It’s almost common now to hear about workplace harassment on your TV or every time you open the newspaper. It is also likely that all of us have heard the appalling reports of sexual harassment against TarunTejpal, founder and editor of Tehelka magazine. This week, TarunTejpal’s plea to nullify sexual assault charges lodged by his colleague was dismissed and Justice Arun Mishra also ordered the Goa Trial Court to conclude his trial in the next six months, noticing and highlighting that the case has already been delayed considering the FIR was lodged back in 2013.
Sadly, this is not an exclusive case because women face gender-based discrimination and harassment daily in India. Registered cases of sexual harassment at Indian workplaces increased 54% from 371 in 2014. Even after the #MeToo movement swept through India and empowered several women to take to social media and voice personal stories of harassment and ousted perpetrators, over the first seven months of 2018, 533 cases of sexual harassment were reported across the country.
The important question then is what is sexual harassment and why can’t men understand when a woman is getting uncomfortable? Sexual harassment is unlawful discrimination based on sex. To elaborate, it is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This includes staring at a woman, trying to touch her inappropriately, expecting sexual favours in return for help, trying to ask her personal questions and assuring that sexual favours would either lead to promotion or monetary advantage.
What is required, appreciated and should be promoted at every workplace is a positive environment where you treat your colleagues with respect, and not as potential sex-partners. There is a reason why home is separate from the world of work, one must always try to stay on the “professional” side of the wall.
Where one must think that sexual harassment only involves physical violence perpetrated on the female’s body, there are actually major classifications of sexual harassment at the workplace.
- Unwelcome physical touches like keeping a hand on her shoulder, brushing your fingers against her arms, keeping a hand on a colleagues knee
- Aggressive or repeated requests for sexual favours in exchange for favouritism at work
- Comments on a worker’s appearance, age or clothing
- Sexual advances (implicit or explicit) made over social media or in person, under the challenge of your authority at the workplace
- Feeling entitled to comment on your colleagues social media and/or stalking their various social handles
- Repeatedly extending unwelcome social invitations
- Insulting a colleague on the bases of their gender
- Spreading rumours about a person’s personal or sex lives
- Trivialising the display of sexually explicit material
- Staring or whistling and even unwanted messages and e-mail threads are all potential sexual harassment cases.
Most of the time sexual harassment at the workplace is dismissed as bad humor or because it wasn’t physical but non-verbal or gesture based. In these cases, it is very important that the woman understands that she is being harassed and that there are legal and constitutional provisions laid down by the Supreme Court to deal with cases of sexual harassment.
- Article 14 of the constitution identifies sexual harassment as a violation of a woman’s fundamental right to gender.
- Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the bases of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
- Article 21 treats sexual harassment as a violation to the right of life
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act, 2013 provides a safe and secure environment to women at the workplace. The Act ensures that all women, irrespective of their age or employment status, are protected from sexual harassment both in public and private sector, whether organized or unorganized. The act does not only allow penal action against the perpetrator but also casts a duty on the employers to sensitize employees by carrying out gender-trainings or establishing Internal Conflicts Committee (ICC).
Identifying the need to create equal opportunities and spread awareness of what is harassment and it’s consequences, Centre for Social Research has over 18 years of experience in conducting gender sensitisation training’s in order to make organisations, institutions, schools and communities gender inclusive. Their Gender Training Institute (GTI) GTI conducts curated, long-term training programs, stand-alone capacity building training, awareness generation programs, and is continuously developing new training material in accordance with the needs assessment of our partners. GTI not only conducts need-based specialised trainings but they also provide a holistic approach with various avenues. With the training module divided into sectors such as law enforcement agencies, service training, corporate training, cyber safety and government training, the aim is to establish a positive and gender-intelligent organisational culture, growth and the promotion of women leaders. GTI’s module also goes beyond the basic training for empowering women by facilitating access to monitoring and professional guidance on harassment through the establishment of Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) within the company.
Representation of CSR in the Internal Complaints Committee on Sexual Harassment at workplace :
1) Central Bureau of Investigation
2) Reserve Bank of India
3) Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)
4) Directorate (Medical) Delhi, E.S.I. Scheme
5) ESIC Dental College & Hospital (Rohini)
6) Employees State Insurance Model Hospital (Fridabad)
7) ESI Hospital (Basaidarapur)
8) Office of the Principal Controller of DefenceAccounts, Ministry of Defence, GoI
9) Technology Development Board, Ministry of Science & Technology, GoI
10) Dept. of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
11) Directorate General Border Security Office, Ministry of Home Affairs, GoI
12) Central Industrial Security Force
13) Director General of Civil Aviation head office
14) Director General of Civil Aviation(North)
15) Delhi Jal Board
16) YWCA of Delhi
17) Delhi Police (CICC) Head quarters
18) Directorate of Heath service Govt. of NCT of Delhi ( SouthDehli)
19) ESI Hospital Okhla
20) ESIC Head Quarters
21) HCl( Santoor Hotel)
22) DCP Delhi Police Kingsway camp
25) Ministry of Agricultre and Farmer’s Welfare
27) Ministry of Defense
28) Ministry of External Affairs
29) Ministry of Electronics , Information and Communication