“Our Lives Begin to End– Martin Luther King Jr.
The Day We Become Silent
About Things That Matter”
Joining a new office, the first thought that hits a female’s mind is that – whether it is a safe place or not?
Do guys feel the same?
Probably not, because they have never experienced that inappropriate touch – which gives you shivers (not all guys definitely).
Yet, one of the well-known, yet, most ignored truths is that even after the implementation of so many laws, still sexual harassment at the workplace (one of the most prevalent types of harassment) is very common.
Well, I would call it, India’s one of the most prevalent cultures or should I say one of the types of harassment, where women are considered as a liability which probably does not lie on a father but on society too. Maybe that’s why we are considered an open property for most men to touch and feel.
Can not blame every man, probably we can because according to me, even if you are not doing, but an audience to this, you are a culprit, well the same applies to the woman.
Not to mention, the term sexual harassment at the workplace is not limited to women, but I believe the man also faces it (probably not brave enough to say it out loud, because well, what they would be left with, if not their manhood).
So, this article is not just gonna talk about an all-time favorite topic, “Sexual Harassment at Workplace – which a woman face” but it will talk about each and every being – be it a man, and a person from the LGBT community, I’m gonna try to become a voice of everyone.
Before moving further, let’s have a look at some of the facts in regard to women’s safety in India –
- According to The Hindu – the crime against women in Delhi (Capital Territory) rose by 63% in India.
- In the year 2020, the National capital territory of the Country, Delhi holds the top position in respect to the reported highest number of sexual harassment cases.
- As per a survey conducted in 2019, India ranked highest being the number one dangerous country for women in the world.
- According to a survey conducted by Stop Street Harassment in 2018, 38% of women have experienced sexual harassment at the workplace.
So, even the statistics confirm how unsafe we women are in our own country. Moreover, it is a very known fact that most of the cases have never been registered – thus, this data only shows the registered cases, what about the women who are still struggling with this.
Here, let’s see, why some women are still living in this situation –
Reasons Which Encourage the Sexual Harassment at Workplace
According to me, one of the reasons why sexual harassment still prevails in the workplace is – being silent.
Often, women are taught to remain silent if such things happen in society, probably, including their own parents or family members. Because being “HUSH” is more acceptable than hurting a male’s ego.
Or should I say, in a view of preserving the so-called reputation, most women continue to let it happen?
One such fine example of this is perfectly shown in a movie – Highway, where a girl (Alia Bhatt) was molested by her own uncle, but no one in her family did anything to stop that probably even after knowing that.
One such act of ignorance affects her so much that she found her home and a safe place in a person who kidnapped her.
Second, the reason could be fear of losing the job, especially, because they need money. Money is one of the basic necessities of life, or should I say, our basic necessities depend on money. Thus, having a job is equal to supporting the family, especially if your family really needs money.
Third, and here we go with all the mental torture a woman has to face – what if no one believes her, what if her reputation will get affected by it, what if she will be farmed for something she has not done, there are a lot.
Yes! Even before thinking about – to whom she should complain, the first thought that hits our mind is the above-mentioned.
I mean, why such crippled thoughts should be the first thought in our mind rather than thinking about our safety.
Another reason could be, fear of taking action against your superior – well if he’s superior, he should keep those filthy hands in his pocket, not anywhere around you.
Meeting our superior is one of the parts of the work, to ensure proper follow-ups and acknowledgments, but it definitely should not give you vibes like you are entering a haunted place.
Also, thinking changing the job is the solution is absolutely wrong. You would probably be able to save yourself from such a horrible act, but what about the next woman, the woman after her, than her. Because let’s face the fact, there will always be a new woman.
So, your act of being courageous or strong could save many women from going through this, you can be an exemplary example of a strong woman. Certainly, not because you have to, but you want to.
Be the voice you want to be, not the one they prefer!
Real-Life Examples of Harassment in the Workplace
We women have been gifted with the ability to realize things that are happening in our surroundings.
Often it has been stated as – “women know even when a man is staring at them, right.” Well, what makes you think, we won’t recognize your inappropriate touch?
And to explain this, I have a perfect example, something that has happened with my friend, probably when we were in school. AIso, when she went to submit our project, most of the students were standing at the teacher’s desk, and there – one guy (not sure who he was) gazed his hand over her thigh. I must say, I was shocked to know this, like at such a small age, how could a guy think of doing this.
Right now, I can even think of a reason what stopped us from raising our voices but we remain quiet.
That’s when I learn to, Never allow yourself to be a victim at any age..!
Well, now let’s have a look at some examples of harassment in the workplace that moved the whole of India –
- KPS Gill, Punjab Director General of Police in 1988 has inappropriately touched IAS officer Rupan Deol.
- Phaneesh Murthy, a well-known Software Executive and rising star at that time, had to resign from Infosys, right after he was accused of sexual harassment by his secretary.
- Gopal Kanda (Former Harayan Minister) in 2012 was accused of sexually harassing Air Hostess Geetika Sharma, even forcing her to take her life (revealed in her suicide note).
- David Davidar (head of Penguin Canada), an Indian-born author has been accused of harassing Lisa Dundle for three years, including assaulting her in 2009 during Frankfurt Book Fair.
- Ashok Kumar Ganguly (former Supreme Court Judge) had stepped down from the position of West Bengal Human Right Commission in 2014, right after a law student was accused of harassing her.
So, in these soul-crushing examples of harassment in the workplace, we can see some well-known, even people who are part of the government.
I read it somewhere – “a touch without a motive is love”. Or in the workplace, it could be a normal thing.
