Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment

A few days ago, an extremely popular bar in Pune- High Spirits- reached a new low when its owner and his harassment of a large number of women came forward. In India, sexual harassment is a major concern due to women not feeling safe even inside the safety of their own homes or workplaces.

A woman has to think twice before even approaching any authority or legal body. Another significant fact which needs to be urgently considered is that this crime is not limited only to women. “Judging from the findings of a recent economic Times-synovate survey, from Pune 19% said there is sexual harassment at office. in Bangalore 51% of the respondents had been sexually harassed, while in Hyderabad, 31% and 28% of those surveyed said they had been sexually harassed. Around 38% of the respondents across seven cities in India said that in today’s workplaces, ” men are as vulnerable to sexual harassment is as women”. It is happening all over the world with men, women, transgenders, by employers, employees, police officials, family members being only few of them.

Out of a large pool of women who say that they have witnessed sexual harassment, there is a very small percentage who actually report it. Reasons for this range from the fear of their boss to worrying about their reputation to blaming themselves for it. Recently when the #MeToo hashtag went viral all over social media, thousands of people came forward to tell their story of sexual harassment and raise awareness and provide support to victims of the same.

Talking about professional life, harassment can take many forms in a workplace. If sex discrimination forces women into lower-paying jobs, sexual harassment helps keep them there. When sexual advances are made, they are often not reported to keep from being fired, demoted or adversely affected at work. A person who has been sexually harassed often tends to feel self-worthlessness and blames herself.

A report conducted jointly by the TUC and Everyday Sexism found that 52% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, nearly a quarter had been touched without invitation, a fifth had experienced a sexual advance.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that is for protecting women from sexual harassment at their workplace.

Those who come forward to take an action are also sometimes not taken seriously. The recent outpouring of complaints from women about mistreatment in the workplace has included numerous accounts of being ignored, stymied or retaliated against by human resources units- accounts that portray them as part of the problem, not the solution.

Also, sexual harassment faced by men is not even taken into consideration. An article on The Hindu outlined many instances of sexual harassment faced by Indian men including stalking, sexual harassment at workplace and sexual assault. Male victims of sexual harassment don’t only are deprived of a proper legal procedure, but also lack emotional and mental support from their friends, peers and family. Sexual harassment faced by men in India is still a huge taboo. This is also a major reason why a large fraction does not complain or report the crime.

Another important case was of Air India in 2012 when an employee working at the IGI Airport in Delhi complained against a senior Air India official, accusing him of sexually harassing her. On investigation conducted by the police, it was found that the employee’s complaint to the general manager was ignored and even after further procedures, no action was taken.

Now comes the question about how to deal with sexual harassment, whether it is in the workplace or in a personal sphere. The first and most important step is acknowledging the crime. Unless and until the crime is recognized by the victim and harasser, and is accepted and wrong, there’s no scope for any justice. Unacceptance of this fact only leads to further wrongdoing by the harasser to other people.

The second step is to talk to the person who has committed the crime and tell them that they’d be reported for their wrongdoing and ensure that they also accept their wrongdoing. The third step is to inform the authorities or supervisor and file a complaint using the internal procedure provided to do so. Post this, the organization should help the person who filed a complaint. All incidences should be reported to the senior and a detailed letter should be written, indicating the same. The HR team of the organization should help the complainant regarding the procedure and the action that should be taken regarding the sexual harassment incidents. If the supervisor is refusing to take an action, the senior management should be contacted. If none of these methods work, then the police should be contacted immediately. It should be reported, whatsoever, since our constitution provides us with a large number of laws against sexual harassment. If in a professional environment, other victims should be found out, since they might also be living with the same trauma and fear that one has faced themselves.

Sexual harassment is a punishable offence which, under no circumstances, should be ignored. It is like a chain or a loop and if not stopped or fought against, will keep on continuing.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment at Workplace

Consent– the permission or agreement to engage in any kind of activity along with the liberty to say yes or no at any point of time. Consent plays a very significant role in immensely important issues like sexual harassment. Any form of unwelcome, inappropriate sexual behaviour that is offensive or humiliating whether physical, verbal or written is termed as sexual harassment.

