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Sexual harassment in workplace causes and remedies.

Our founding father had only one dream to establish an egalitarian state where rule of law prevails and dignity of every citizen irrespective of sex, caste, race, religion and place of birth would be secured.

First step towards this goal was taken to wipe out the inequality between men and women which existed over centuries by allowing women to caste their vote to choose representative and right to speak for them.

Following decades saw adoption of numbers of policy to uplift the status of women. The post independent era witnessed women taking lead in various sector ranging from politics, administration, and social activity to corporate and industrial sectors.

But has our dream "empowering women" been achieved? In 2002 Sakshi, a NGO, did a survey 2000 women across workplaces found that 80% of them acknowledged that sexual harassment existed in the work place in India. This survey shattered the idea that only literacy and self dependency can secure the dignity of women in our country.

The problem of sexual harassment in workplace is not so simple. It is a very difficult task for any employee to challenge an employer. Where such incidence occurs, the employer tries to cover up to protect the reputation of the organization. The employer at times favors the accused and not the victim.

The problem becomes acute when employer himself is an accused. In such cases the women employee gets no cooperation from the employer. As a result, the woman employee who is under immense pressure often gives up and compromises with such humiliating situation or has to face consequences of the termination of her career.

In case of domestic woman employee the situation is much worse. Social prejudice, lack of awareness, education makes them an easy target of sexual harassment.

In 1997 Supreme Court of India in judgment of Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan addressed this sensitive problem and provided a mechanism to safeguard the women in working places, compelling all the employers to adopt a policy regarding the sexual harassment.

Also if such a crime takes place, the employer must form complaint committee headed by woman and majority of which will be women and also include a third party so that proceedings will be fair. These guidelines were valid till Parliament passed bill on sexual harassment of women in 2013 to prevent such incidents.

Sexual harassment in work place should never happen in the first place. The issues related to sexual harassment must be dealt with independent committees answerable to the concerned ministry of India and should be free from influence of the employer.

Such committee must frequently survey across organization to assess the effort of the employer in raising the awareness among the women employee and maintaining congenial atmosphere at a workplace.

In case if the accused is acquitted of the charges, there should be safeguards for the victim from further harassment, else women will be reluctant to file case for sexual harassment again.

To protect the interest of the domestic women workers there should be a governmental body like Anganwadi to take up such cases. Such a body should be solely dedicated for creating awareness among such woman and if any case of sexual harassment is reported must play a supportive role.

In order to implement this idea, we need to bring a strong legislation, but also have to remember that legislation can cure symptoms but not the disease.

We need to understand the attitude of the person who commits such crime reflects attitude of our society. We have seen that if such cases, the victim is suspected and the accuser's image remains untarnished.

So it is not solely employer whom the victim has to fear but the society as well. This typical oppressive masculine attitude can't be changed by mere creating awareness or brining legislation.

For this the change in attitude has to come from within the society. It is responsibility of each section of the society to decide whether we should bring back the legacy "where women are respected, there the gods delight," or continue with 'chalta hai' attitude.

Aritra Chakraborty