But sometimes this touch can make you uncomfortable if the intentions are wrong.
Recently I came across a video, posted especially on the occasion of Women’s Day (although it was posted a long way back). You should also watch this –
Here, let’s move to, what is sexual harassment and what is not?
I know, probably, I should discuss this at the starting of the article, but I would like to keep it here depending on the fact that we all know what sexual harassment is, but what about what is not?
What is Harassment and What is not?
Let’s start with a few questions.
Do you think using racist slang or nicknames or even making negative comments on an employee’s religion is an act of Sexual Harassment?
Or sharing sexually inappropriate videos or images to an employee or even touching inappropriately is an act of harassment?
Does leaning onto your side or staring at you, is sexual harassment?
Do women are the only victims of sexual harassment?
I would say, the answer to all the above-mentioned questions is – Yes, these all are act of sexual harassment, and yes, men could also be the victim of sexual harassment. Though using racist slang or nicknames or even making negative comments on an employee’s religion does not specifically term as sexual harassment, but harassment for sure.
How I’m so sure about men being the victim?
Because I have seen a guy being watched or concerned as I do when someone stares at me. I know, probably being watched or concerned does sound different from being harassed but it does reflect that men also feel the same.
So, let’s not say, only women are being entitled to sexual assault.
A few more examples of harassment in the workplace are:
- Staring at you which is making you feel uncomfortable.
- Sexual comments on someone.
- Sharing pornographic videos or sexual images without your consent.
- Inappropriate touch.
- Trying to get close to you during a conversation.
- Calling you to spend time or in the cabin without an appropriate reason.
- Trying to touch their genitals anywhere on your body.
- Asking to do something inappropriate in exchange for promotion or money or threatening to fire you.
- Unwelcome hugging or kissing.
- Making remarks on the body, clothes, sexuality, and anatomy; lewd, sexually suggestive, intrusive, and explicit comments, including suggesting sexually suggestive songs or words.
- Offensive gestures such as smacking lips, elevator eyes, intentionally brushing body parts, and pinching.
- Exposure or indecent exposure of private parts, including masturbating in public.
- Interfering in someone’s private space through the activities like cornering, breathing down the neck, and peeping.
- Inappropriate calls, texts, emails, SMS, MMS, letters, cards, posters, or gifts.
- Unwelcomed invitation to the “dates” for the purpose to have sex or soliciting sexual favors.
- Forcing or disrobing a woman to be naked.
- Act of watching, capturing, circulating, or filming a woman’s private act.
- Affecting the dignity of the woman through any comment, song, action, utterance, and more.
- Stalking for a long time that results in mental disturbance or in the fear of violence
What is Not a Sexual Harassment?
Well, I would say, there is no definite answer to this question.
Do you know why?
Because how someone is perceiving your touch probably depends on how comfortable a person is with you. Maybe, a female colleague is comfortable with a male colleague, however, it is possible that another female colleague may not feel the same.
So, hope you have understood, what is harassment and what is not?
Laws to Prevent Sexual Harassment At Workplace
1. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013
It has been introduced for the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace, its scope is extended to the “whole India” which is applicable to both the sectors organized and unorganized.
Private and public sectors, including government or non-governmental organizations, are engaged in different activities such as commercial, vocational, entertainment, financial, and other activities.
Under this act, sexual harassment is any –
- Physical contact and advances
- Exchange of something in exchange for sexual favors
- Making sexual remarks
- Showing pornographic image or video
- Other unaccepted physical, verbal, non-verbal actions.
2. Indian Penal Code, 1860
An act of sexual harassment is signified as an offense and can be penalized under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Section 294 under IPC indicates that any act of sexual harassment in public places, including signing inappropriate songs may result in at least 3 months of jail, fine, or both.
Also, Section 354 (A) under IPC, any unwelcome physical contact or advances, including explicit sexual overtures, demand or request of sexual favors, and more might extend the jail for at least three years.
At last, Section 509 under IPC, includes extended jail duration up to three years or fine, if a woman was modestly treated by uttering any words, creating a gesture, and invading her privacy.
3. Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946
Apart from defining working hours, wage rates, shifting work, and more, this Act precisely works to prevent sexual harassment, including establishing a compliant committee for grievance redressal in regard to sexual harassment.
This Government has removed the fine line that – sexual harassment is restricted to women as the “Standing Orders” under this act are not restricted to a woman only.
4. The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1987
Unlike other acts, this act is extended to the indecent representation of any woman in advertisements, publications, writings, paintings, and any matter related to the same or incidental. Moreover, if a person harasses the woman in books, paintings, photographs, etc will result in imprisonment for at least two years.
What to Do to Prevent Sexual Harassment?
- Say “NO” when you are being harassed. Because adjusting to it is equal to encouraging this.
- File a formal complaint if someone harasses you, even if someone is harassing someone else in your presence.
- You have the right to take action if you feel intimidated, uncomfortable, and humiliated, even if the other person’s intentions are not bad. But if you are not feeling right, do what is necessary.
- If someone threatens you, be clear and loud about the fact that you are well-aware of what’s going on and you have the right to stop it.
- Be available for someone who is being harassed. Your safety is a priority, but others’ safety is as important as yours.
- Approach your family and friends for support.
As I read somewhere – “it hurts, it disturbs, and it degrades.”
These few words explain how painful it could be to be a part of something which makes you hate yourself, that too not because of something you did, but someone else.
Sexual harassment is not just a sexual interaction, or flirtation, neither is it to be considered as a friendship or attraction. However, it is a pure form of a non-mutual or non-consensual act of invading someone’s privacy.