Largely, it has been assumed that sexual harassment happens only to women. But according to a survey conducted by the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), 79% of the victims were women and 21% were men. This issue isn’t restricted to any gender, community, type of workplace or any other basis. It is prevalent everywhere and needs to be considered for the safety of every individual going out of their homes to work.
As per the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India, sexual harassment includes any unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication):

  1. Physical contact and advances;
  2. A demand or request for sexual favours;
  3. Sexually coloured remarks;
  4. Showing pornography and
  5. Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Sexual harassment at workplace involves employer, employee, supervisor, colleagues, customers or anyone else connected with attending a workplace. Volunteers, interns, members of industrial organizations, qualifying bodies, all are covered by law. In most cases, individuals do not report the cases of sexual harassment because of fear of retaliation by harasser or losing job and professional status or reputation. Ensuring a safe workplace would not only increase the participation of the population in the work force but also provide them with a sense of dignity and power towards themselves, assuring them that they are protected by the law. Another important issue is the acknowledgement of the harassment since many victims think that it is something that can be resolved personally without understanding the magnitude of the issue thus only giving rise to this offence.

Threatening a person about the destruction of their career if the sexual advances aren’t returned or taking a jib at their image in the office are some common scenarios faced by individuals.

According to section 354A, sexual harassment is unwelcome physical contact and advances, including unwanted and explicit sexual overtures, a demand or request for sexual favours, showing someone sexual images (pornography) without their consent, and making unwelcome sexual remarks. The punishment is up to three years in prison and a fine.

An extremely important law in India regarding the issue is Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. It defines sexual harassment at workplace, creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints. The Act also covers concepts of ‘quid pro quo harassment’ and ‘hostile work environment’ as forms of sexual harassment if it occurs relating to an act or behaviour of sexual harassment. The Act goes much further to include organisations, department, office, branch unit etc. in the public and private sector, organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex and any place visited by the employee during the course of employment including the transportation. Even non-traditional workplaces which involve tele-commuting are covered under this law. Also, every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.

The first step while dealing with sexual harassment at work includes saying no– making the harasser aware that what they’re doing is wrong and unwelcome. The second and most important step is reporting the harassment to the employer or anyone else who has the power to stop it. A written form of communication is always more preferable to keep a proof of all the proceedings if anyone decides to deny doing or saying anything in the future. Writing down everything that happened in detail is important so that nothing is missed out, details aren’t bantered with. Keeping a record of your work records/performances and talking to others to find other people who might’ve faced something similar.

Every company has some guidelines and procedures including committee required under law, and company setups can be used for escalating sexual harassment complaints. Other tools like mediation are also offered by some companies that offer a resolution. Statistics show that 80% of mediations lead to resolution.

Sexual harassment need not necessarily occur only between opposite sexes, or only to women. It also does not always happen that an employee is harassed by the employer or the co-worker. The reverse case can also happen and there are proper laws for that.

It can disrupt the working environment, cause the withdrawal of workers from an organization, traumatize them to a large extent. No reason can make sexual harassment acceptable, especially in any area of work. It should be fought back and stopped at as early stage as possible. Most importantly, apart from personal agony to sufferers, sexual harassment hampers motivation, focus and ability to concentrate on work and deliver results, the basic aim or any employee – employer relationship and consequently reduces efficiency of organisation.


Sexual Harassment

Does a Safe City Really Exist?

India is a country with 29 states and 7 union territories. It is the most diverse nation with a population of 1.3 billion and that number is never constant. The irony is that the capital of India is also nicknamed as the rape capital of India. But the question then arises, which state is safe? What is the definition of safe? On what grounds is a state defined as safe?

The United Nations General Recommendation 19 to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women defines sexual harassment of women to include:
“such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour as physical contact and advances, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography and sexual demands, whether by words or actions. Such conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and safety problem; it is discriminatory when the woman has reasonable ground to believe that her objection would disadvantage her in connection with her employment, including recruitment or promotion, or when it creates a hostile working environment.”

Even after the passing of several laws, there is still no place that can fully justify the definition of “safe”. Most of the laws are not gender neutral. Even after the implementation of laws, crimes continue to be committed. In today’s world, no person is safe even in the boundaries of their own place called home. Sexual harassment is not a crime that is limited to the office space or the roads. In many, and that means an extremely large number, of cases, the person harassing the victim is a family member or a relative. Women are harassed by their own husbands, daughters by their own fathers, sons by their own uncles. This is merely the start, the list goes on and on, and continues proving itself to get more horrific.

After the pressing of sexual harassment charges against the powerful Hollywood film producer, Harvey Weinstein, women from different parts of the world came forward to narrate their own stories of harassment. This included famous stars and normal middle-class people.

According to National Crime Records Bureau data, Odisha, Telangana and Assam ranked worst with the highest rate of assaults on women, while the state with the lowest rate for sexual assaults on women in India is Nagaland.

