The increasing incidences of Sexual Harassment at Workplace in India have emerged as a major concern for the society. Though the legal definition of Sexual Harassment does not distinguish a particular sex but it is predominately experienced by women at workplace.
Recent cases against retired Supreme Court Justice A K Ganguly and Tehalka's Managing Editor Tarun Tejpal have sparked a fuming debate all across the country on how safe women actually are at workplace.
On one hand there are talks of women liberalization and their changing position in the society while on the other they continuously face humiliation. This comes as a great setback to the efforts of those who are striving for gender equality in the society.
Taking note of the inadequacy of the then civil and penal laws to provide protection to women at workplace, the Supreme Court of India laid down the Vishaka guidelines on August 13, 1997 for prevention and redressal of sexual harassment and exploitation as well as their abidance under Article 141 of the constitution.
It took 15 long years for these guidelines to be transformed into The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act which was brought into force on December 9, 2013.
Concerning the intricacy of the issue, this Act serves as a mere piece of legislation drafted with an aim to tranquilize the public outrage against growing sexual crimes all over the country.
In order to formulate laws that provide effective and meaningful remediation, it is incumbent to take a deep insight into the causes leading to sexual harassment.
There are several reasons that lead to Sexual Harassment at Workplace. The principal cause being psychological issues faced by men. Their unwelcome and undesirable behavior is a result of their notions of masculinity and dominance over women. Majority of men who though superficially support the idea of gender equality believe that they have the right to sex regardless of consent.
Their primary belief is that household work is a woman's job while earning livelihood is that of a man. This attitude makes them reluctant to work under female superiors.
Further the frustration of losing their rights in the name of gender equality aggravates the problem. Some men who themselves have been subjected to sexual abuse in the past as children are also associated with sexual harassment of women.
High level of depression and anxiety, drug addiction and personal problems also invoke men to harass their female colleagues for fun and temporary pleasure.
All the more, men who use sexual violence against their spouse or partner are also quite likely to harass their fellow worker.
On the other hand women usually end up as victims because they can't garner enough courage to fight for justice which is also their fundamental right.
Raising voice against a superior or even a subordinate, in a male dominated society which teaches women to be meek and silent, where possibility of getting justice even after being wronged is meager tells how hard the course is for the victim.
Further women are afraid of the aftermath of any counter action that could possibly result into bleak future prospects, a somber career along with adverse embarrassment in the workplace as well as the society.
At several occasions the credibility and the character of the victim is questioned which intensifies the trauma.
This is accompanied by lack of support from the colleagues, intimidation to settle the issue at the earliest and pressure to leave the job by the employers.
All these factors compel women to suffer silently. The plight of women in unorganized sector is even more bothersome as they are completely unaware of the prevalent laws.
Sexual Harassment at workplace is a critical matter of contention which highlights the importance of working on a broader social level in order to make not only a particular sex but the society as a whole more accountable and responsible.
Merely forming redressal committees on the part of employers won't curb this problem. It is necessary to ensure that these committees are transparent and capable of resolving the grievances of the appealer.
The employers must check that the curative and penal measures in the institution are efficient enough to act as a deterrent against sexual harassment while the employees must be educated about the rights of female workers and their social responsibility.
Since this problem involves the psychological orientations of two persons the redressal should focus on diminution of narcissistic differences.
Men usually think that the fairer sex has an edge over them when it comes to promotion and other growth opportunities in the organization. Thus stress should be laid on equality of opportunities.
It is thus the duty of employers to ensure that qualification and skill should be the sole basis of advancement and recognition and a mutual and all-encompassing environment exists at the workplace with absolutely no hostility or envy.
Secondly women workers should be relieved of the social stigma that surrounds them when they fight against injustice. Their dignity must be maintained and thus instead of isolating them they must be supported.
India being a developing country is in a phase of social transition with several social problems. Sexual harassment is an impediment towards gender equality and social development of India and thus needs to be squared off immediately so that women in India lead a dignified life.