Sexual harassment is no more an unknown term. We regularly read about instances where actors, college principals, politicians are being called out publically for harassing their colleagues or juniors. While many think that it is limited to a certain section of society, it is shocking to know that 7 out of 10 women in India have been a victim of it. Mind you, this doesn’t imply that men do not face sexual harassment.
Over 90% of sexual harassment cases go unreported due to the fear of losing employment, lack of awareness about rules and regulations covering them or due to humiliation and the fear of having violated supposed societal expectations of how a woman should be – docile.
The fear is justified too. In a country like India, where unemployment rate continuing its northward march and inflation hitting the roof, everyone is scared of losing their source of income. Moreover, we all are aware of the general mindset of people towards the victim, more so in India, where a rape victim is blamed for having dressed skimpily & humiliated, which piles on the agony of the victim pushing them towards devastation with no fault of theirs.
In such circumstances, one should not be alarmed when they come across such numbers. The reason I can closely relate to the situation and associated fear is that I have faced it too. It was during the early years of my employment and it was not a contract bound job hence it was difficult for me to take any legal or regulatory action. Luckily, it was a part time job which I’d taken up for pocket money & hence I had the liberty of walking away from it without much thought. Alas, not many of us can opt for this option before we evaluate the consequences of it.
Today, sexual harassment is a common abuse of authority done at the workplace. It can be narrowed down to who has power on whom. The harasser usually is in control of victim’s career, employment, promotion or any other professional power which is leveraged to conduct such activities. At times, the harasser can be a colleague too who is physically more powerful and hence misuses it.
Sexual harassment is defined as any kind of unwarranted sexual advance, either verbally or physically. This type of behaviour is intimidating, offensive and humiliating in nature. It usually is conducted by someone who believes to have some higher authority or control over the victim.
It can happen face to face or over texting or digital platforms as well. It is not limited to the victim and harasser being secluded in a cabin or any other place. Sexual harassment can happen amidst the crowd while being surrounded by other people as well.
It can broadly be explained via following actions –
- Asking for sexual favour
- Asking questions about one’s sex life
- Passing comments that are sexually offensive
- Cracking double meaning jokes
- Touching or grabbing inappropriately making the other person uncomfortable
About how can one deal with such instances –
- Be confident and voice out your discomfort. Let the harasser know that you do not like such advances and are not going to succumb to it.
- If it repeats again, note down details of when the incident occurred. Note down the time, place, what words were used or gestures involved, etc.
- Go through your company’s rules and identify who is the best person to talk to about such instances in the H.R. team.
- Report your issue and let H.R. do their work. Give H.R. some time to investigate and address the issue.
In case things do not change post it too, go ahead and file a lawsuit against the harasser and the company.
I hope this article helps you in addressing the issue happening with you or anyone you know.