Whereas the highest harassments would be expected from the cities of New Delhi and Mumbai, others are no less. Maharashtra accounted for the highest incest rape cases according to a survey conducted. Other states reporting high rates of harassment were Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. Even the state with the highest literacy rate of a hundred percent, Kerala reported 16,755 cases of rape in a decade. Over 2500 cases were reported in 2016 itself.

The major reasons responsible for non-reporting of sexual harassment include fear of supervisors, fear of losing their job, fear of the society, fear of getting stigmatized and fear of getting side-lined and boycotted by everyone.

Statistics clearly show that sexual harassment cases are not limited to a particular state or a particular profile of a victim. It happens in every corner of the country, from rural to urban places and from housewives to little kids. It does not matter whether you’re standing in the rape capital of India or the literacy centre. It also doesn’t matter if you’re wearing that is revealing your skin or not. It doesn’t matter if you have a dupatta or not, if you’re married or not, if you’re legal to be involved in a sexual intercourse or not. Sexual harassment takes place anywhere and everywhere, with anyone and everyone.

Laws are being reformed all over the world, all over the country; and it is, to a large extent, empowering sexual harassment victims to come forward and speak for themselves, to raise their voices. If not anything, it would at least support other victims.

The million-dollar question, does a safe city really exist, has a very simple answer to it. It exists only if we want it to. Any city can be termed as having highest number of harassment cases and can also work the other way around. A city can be made safer for all its citizens if everyone comes together to work against it. Awareness should be raised about the issue; the taboos should be broken, and sexual harassment shouldn’t be treated as an alien concept. It is something that need not be hidden but should be accepted and fought against. The constitution provides us with measures to raise our voices and protect ourselves. Laws should be made gender neutral; sexual harassment happens with men too and also in the reverse cycle from employee to employer which is in contrast to the usual and common situation. This should be accepted, and measures should be taken accordingly.

The rising spotlight on sexual harassment across the world will hopefully spur more firms to deal with this issue more seriously. This also means that the number of reported harassment cases may go up rather than down in the coming years. Even after so many efforts of the Government of India, the number of cases of sexual harassment in India have seen something close to no decline. The provisions contain several loopholes which can be exploited easily by the harasser in his favour. Regardless, sexual harassment anywhere is not acceptable and needs to be rooted out of the society. The concept of a safe city should be replaced with the concept of a safe country with every neighbourhood as a safe neighbourhood.

Sexual Harassment

Psychology Behind Sexual Harassment

The recent #metoo campaign has brought out several cases of sexual harassment right from the perspective of the victims, both male and female. There are perpetrators whose advances range from passing sexual comments to getting physical. Why do they do this? Why only with certain people?

Some first-hand stories of sexual harassments from the #metoo campaign

 Being raped once made it easier to be raped again. I instinctually shut down. My body remembered, so it protected me. I disappeared. #metoo  – @EvanRachelWood

#metooA manager on my first big tour as a backup singer. When I went to a lawyer he told me to suck it up bc the guy could do a lot for me. – @SherylCrow

These are just two of the millions of stories that came out from the tweets of the victims of Sexual Harassment. So why exactly does this happen? Why does this happen to people except a few? What makes people harassers? Before answering such questions, let us look into some statistics.

Few Disturbing Statistics about Sexual Harassments

Vishakha guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India, includes the following under the umbrella of Sexual harassment:

  1. a) physical contact and advances;
  2. b) a demand or request for sexual favours;
  3. c) sexually coloured remarks;
  4. d) showing pornography and
  5. e) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

While the lay person likes to believe that the enforcement of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 since December 2013 should result in fewer cases of sexual harassment in India, the statistics show something else. The statistics reported by the National Crime Bureau are as follows:

  1. Cases of Sexual harassment cases in office premises grew by 100% within office premises between 2014 and 2015. This means such cases have doubled.
  2. There has been a growth of 50% of such cases in other places related to work.
  3. 38% of women have faced sexual harassment at their work place.
  4. 70% of female victims do no report these incidents.
  5. 5% of women reported that their company did not follow the procedures laid down by theSexual Harassment Act, I.e. setting up of Internal Complaints Committee(ICC) in each office with 10 or more people of any gender.
  6. 7% of those people part of the survey told that the members of the ICC do not have the knowledge about the legal provisions and sections available under the act.
  7. The success rate of the ICC’s in just 66.7%. But close to 50% of these survivors left the workplace.
  8. 36% of Indian Companies and 25% of the INC’s do not comply with the standards of the Sexual Harassment Act.

