to meet different stakeholder interests.

c)   Service leadership – Arrogance, over-confidence and extravert behavior in leaders is rewarded in America. However, now service leadership or level 5 leaders are valued. Indian leaders, be it Gandhi or Nehru, were known for their humility and service leadership. 

Closing Thoughts

Indian civilization is one of the most ancient civilizations in the world with a very rich history. The Vedas, Arthshastras and various philosophical texts provide a vast reservoir of knowledge on life, business and society. Even Steve Jobs and Beatles got that. Indians needs to go back in time to understand those principles. While the west offers a lot of knowledge, it has been tested only for a century or so and fatal flaws are showing.

Adopting the western principles blindly is not the solution. One of the biggest risks is when a company copies or adopts something without evaluating the feasibility. It holds true for management models also. Choose the best of both worlds and devise a new management model suitable to India.

Justice Verma’s Report – A Respite for Indian Women

Justice Verma’s report besides covering sexual harassment at workplace also covers other crimes committed on women. Most of these questions were never raised or those who raised them were unheard. Nevertheless, for a civilized democratic nation, the existing social attitudes need to be challenged. India cannot become a global super power when it is the fourth unsafe country in the world for women, nearly 50% of its population. It is our duty to question existing archetypes, advocate change and bring about new thinking.

India was among the few countries that gave equal rights to women on Independence in its Constitution. Mahatma Gandhi thoughts reflected his open thinking in the following words. Let us make them a reality in this century.

“Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacities. She has the right to participate in the minutest details in the activities of man, and she has an equal right of freedom and liberty with him. She is entitled to a supreme place in her own sphere of activity as man is in his. This ought to be the natural condition of things and not as a result only of learning to read and write. By sheer force of a vicious custom, even the most ignorant and worthless men have been enjoying a superiority over woman which they do not deserve and ought not to have. Many of our movements stop half way because of the condition of our women.”

The issue is at the heart of Indian society and below are few points from the report that I wish to bring to your attention.

1.     Rape and Sexual Assault

The Indian Penal Code defines rape as:

“A man is said to commit “rape” who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions:—

First.—Against her will.

Secondly.—Without her consent.

Thirdly.—With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.

Fourthly.—With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.

Fifthly.—With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.

Sixth.—With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age.”

In Indian society, few women are able to exercise their right to object or say no. Men obtain consent through psychological, emotional, financial and physical coercion and threat. The popular concept is that rich men do not rape, it is only poor men who rape women. If a rich man obtains consent through coercion, the women agreed. The standard should be clear. Any man who forces himself on a woman when she has said no is attempting rape. Sex with a woman when she is opposing or resisting is rape. Consent given out of fear or criminal intimidation is rape. Period.

The situation of an Indian wife is the worst possible in the world. Every woman in the world has a right to say no, except an Indian wife. She is duty bound to have sex with her husband. For the first time Justice Verma has included marital rape. Wife is not a property of the husband and has the right to revoke her consent to sex during the course of her marriage. The report states- “A rapist remains a rapist irrespective of the relationship with the victim.” In mordern context, marriage is a relationship of equals and consent cannot be assumed as implied.

Secondly, rape victims face extreme humiliation in courts when their past personal life is dragged for discussion. The defense lawyers ruin the reputation of the victim by bringing past love affairs. In Indian society, if a woman has sex outside of her marriage she becomes characterless. The whole attitude adds insult to injury. Justice Verma has recommended that a woman’s past life cannot be a subject matter for debate in court in a rape case.

It requires extreme courage in India for a woman to report rape and most of the cases go unreported due to the social stigma a raped woman faces. She is ostracized and alienated by the society and her reputation is ruined. The abusive men proudly boast about their power and accomplishments in brow beating women into submission. This attitude needs complete revamping as it distorts the justice system. Society should view rape as a crime and not evaluate it on a shame-honor paradigm as it puts the victimized woman on trial instead of the rapist.

Sohaila Abdulali, a rape victim had succinctly put it – “Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonored. I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s brains are in their genitals.” This brave heart has the courage to break the rigid thinking and fight against atrocities.

2.     Eve Teasing and Stalking

The Indian Journal of Criminology and Criminalistics (January- June 1995 Edn.) has categorized eve teasing into five heads viz. (1) verbal eve teasing; (2) physical eve teasing; (3) psychological harassment; (4) sexual harassment; and (5) harassment through some objects. In India the safety of women is at risk in all public places and not just the workplace. Women are sexually harassed in public spaces by men making unwarranted comments. In some cases, the obscene words and gestures seriously impact the dignity of women.

