Sexual Harassment At Workplace Is Everyone’s Business

A rising India, a shining India but also a perverted India. A country that boasts of its culture of worshipping women as goddesses but ranks one of the highest in terms of gender-based violence against women in domestic, public and professional workplaces in the world.

The recent upheavals of sexual harassment of women at workplaces in India are highly disturbing. It is baffling to know that there has been a sharp rise in sexual harassment of women at workplaces.

According to NCRB statistics, cases of sexual harassment of women within workplaces have more than doubled between 2014-2015. Moreover, to make matters worse, 70% of working women do not report workplace harassment in India. The sharp and resonant testimonies of women supporting the #Metoo campaign and adopting a revolutionary way by naming the alleged perpetrators of sexual harassment in academia is a reminder that the justice system fails to deliver its due.

The legacy of violence against women, supported by both the active and passive nature of social, economic and political institutions, has permeated in a massive manner in the trajectories of justice in the country. The sheer failure in properly implementing the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Law, 2013 is one of the reasons why the collective voices of women have had to come together. These are women who have suffered various forms of harassment by bosses, colleagues, professors, etc.

It is not just the itinerary of this violent discourse that disturbs us but perpetuating narratives of sexual violence that women have been subjected to from generations that have bred these complexes. The origin of such a violent discourse is rooted in patriarchy and male-centric views which suppress women and their sexuality. The normalisation of such a discourse does not take into account its implications in the broader realm of exclusion.

To be able to create pluralist gender-just societies, it is pertinent to hold institutions and governments accountable. In the words of Michel Foucault, the French philosopher and social theorist, power relationships in societies are expressed through language and other practices. Governmentality allows the creation of bodies which are subjected, used and transformed according to the whims and fancies of those in power.

This presents an interesting insight into understanding why, in the first place, these collective voices have come up in the public. Is it because of the invisibility of women in powerful positions or is it because men have predominantly subjugated women’s bodies to their advantages?

The idea of justice, as we perceive in its entirety, will be diluted if we do not pursue state institutions to deliver justice. We cannot just condemn the words and actions of both sides and get into the labyrinth of debating who is right and who is wrong. As a collective conscious voice, we need to address the elephant in the room and dismantle the existing nature of violence in our societies.