According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, the cases of sexual harassment within office premises are constantly on rise.
The primary objectives of this article are:
- understand what sexual harassment is,
- become aware of the laws enforced by the government, and
- know about the preventive measures to stop sexual abuse at workplace
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a sex discriminated action, a behavior of an individual or group of people that mutilate other person’s sentiments physically or mentally.
It is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, a verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with work, is made a condition of employment, or creates an intimidating hostile or offensive environment.
From the above definitions, we can conclude that sexual harassment includes:
- Any offensive word, jokes delivered verbally or in written to hurt the self- esteem of a person.
- Demanding or offering sexual pleasure in private.
- Passing derogatory comments on co-workers regarding their outfits.
- Sending a vulgar email, letter, or date invitations.
- Calling unnecessary coworker in cabin with the wrong intention.
- Making an employee stay late in office especially when all alone.
- Unwanted touch, placing hand on the shoulder, brushing legs by saying just an accident.
- Threats of being fired from job, demotion, intentionally insulting in front of others and overburdening with work.
Most of the times assaulters try to save themselves by saying they are attracted to the coworker at the workplace. But here we all must know that if other person is not interested then it is considered as an offence. No means no and it needs no explanation.
Laws Enforced to address Sexual Harassment
‘The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010’ has been passed in India with an aim to define sexual harassment in a more explicit manner and create a mechanism for the redressal of complaints. Further, ‘Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013’ has been passed to elucidate that which types of acts are contemplated under the umbrella of sexual harassment and how organizations can take proactive measures to ensure the safety and dignity of women at workplace.
Few extracts from the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace: (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
Section 3(1): No woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace.
Section 19(a): Every employer shall provide a safe working environment at the workplace which shall include safety from other people coming at the workplace.
Sexual harassment is a global concern, and it is widespread across the globe. When it comes to cure, each person working in the organization should try best to protect female coworker from the harm. Assault is not only confined to a particular class, religion, gender, or caste but it signifies poor mindset of some people. There is a thin line between a male and gentleman. A gentleman never crosses his line and respect women of all ages irrespective of power.
Preventive measures to stop sexual harassment at the workplace
1. Implementing sexual harassment policy
Employer should define what is considered as offence in sexual harassment policy, kind of behavior that must not be tolerated in the organization. Everything must be written precisely in the policy. And everyone is supposed to strictly follow guidelines written in sexual harassment policy. Infosys has taken various initiatives such as lecture sessions, online programs, poster campaigns and mails to create awareness on importance of maintaining professional behavior at the workplace.
2. Thorough Investigation of Reported Cases
Filing a complaint is the first step taken by the victim. After listening the victim’s side, the manager should not jump to the conclusion. A supervisor ought to collect evidence, talk to other coworkers and deeply analyze the schedule of the accuser. He/she should thoroughly investigate in the matter. Once proven guilty of offensive act, strict action is required against the guilt. This also sets a good example for other members to ensure zero tolerance towards this crime.
3. Regular Trainings
Online training to the employer, manager of the organization assists to play important role in the victim’s life. Every trained employee knows how to deal with such unfavorable conditions. At least, they can try to save the affected persons from big harm. These online training courses should be conducted on regular frequencies.
4. Transport Facilities for Late Working Hours
In small business, manager has full control on the employees. Manager should keep an eye on the arrival and departure of every employee, especially women. If work requires over time, then it becomes the duty of the manager to provide cab for women’s safety. Supervisor should not allow women to work in late hours as it increases the risk of crime.
5. Say No to Silence
Studies found that complaints are lodged by women only in 52.2% of the cases, whereas actions are taken in 15.2% of the cases while ignoring other complaints. Less than 5% of the victims report to their organizations about the incidents of unacceptable advances, approaches, and sexual behavior of any men or women who are at a higher, equal, or lower level than them in position and authority. Likewise, in a survey of 6,047 women conducted by the Indian Bar Association in 2017, 70% of women have reported that they do not report sexual harassment by superiors out of fear of repercussions. Nothing worse could happen than the pain of bearing harassment. Silence gives accuser more power to conduct heinous crimes in future.
Awareness plays a crucial role in avoiding the chance of bullying, threat, violence, and physical harassment. Apart from the government, management must provide a safe working environment for the employee. If these issues are not checked regularly by the management, it could damage the holistic growth of the individual. Working population, especially women, is a precious asset of any nation and needs to be protected at any cost.
Dawn from the land of Rajasthan, Gargi Sidana Dhingra is a firm believer. Her fervent love for writing gives her the strength to fight in unfavorable situations. She finds solace and gratification in writing.
She is a guest author at Runtime Software and loves to write about HR Practices, People Management, Leadership Skills and more.