A minor girl in India from the time of achieving puberty becomes a target of eve teasing. As India is a conservative society, she learns to suffer the indignities quietly. As such with the parental attitude that girls are a liability, Indian girls have a low self-esteem. They are trained to behave according to “what will people say”. Hence, the young unsure girl suffers psychologically and emotionally without an outlet since she cannot share her “shame”. If she does so, she will be shunned.

For men it is just an entertaining pastime to demonstrate their machismo. They generally go unpunished due to the lax implementation of criminal action in these cases. Women hardly report the cases to police though eve-teasing is a criminal offence

Justice Verma’s report gives recommendations to curtail eve-teasing. He has suggested  deputation of female police officers at public places, installation of CCTV cameras in public places, filing of police complaints by public transport and public place operators etc. These are steps in the right direction.

If a man wishes to talk to a woman, he can do so in a graceful and dignified manner without offending the sensibilities of the woman. He does not need to stalk a woman, behave in an uncouth and uncivilized manner to get attention. Moreover, if a woman has rejected his advances, he should accept that gracefully. His interest and her rejection do not give a right to harass and abuse her. The women should not adopt a defeatist attitude or try to convince themselves that the man is showing affection and liking. He is blatantly saying that he does not respect you or your wishes. Thankfully, Justice Verma’s report has included stalking as a criminal offense.

Closing Thoughts

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is about fighting fear tooth and nail in every step we take to define a new path. The educated women and men of India need to fight this battle for their less privileged counterparts. When Indian women could fight shoulder to shoulder in the non-violent struggle for Indian Independence, they can fight now too. In life, always the crazies have brought about change. Don’t be scared to be marked as quirky or non-conformist, you are in good company. Before Independence, British thought Mahatma Gandhi as a fruitcake. The point is, no one will fight your battle for you. We need to do it for ourselves. Progress of Indian women serves India’s national interest. Hence, let us move forward with courage and conviction to redefine the status of women in Indian society

References:

Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law – Justice Verma,

Justice Verma’s Report – Views on Sexual Harassment at Workplace

Justice Verma’s report covers sexual harassment at the workplace. While in September Lok Sabha cleared the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012, it is pending with the Rajya Sabha. The Supreme Court ruling of the Vishakha case in 1998 hasn’t improved the condition of women in the workplace. It looks like things are finally changing for the better with Justice Verma’s report as he covers some critical issues about the topic. Here is a brief overview of the issues Indian working women face and the relevant aspects of the act. The Indian organizations will now have to address these human resource risks properly.

1.     Background  

The Indian Constitution grants equal rights to women. It states that women have the fundamental rights to life with human dignity, to equality, and to work in ones chosen profession or trade inherently include protection from sexual harassment. Article 42 emphasis that – “The State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief”. The Constitution guarantees certain fundamental freedom to women as it considers that as a bedrock for democracy. However, Indian society even after over 60 years of independence considers women a subservient gender. Sexual harassment is rampant in society including the workplace.

Finally, the 2012 Sexual Harassment Act will provide some protection to women. According to the act, sexual harassment constitutes of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) namely:

(i)              physical contact and advances; or

(ii)             a demand or request for sexual favors; or

(iii)            making sexually colored remarks; or

(iv)           showing pornography; or

(v)            any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Further on, the act states that the following circumstances, along other circumstances, if they occur or are in relation to or connected with any act or behavior of sexual harassment may amount to sexual harassment:-

(i)              implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment.

(ii)             implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment

(iii)            implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment

(iv)           interferes with her work or creating an intimidating or offensive work environment for her; or

(v)            humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety

2.     Formation of Employment Tribunal

The act mentions formation of Internal Complaints Committee by the organization and a Local Complaints Committee at district or local level. The logic is that the employee should first address the complaint internally and if the employer is involved then the aggrieved women should approach the Local Complaints Committee. However, as we have seen in the ten years after the Vishaka case, these are not effective when senior managers are involved in sexual harassment. The woman generally loses her job if she files a complaint as the Internal Committee driven by Human Resource department supports the senior management.

Justice Verma report suggests formation of Employment Tribunal. He suggests that Internal Complaints Committee and Local Complaints Committee are not required as this process dissuades the women from complaining. I completely agree with Justice Verma. The senior managers will have lessor influence on external parties.

