'Sexual Harassment' at the workplace faced by women doctors and nurses have become quite common nowadays and many of them are not ready to come out openly against it.
A recent study conducted in Kolkata, West Bengal, with 135 in-depth interviews of women employees in two government and two private hospitals over a period of 11 months, has brought out this news in which several doctors and nurses, including senior staff members revealed that sexual harassment in hospitals is quite common.
'Power imbalances characterised many of the incidents of sexual harassment as the perpetrators were frequently persons in authority and victims were often those in a relatively subordinate position,' said Paramita Chaudhuri, who conducted the study on behalf of an international NGO called Population Council.
'The doctors and administrators in positions of authority harassed other doctors, nurses and other non-medical lower level staff. Even patients are seen to be in positions of authority because their complaint could lead to dismissal,' she added.
The study 'Sexual harassment in work place - experiences of women in the health sector' says victims were sexually harassed by not only their co-workers but also by patients and their relatives.
'Women will study and enter various professions and then men will behave in this manner. We have accepted this is how things will continue,' a 30-year-old government doctor said when interviewed for the study.
Sharing her personal experience, a 35-year-old nurse in a government hospital said: 'Saying bad things when they see a woman is natural. It doesn't matter if the man is a doctor or a non-medical staffer.'
The study also found that in a large number of cases the victims were reluctant to go public on this issue.
Of the 135 women interviewed, 77 admitted sexual harassment but 50 did not complain. Of the 45 doctors interviewed 24 had been harassed; of the 50 nurses, 31 were victims of sexual harassment.
'Many fear they will be blamed for provoking sexual harassment. Others fear loss of reputation after complaining. So the culture of silence and denial continues,' the study said.
Shockingly, the biggest perpetrators of abuse were patients and their families followed by doctors and non-medical staff.
'Nurses are the only group harassed by everyone - doctors, non-medical staff, patients and their relatives and outsiders,' a 29-year-old doctor in a private hospital admitted.
According to the study, just 20 of the 135 women interviewed were aware of the Supreme Court guidelines on sexual harassment and none had heard of a complaints committee for redressal of their grievances.