By Indrani Chanda:
In a country where men and women are ascribed to get the same power and position, women are unfortunate enough to be the ones who are almost always sexually assaulted by men in most fields. The term “sexual harassment” includes unwanted and abusive promises of rewards in exchange for sexual favours.
As per reports, more than sixty percent of the women suffer from this victimization in India. The reasons are poverty, increasing number of working women, poor knowledge of human relations and values, poor law and order in the society etc. It is a crime performed by a man and visibly suffered by a woman, although kept a secret most of the time.
Although ‘modern’ in thoughts and perspectives, India still paints a picture of being a country where males have all the power. Sexual harassment at workplaces is no exception. Some powerful men used their positions and assaulted poor and helpless women subordinate to them. Although sometimes those women raised their voices in protest, they got suppressed owing to the massive amount of pressure. The effects of the same are also terrible- women become physically and mentally weak, they lose their self confidence and stop trusting people, such incidents also affect their career.
Sexual harassment is always meted out by virtue of abusive remarks towards male or (mostly) female colleagues, offering higher posts in exchange for sexual pleasure, or pressurizing the member with threats that they might lose their jobs.
The Supreme Court however has enacted some guidelines to prevent these incidents from happening. Some of them are as follows:-
1. “It shall be the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in the workplace or other institutions to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedure for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment.”
2. “The employer should initiate action in accordance with the law by making a complaint with the appropriate authority. Victims should have an option to seek their own transfer or that of the perpetrator.”
3. “A complaint mechanism should be created in the organisation. This complaint mechanism should ensure time-bound treatment of complaints. The complaints committee should be headed by a woman and not less than half of its members should be women. In order to prevent the possibility of undue pressure or influence from senior levels, a third party, especially a NGO familiar with sexual harassment, should be involved in the complaints committee.”
4. “The committee must submit an annual report to the government. Employees must be allowed to raise the issue of sexual harassment at various fora.”
Article 21 of the Constitution of India gives women the right to equality of gender and the liberty to work independently. There are also norms like Article 14, 15, 19(1) (g) that are enacted to safeguard them against sexual harassment.
There also exists some responsibility on the part of the employer. He/she must create a healthy atmosphere for the others to work in. Whenever the victim will lodge complaints, he should take necessary steps to stand by the victim and to give him/her justice. There must remain a complaint lodging committee including the sexual harassment committee in every centre. But unfortunately it has been seen that more than 75%of departments had not set-up a Complaints Committee and have failed to enact policy on anti-sexual harassment policy.
Recently, the Ministry of Women and Child Development prepared a draft entitled ‘The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2007’ to protest against such cases of sexual harassment. According to this bill, a woman can lodge a complaint regarding the sexual assault and the bill also provides the victim the right to demand compensation. As we desperately need to act upon problems such as these, the bill has proven itself effective.
Above all, there are a few warnings that women should consider to avoid these incidents. Women must do away with the mentality of tolerance, they should raise their voices to protest against the very first instance and make sure that they lodge a report in the police stations against cases such as these. Also, however debatable this might be, women should dress in a manner that befits such institutions.
People should be aware of such situations. In India, where women are worshipped in the form of Goddesses, they are vandalized and exploited in human form despite the fact that they are our mothers, sisters and daughters. Sexual harassment, which has become an everyday issue, must totally be rooted out of our society. As Margaret Sanger said: “Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built around her; she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression“.