3.     Punishment on Filing False Complaint

The act states that if the Internal Committee or Local Committee determines that the allegation made by the woman was malicious or false, the woman can be punished for filing a false complaint

Justice Verma’s report recommends that a woman should not be punished for filing a false complaint.

Though, overall I am against the view of filing false cases and consider that these should be punishable. However, in case of sexual harassment, my view is that the women should not be punished. In all probability, there will be a few false cases filed by some crooked women. But in India due to society’s attitude, very few women have the courage to fight sexual harassment publicly  Secondly, if they file a case against senior managers, with the corruption level existing in the country, most cases can be made into false complaints. Hence, in these cases women should not be penalized if the case is proven false.

4.     Time Period for Filing Complaint

The act states that a woman should file the sexual harassment complaint within three months of the incident or the last incident.

Justice Verma states that there should be no time limit for filing the complaint.

I agree with Justice Verma’s suggestion. Indian women are geared to think that humiliating and sexually harassing behavior is acceptable. The kind of thinking is “men will be men”. Very few women have the courage to point blankly tell a man that sexually harassing behavior is unacceptable in civilized society. Hence, women generally file a complaint after repeated harassment. Problem further is intensified for married women, since the husbands tend to blame the wife for inappropriate behavior  There is a high-level social stigma attached to it, and sometimes marriage breaks up. Lastly, sexual harassers threaten a woman by spreading rumors and doing various acts to ruin her reputation. Hence, in Indian context there should not be a time limit for filing the complaint.

5.     Transfer of the Complainant

The act specifies that the Internal Committee or the Local Committee can transfer the aggrieved woman or grant leave to her.

Justice Verma’s report states that this should be done with the consent of the woman.

I agree with the logic of Justice Verma. Sometimes if a woman files a case in one city, she will be transferred to a remote place from where travelling expense will be significant or unaffordable. Hence, the woman will be unable to fight her case.

Moreover, sometimes she is forced to take leave and then rumours are spread. When she comes back, her job is given to another person. After waiting for a couple of months in the hostile climate, she automatically quits. Hence, in all these cases a woman’s consent should be mandatory before any action is taken

6.     Conciliation

The act states that the Internal Committee or the Local Committee at request of the aggrieved woman takes steps to settle the matter between her and the respondent through conciliation. The settlement so arrived should be recorded.

Justice Verma contends that conciliation is against the dignity of the woman and adds further to the humiliation. Hence, the section should be deleted.

In my view, the act states that conciliation process should start at the request of the woman. Hence, it is her practical choice and she should be allowed that. In Indian society, a woman may not have the means to continue a case for long and her reputation is perpetually at risk.

However, the act should specify the level and magnitude up to which conciliation should be attempted. If a woman is being threatened or the case is serious, she should be advised against conciliation and provided adequate protection from retaliation.

7.     Compensation and Employer Liability

The act states that an appropriate amount should be deducted from the salary and wages of the respondent and paid to the aggrieved women. If the employer is unable to deduct, for instance, the employee leaves the organization, and respondent fails to pay, the same will be forwarded to the District Officer.

In my view, the organization is liable for compensation as it failed to provide a secure and dignified working environment to the woman. Justice Verma has also mentioned that employer should be liable to pay for all losses incurred by the women due to sexual harassment.

The act only specifies a fine up to fifty thousand rupees is the employer fails to constitute an Internal Committee or contravenes any of the sections of the act. This amount is peanuts for large organizations and they shall blatantly ignore the act. Justice Verma has rightly recommended a prison sentence in case there is a systemic flaw and discrimination is encouraged. In India in some organizations, sexual harassment by senior managers is considered a right. They can choose any women and she is required to comply.

Closing Thoughts

Justice Verma has done a commendable job in highlighting the problems women face in Indian society and in giving solutions. For once, the report isn’t a white wash to cover some political agenda and shares strong opinions. We have to hope that the government takes the required steps with the same speed the report was issued. More than 25% women in India face sexual harassment at workplace and they have no effective redressal system to file their complaints. For a civilized democratic society, this is an unacceptable situation. The Indian organizations would find the rules tough to follow. However,  25-30% of employee strength constitutes of women. Hence, they must ensure secure and dignified working environment. Finally, after a woman lost her life in a gang rape, we are moving in the right direction. May her sacrifice be worth it.

Wish my Indian readers a Happy Republic Day. Especially the women, hope you get the freedom denied to you even after independence. 
 

