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.

 

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