Sexual Harassment among Female Workers at the Workplace.

 Asif Ahmad Dar ✉

Men and women were created in the same image to enjoy equal participation. However, throughout history, women have often been marginalized and treated as commodities. Sexual harassment has emerged as a significant social issue across various establishments in recent years. This form of harassment manifests in different ways, including physical, verbal, non-verbal, and visual forms.


Sexual harassment is one of the major social problems in our society. This consequently causes problems such as loss of job, dignity, social status and sometimes loss of life. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination & is defined as an unwelcome sexual advance or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, abusive or offensive working environment. 


The forms of sexual harassment can be categorized into two main types: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. 

Quid Pro Quo Harassment: Explicit Requests for Sexual Favour: Demanding sexual acts or Favours in exchange for job benefits such as promotions, raises, or job security.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment: Sexual Comments or Jokes: Making sexually suggestive comments, jokes, or innuendos that create an uncomfortable or offensive atmosphere.

Unwanted Sexual Advances: Inappropriate touching, hugging, or any form of physical contact without consent.

Sexual or Offensive Images: Displaying or sharing sexually explicit materials, images, or emails in the workplace. Cyber Harassment: Sending unwelcome sexual messages, emails, or social media communication.


It is quite important to address the issue of sexual harassment at workplaces as this may result in several problems both for the employer and the employee. If continued in the organization, sexual harassment can land the employer in big trouble. Sexual harassment can be traumatic to an employer in terms of low productivity, absenteeism, staff turnover, retraining, litigation, damaged public image, investigations, financial strength, increased team conflict, decreased job satisfaction etc.


Sexual harassment can do a lot of damage to the harassed employee who may face emotional distress), loss of self-esteem, embarrassment, anger, exclusion from groups, loss of job, disrupts career etc. Thus, organizations and employers must recognize sexual harassment in the workplace which takes away from the woman her right to live and work with dignity.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of vision to address the problem of violence faced by women in public spaces in its totality. As such, women do not come forward to report incidents of sexual harassment due to social stigma, family pressure, police attitude, prolonged court trials, faulty law implementation and various corrupt practices, embarrassment and humiliation.


The landmark Vishakha judgment was given after activism triggered by the case of Bhanwari Devi, a social activist who was brutally gang raped in a village in Rajasthan. The court said that the incident revealed the hazards to which a working woman may be exposed and the depravity to which sexual harassment can degenerate. The court emphasized the urgency for safeguards by an alternative mechanism in the absence of legislative measures. 

For the effective enforcement of the basic human right of gender equality and guarantee against sexual harassment and abuse, the court in the exercise of its power under Article 32 of the Constitution laid down the guidelines and norms commonly known as the Vishakha Guidelines. These apply to all workplaces and institutions, i.e., every employer or person responsible for the staff was obliged to curb the menace of sexual harassment at the workplace.


Legal Provisions against Sexual Harassment at Workplace in India.

In India, before the enactment of the dedicated act towards sexual harassment at the workplace in 2013, there were some provisions which dealt with and criminalized the sexual harassment faced by women in India in the following acts:
Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860
Section 354 of the IPC provides punishment for “Assault of criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty. Through the Criminal Law Amendment Act, of 2013, several other provisions were added to the section. Section 354A was also inserted which defines “sexual harassment” as an offence individually and provides the punishment for the same. Section 509 of the IPC provides the punishment for insulting a woman’s modesty by the use of words, acts, or gestures.


Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1987. The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1987 prohibits harassment by “indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.”



Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. This Act is commonly called the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act, 2013 (The Act) is a dedicated act containing provisions for sexual harassment in the workplace in India. The preamble states that the POSH Act is to “protect against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment.”


Conclusion

To address sexual harassment and promote peaceful co-existence between genders, recognizing it as a legal wrong is crucial for securing women’s human rights. Education, training, and sensitization of individuals, both men and women, are key measures to combat this issue. Organizing workshops and training programs can help raise awareness and empower individuals to address sexual harassment. Society must be sensitized to women’s complaints to create a supportive environment. Education and awareness are vital in preventing sexual harassment and empowering women to resist such behaviour in the workplace. By educating women, they can develop self-confidence and mental strength to confront adverse situations actively and passively. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious problem that requires attention and action to prevent irreparable damage.


Disclaimer: The views, facts, findings, opinions, and data provided are the sole responsibility of the author, Asif Ahmad Dar, and do not in any way represent the stance of The Viral Post. Asif Ahmad Dar is an LLM scholar at the University of Asia Pacific in Dhaka and holds a BA-LLB from the University of Kashmir.

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