References:

  1. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012
  2. Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law – Justice Verma,

US Presidential Race – A Learning Board

A yearlong battle with approximately US $3 billion spent on it and the verdict is the  same. President Obama got re-elected; Republicans have majority in the house and Democrats in the senate. On the face, nothing changed. Even to maintain status quo, it is a case of survival of the fittest. So here are some lessons risk managers can learn from the US Presidential race.

1.      Don’t rest on your laurels

President Obama was leading the race, and then he was complacent in the first debate. Romney gained advantage and in the last few weeks, the race was neck-to-neck. Once we achieve something, we tend to take it for granted. Over time from peak status, we gradually unnoticeably start slipping until the gap is huge. Then we are shocked on discovering we are not as good as we thought. As risk managers, we need to continuously manage risks and upgrade skills. We cannot take it for granted that risks will remain the same and everyone will see things in the same light.

2.      Use disasters to demonstrate skills

President Obama in 2008 used the financial crises to demonstrate his leadership skills. In this election, he exhibited presidential capabilities during hurricane Sandy. The message was clear to the public, in crises he leads with calmness and control. He is on top of the things. Risk managers must lead from the front to build trust and confidence in the business teams. They must not start the blame game when risk disasters occur.

3.      Cover the whole organization

President Obama won the elections due to his people centric approach. He was the favorite among women, minority communities and middle class. The Republican party upper echelons are white dominated and Romney sounded pro-rich. He failed to address specific issues of the masses except the jobs shortfall. Risk managers to build a risk culture and make risk management successful, you must spread the word at all levels of the organization. Communicating just with the top management is insufficient and ineffective.

4.      Negative messages work

This election saw the highest number of negative messages from both parties. Democrats and Republicans ran down their competitors. Pointing out problems with others strategies benefitted their game. Risk managers need to incorporate negative messages in their communication strategy. Sometimes giving strong messages of what can go wrong helps in changing minds. Secondly, communication has to be continuous, not periodical. To build the right culture, communicate daily.

5.      Define starting point clearly

Most of the problems President Obama faced during first term were from President George Bush’s era. He took over an economy and country in distress. However, he made that clear to the public and did not take the blame for Bush’s bad decisions. In risk management too, on taking a new role clearly highlight the current status and previous problems. Define the starting point first before laying down the road map for progress. Don’t take blame or responsibility for predecessors problems.

Closing thoughts

President Obama’s first task is to address the fiscal deficit and that will lay the foundation of his second term. In his book – Audacity of Hope – he had inspired many to think beyond the present limitations and lead change. This term will define whether he will be remembered successfully as a President. With his personal achievements, he has shown the world that most barriers can be broken. Risk managers can take that lesson from his life and work towards changing the organizations risk climate.

Indian Social Values – Root of Corruption

Page three newspapers are full of celebrities’ rave parties, fist fights, sex scandals, botox treatments, etceteras. The not so rich idealize these celebrities and mimic all, to be the in-crowd. With these social values, can Indian’s consider it cool to be good?

The west puts India on the pulpit for its values. From Beatles to Julia Roberts, western celebrities talk about Indian culture of prayers, the land of discovering one’s spirit and sense of being. When majority of the middle class Indians themselves are lost, the crown of leader of spiritual world appears  somewhat misplaced. Indians in the present world, from birth, get to understand that all human emotions come at a price. This may sound as a harsh statement, but is reality. Let us walk through the different phases of life of a middle class Indian to discover the spiritual compromises they make.

1. Indian Childhood

India post-independence from a land of leaders propagating good values  has turned into a land people indulging in  unscrupulous behavior in the name of social values. It starts with birth. From the 1960′s the desire to have a son grew among parents. Educated parents get female fetus aborted  since the son has more value in the marriage market. The sex ratio is 109.4 males to 100 females in 2011. According to reports nearly 50,000 female fetus are aborted every month.

The reason for abortions is financial. According to the Indian system, a girl’s father in arranged marriages pays dowry for getting a husband for his daughter. Secondly, in the conservative families daughters aren’t allowed to work. Hence, the cost of raising a daughter, educating her, is lost while a son earns back the money for parents from working and getting a dowry. Therefore, sons get a better treatment from parents from birth. From food, clothes, education and hobbies the girl is forced to sacrifice for the brother. Basically, from the day a child is conceived, Indian parents put a value on the child. There is a profit and loss motive in child upbringing.