These do not just imply that the incidents have increased but also the number of people reporting such incidents seeking justice has also grown. These also show the loopholes that the laws have.

Why do such incidences occur?

There are several explanations offered to explain such incidents. These include why women are targeted at the workplace far more than men, why do people turn harassers and what traits do the perpetrators look for in their potential victims.

Why are women targeted more than men?

Initially, there were only cases of women being sexually harassed by men. But as time passed, more and more of reports of men being sexually harassed are coming up. Still, female victims outnumber the male victims. Few of the reasons are as follows.

  1. In patriarchal societies like India, women are considered only as housekeepers confined to the four walls of house(bedroom). As more and more walk out of their houses for work, sexual harassment is used as a tool to threaten them and go back and do their duties within the four walls.
  2. Men in work places perceive women as a threat, because more people means less job assignments and lesser pay.
  3. Portrayal of women as sex objects in mass media like advertisements, pornography, movies, etc.
  4. The society teaches that women are inferior to men and are subject to man’s commands.
  5. The recurring incidents causes a fear in the minds of women and in the presence of potential culprits, they look vulnerable, stricken with fear.

Women are restricted in the society to speak up about such incidents. So, it is far easy to threaten women to prevent them from reporting them.

More and more cases of male victims are coming up because of various reasons like increasing acceptance of other sexual preferences, women being in top positions, so on and so forth.

Why do people become harassers?

  1. Sexual harassers are usually middle aged. They involve in such acts because they are dissatisfied with their sex lives and want to satisfy their lust. This makes them look for potential victims.
  2. People, both young and old, who watch pornographic content portraying such violent sexual acts forget that such content is scripted and for entertainment only. They think that such things are real and try to get a hands-on experience.
  3. People in power want to establish their power and superiority over others. So, they involve in such acts.

Why are so few cases reported?

  1. The statistics are definitely under reported because of the stigma that the victims will be labelled with and the dire consequences they might face like losing their jobs, being unable to find another job, so on and so forth.
  2. Plus, the law enforcing agencies are not very prompt in filing the FIR’s and investigating the cases and bringing the culprits behind bars.

How does a potential culprit identify a victim?

  1. A perpetrator with any such intentions first does what is called an Interview Process,even before a potential victim notices his/her presence. He scans his victim as to how social she is, how many people are around, whether she expects any such thing from him, so on. If he smells suspicion from his potential victim, he is more likely to just walk away.
  2. Women who wear jeans and a t-shirt are more likely to become victims of sexual violence than other outfits. The fact here is not the exposure, but the level to which the woman is looking vulnerable. Women who wear more conservative clothing are more afraid than women who wear comparatively less covering outfits with confidence.
  3. Even the walking style of the women help the perpetrators decide who is a potential victim and who is not. Women who walk in an unnatural way (with shorter or longer steps, slower or faster pace, etc.) , is mostly perceived due to fear assuring them that she is insecure.
  4. They observe the body posture of the victims as well. They look for unsteady body posture (slumping body posture, unsteady movement of hands while walking, etc.) which clearly show that they are insecure.
  5. If a lady senses a potential perpetrator, it is advisable to look him in his eye, warning him that she has noticed his presence will prevent him from attacking.

By all these points, a perpetrator seems to be a real psychologist observing each thing in detail.

So, how to prevent becoming a victim?

  1. First of all, a woman should be or at least look confident, no matter what attire she wears.
  2. Second, she must not look vulnerable and should make the perpetrator know that she knows that he is stalking her. Make direct, confident eye contact with him.
  3. A woman should try to go in groups as far as possible and be with more people around her. This prevents the perpetrator from going ahead.

Final words

These sexual harassment incidents happen because sex is a stigmatized subject in spite of the fact that it happens in everyone’s life. The society should teach the young generation to see sex as a part of life. Providing quality sex education to our children should be our top priority.

Second, we should teach our sons to not to see women as sex objects and treat them equal to them and in no way inferior to men.

Third, the mass education sensitizing the society about such occurrences and the law weapons available for defense should be taken up on a large scale.

Lastly, encouraging our daughters, wives and mothers to go out of the house and catch their dreams and being a pillar of support to them whatever they face in their journey. The perpetrators are confident to go ahead with such acts, because they are confident that no one will support the victims, instead the whole family and the society will go against the victim instead of the culprit.

The solution to this widespread and growing problem should be treated with the slow medicine of education. Parents, teachers, brothers, sisters, governments, NGO’s and the society as a whole should take measures to sensitize the youth about such crimes and help the victims overcome them.



Author: Ms. Nayana M R