Greenpeace has been in the news for the wrong reasons recently. Earlier, the government had frozen its accounts for non-compliance of norms. The Delhi High Court then released two of the accounts so that the organization could continue to function. Now an ex-employee has come forward with allegations of rape and sexual harassment by colleagues.
The ex-employee, who posted about the incident on Facebook, said she quit her job in 2013 after the sexual harassment and rape she endured there.
The victim had joined the Bengaluru office of Greenpeace. In October 2012, a year after she had joined the NGO, “I got a call from a senior colleague at 11 PM; 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.
She learned that the man was a serial offender and that no action had been taken against him despite his misbehavior with two other female employees.
She complained to the HR Manager but received no verbal or written communication from the ICC (Internal Complaints Committee) of the NGO, which looks into sexual harassment cases. She was even blamed for registering the complaint. During a meeting where she was not present “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 stated.
In 2013, after a party, 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.”
Feeling like since the process had failed her already, she then decided to leave the organization after a few months.
In February 2015, she finally shared her story via a Facebook post. Greenpeace issued an apology on their website and premised to reinvestigate the matter. However, for the victim, the subsequent acts only revealed the assurance to be hollow. ICC recommended the termination of the offender but the Executive Director, Samit Aich, overrode the decision.
The NGO’s stance was that since the ICC’s decision had been leaked to people in the office, it was invalid. The molester then only had to send a written apology to his victim.
Reema Ganguly, who was part of the ICC and quit the NGO in May, states, “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.”
Samit Aich explained, “I have given a strong warning to the person and as a result, he has put in his papers” and promised to tighten disciplinary actions in the future.
Programme Director for Greenpeace India, Divya Raghunandan, said that the former employees had raised some valid issues and admitted, “When we revisited the cases, we felt that it should have been handled in a better way.” All India Progressive Women’s Association secretary, Kavita Krishnan, said that they had written to Greenpeace International and were waiting for a response.
In 2013, Usha Saxena, who joined the NGO in 2009, was “bullied out” because she complained about discriminatory and threatening remarks about herself.
Another ex-employee also said that she was harassed by the same person implicated in the first incident. She resigned in March 2015 after inaction by the NGO. “He made some objectionable comments in front of many senior colleagues, including the executive director. No one reacted, rather they were all amused.”
The second victim also complained to the HR but she also did not receive any response. She is considering taking legal action if the offender is not punished.