With these values apparent in the household from childhood, is it surprising that Indians ethical values are confused? Can a child raised on the basis of returns s/he will bring to the parents on becoming an adult, consider emotions and principles above money? Are parents raising kids or cattle for sale?

2. Indian Youth

Indian parents tom-tom about their love for their children and their dedication to keep the children with them. They look down on their western counterparts, who let the kids leave home between the age of 16-20 years to live on their own. In India, 30 year old unmarried sons and daughters can also be found living with their parents. It arises from an attempt to control who the youngster marries, specially for sons, so that a big fat dowry can be earned.

In respect to daughters, it is a need to keep their image unsullied. A daughter having an affair is a no-no among conservative families. Good girls don’t have relationship with boys. While the boys can have relationships with girls, and any girl who has a sexual relationship with a boy is of loose moral character. It it surprising that with this culture, Indian youth does not have normal relationships with the opposite gender.

India is the 4th most unsafe place in the world. Eve teasing or sexual harassment is rampant and young Indian women endure comments from men even when walking to office at 9 a.m. According to a survey of developing nations, Indian men are the most sexually violent, with 24% having committed a sexual crime. Another survey states 65% men believe sometimes a women deserves to be beaten. With these results and mindset, can one ensure gender equality at work?

An Indian’s professional mentor/buddy in the first job is the person who teaches them to fudge the reimbursement bills of their salary. For instance, employees are entitled to medical reimbursements. The friendly mentor will share information of a medical store from where fraudulent medical bills can be obtained by giving a cut.

After being raised in this culture, can Indian youth have independent thinking, proper adult relationships and professional values? Most lip sync their parents’ desires for them, rather than discovering and understanding their own being. Abnormal behavior – living with one’s parents in adulthood, harassing opposite gender – is socially considered normal. Normal behavior of having adult relationships, independent living and maintaining professional ethics, may make the youth a social outcast. After being raised in this social climate, can Indian youth make India the next superpower?

3. Indian Marriage

The biggest trade in India, is of arranged marriages. Marriages aren’t made in heaven, they are negotiated for the best deal. The sons are put up for sale and the daughters’ fathers attempts to purchase the best available husband for her, according to their financial position.

If one sees it from an economic angle, the husband to provide for the wife lifelong, takes upfront payment from his wife’s father. Looking from another angle, the woman gets a man to have sex with her for life after being paid by her father. Prostitution is illegal in India, and prostitutes are looked down upon. But sale and purchase of husband and wife is a socially accepted norm.

In rural areas, the situation is worse. If a couple belonging to different castes falls in love, the male members of the girl’s family do honor killing, they kill the couple. It is a crime to fall in love, and humiliating for the parents. From all this one can conclude that Indian rational of honor, esteem and self-respect is quite contrary to human race.

Even divorce involves social stigma. In reality, 90% of urban husbands have had extra marital affairs. Most of the urban wives are educated but don’t leave their marriages even after being aware of the affair, as their standard of living will become lower. India has one of the lowest divorce rates with just one in a hundred marriages collapsing. There are just around 10,000 or so divorce cases filed each year. Despite the fact that there were 8391 dowry deaths in 2010 and 90,000 cases of torture and cruelty towards women by their husbands. This is when most women don’t report to police due to sense of social shame. Aren’t the numbers ironical. Abusing women is considered a social privilege of the Indian male. Moreover, educated women prefer to take abuse rather than stand on their own two feet and earn their living.

Closing Thoughts

Can Indian marriages teach valuing human emotions when they are nothing more than a financial transaction? After parent-child relationship, the second most precious relationship is of husband-wife. In India, both have monetary values attached to it. When critical relationships are not based on ethics, what is the probability of the society respecting professional ethics?

Indian ideas of honor, respect, ethics and principles are bunkum. A thief steals a women’s purse, he is a criminal. A  husband steals his wife’s dignity and her father’s retirement saving, he is respectable. It is a case of sacrificing rational thinking to camouflage social ills.

Last week, the government issued a “White paper on black money”. The paper describes ways and methods to curb corruption and reduce black money. However, with this social environment, the best efforts are likely to fail. Can an average Indian be considered as having a fully developed “Conscience”? Anywhere close to spiritual awakening? What do you think?

References:

  1. Disappearing Daughters: Women pregnant with Girls pressured into abortion
  2. Divorce Rate High Among Indian Techies
  3. Dowry murders in India result in few convictions
  4. Indian men most sexually violent, says survey of six developing nations
  5. International Center for Research on Women