Sexual harassment has always been center stage of the issues that plague women in Indian society. Sexual harassment has looked upon, looked into and vetted in every way possible without really getting any clear solution nor cause to why it exists. We live in a highly patriarchal society for decades. It is difficult to let go of age-old ideologies, traditions, and mindsets, just because one day, we decided to fly the flag of feminism and women empowerment. Women, for the longest time, have been a secondary overlooked upon gender and as a consequence, their problems too. Even sexual harassment, though present through previous decades, never received the limelight that it does today. Before we look and engage in finding a solution for sexual harassment, let’s take a look at why it exists in the first place.
Women, for the longest time, have been a secondary overlooked upon gender and as a consequence, their problems too. Even sexual harassment, though present through previous decades, never received the limelight that it does today. Before we look and engage in finding a solution for sexual harassment, let’s take a look at why it exists in the first place.
Causes of sexual harassment
- In the previous decades, women weren’t given the kind of exposure that they are offered today. They were homemakers or teachers at the most. In rural sects, they were not given a chance to explore their potential. Hence, it became increasingly easy for a man to oppress a woman because he believed she didn’t have the right to voice an opinion.
- We are a product of how we are brought up. Often, we see that a person behaves according to the values and culture that he is brought up in. These values later affect our behavior to treat women in workplaces, schools, public areas, etc. Since this behavior has been prevalent, women suffer in silence instead of raising their voices against injustice.
- Since we all live in a male-dominated society, it is increasingly overwhelming for a woman to make her mark. A man doesn’t make it any easy for her. His macho beliefs and the fact that he fundamentally believes that he can do a better job at any women, fuels his mannerisms further, making them disrespectful.
- Sometimes the problem runs deeper. The man to assert his power feels appropriate to ask for sexual favors for promoting a woman, appreciating her at work, etc. Many women, resign to this derogatory ritual of the society instead of standing up against it, leading to it becoming a practice.
- Unlike the yesteryears, women have an almost equal socio-economic status as a man. It happened due to a good education and excellent career opportunities. Due to the growing number of women marching onto a man’s turf, that he owned for years, he is insecure. The insecurities lead to resorting to harassment at work.
The solution to Sexual Harassment
- Be vocal / Speak up: No matter who the person is, you have to tell that person to stop whatever they are doing to make you feel uncomfortable. No point in trying to be subtle or vague. Make the person realize that this kind of behavior is entirely unacceptable. Also, make it clear the kind of behavior you expect from the person going forward. Should the need be, remind them of the agreement about the behavior.
- Stringent policies at the workplace: Sexual Harassment also occurs at the workplace; it could be from seniors, peers or even subordinates. Therefore, it is necessary to put in place a robust and a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy. The policies need to be such that the offender, regardless of their position in the organization, does not get away with it. The policy developed should also make the employees aware of the consequences if found guilty.
- Education on Sexual Harassment for awareness generation: It is imperative that people in organizations, and also in all spheres of life, are provided training on the subject of Sexual Harassment, particularly during their orientation and subsequent training. Some of the organizations have Web-Based Learnings (WBLs) for their employees, wherein dos and don’ts are provided. Further, WBLs on such issues are made mandatory. While other organizations resort to role playing technique or may hire actors to act out specific scenarios which one may face and then ask the employees what they would do in a similar situation.
- Have different mediums of reporting such incidents: Many times in organizations, the victims of such incidents may not report for various reasons viz. they feel insecure, are terrified, don’t want to it to be made public. It is, therefore, necessary to have multiple mediums so that the victim can take either of the approaches which they are comfortable with. People may feel comfortable reporting the harassment either in person, through phone, via email, or using online form made available by the organization.
- Support the victims: Going through such an ordeal can harm the person. They might even become a hermit and avoid interacting with anyone. If you know someone who has been through this or is being harassed, offer them your support. Show you care and are concerned about them; encourage them to speak up against such behavior and support them. Should the need be, one can also support the victim in filing complaints or in reporting the matter to the HR department.