Sexual harassment can be described as a complex problem that is as well as universal in nature. It takes place throughout the world in multiple cultures and societies, for both adults and children. The involvement in any sexual activity that is forced or unwanted over a child or an adult victim for satisfying the sexual gratification of another is said to be sexual harassment. The explanations for sexual harassment are varied, they depend on the sexual maturity i.e. age of the victims. Sexual harassment can mean the following; 1. rape caused by a stranger 2. verbal compulsion to have sex with an intimate partner 3. men/women forced to have sexual intercourse when they are too intoxicated to consent or object. Sexual harassment by intimate partners and non-intimate partners are completely two different phenomena. Thus, the risk factors involved in the two different sets of phenomena are separate. Initially one can identify sexual harassment with their gut instinct. Sexual harassment can be distinguished into two – namely; quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment. The translation for quid pro quo is ‘this for that’. The quid pro quo situation arises when a person in authority demands for sexual favors in return for a positive career. The authorities in order to escape any disciplinary action against them opt. subtle approaches towards their victims. A hostile work environment might take place when a colleague or any other person in authority negatively interferes with the work performance of the victim.
2. Review of literature:
Hallberg & Strandmark (2006) the authors say that bullying at the workplace highly affects the health of the victims, they also say that it psychologically throws the victim into a mental trauma leading them to guilt, shame, and diminishing self-esteem.
Unnikrishnan et al., (2010) according to the author harassment is any act that is capable of causing humiliation to another person, it is also considered to be improper and unwelcomed conduct of one person towards another. Women are subjected to face harassment from a young age more lightly when there is also a presence of a male child. The growing number of negative consequences increasingly leads to harassment in the workplace.
Kishore (2011) gender variance has subjected women to sexual harassment in the workplace. Factors such as women’s poor status in society, lack of knowledge about the human resource departments, lack of proper law and order in the society, and lack of provisions of the law in relation to the issue of sexual harassment of women at the workplace have given rise to sexual harassment of women at workplace. In spite of the fact that the constitution of India guarantees and certifications each individual certain rights yet such acts happen and such lewd behavior disregards the essential intention of the designers of the constitution. Any demonstration of savagery in the work environment is rising as a national issue. This shows a vocation doesn't exist in a vacuum but instead shows a bigger social setting. It is in fact the ladies, who should break the unreasonable impediment. Attention to the present circumstance and the craving to beat the snags presented by the general public what's more, their own selves alone would be a response to the social malevolence of provocation and savagery in the work environment.
Kumar (2012) women are the victim of sexual harassment workplace in gender-based harassment. The cases of sexual harassment quiet often remain unreported because the victims face the fear of being imputed by a social circle. The ignorance of legal remedies by the victim plays a pivotal role in worsening the situation of sexual harassment. The harasser is in a position of power or authority than that of the victim in a case of sexual harassment. Protection of women and providing them a speedy redressal in case of sexual harassment is necessary in the present-day situation.
Swarnalatha (2013) in every level of employment both men and women are being affected by the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. Reducing the risk of harassment and providing legal remedies in case of such harassment at the workplace is necessary. Employees need to be prevented from suicidal tendencies. It is important to stop the daily harm to which employees are put through workplace harassment. The workplace environment is an important factor in an organization which is also a contributing factor resulting in a harassing atmosphere. Workplace harassment not only affects the organization’s productivity or turnover but also the employee’s job satisfaction.
Adebayo & Juliet (2014) students face detrimental effects when teachers are bullied in educational institutions. Thus, resulting in low morale among teachers. This situation in educational institutions will adversely affect the productivity of the trained staff and it will lead to poor quality of student results.
- To identify sexual harassment at the workplace.
- To understand the various attributes of sexual harassment in the workplace.
- To elaborate on the guidelines formulated in a landmark judgment.
This article is created by referencing various research papers and web articles, which are mentioned in the references.
5. Discussion: “Identification of sexual harassment at the workplace:
Identification of sexual harassment remains to be a complicated task. Sometimes what one person feels is sexual harassment might not necessarily be sexual harassment. For instance, when a man passes a statement with respect to a woman which according to him is a pleasantry, and for her it is an unpleasant comment. To avoid misconception of a person’s behavior it is essential that the victim talks to her perpetrator about her discomfort towards his comments before taking it to the HR representative or any other person in authority to address the issue. However, if a person repeatedly tries to make another feel sexually uncomfortable, then it can probably be identified as sexual harassment. Passing sexual comments, unpleasant touch/stares, threatening or requesting to meet in private, etc; are generally presumed to be the most common form of sexual harassment. But it is to be understood that there are many other forms of sexual harassment that are likely to take place at work.
Attributes of sexual harassment at the workplace:
It is to be noted that women in leadership positions at work are likely to face higher risks of sexual harassment, as most of the time sexual harassment is for power and not sex. The women at the lower levels with minimum income are also at high risk. It was established that “2 in 5 women in the fast-food industry experience sexual harassment at work” in a study conducted by Hart Research. Women with lower incomes are hesitant towards reporting any sexual harassment faced by them in their work environment due to their fear of losing jobs. In a working environment irrespective of a person’s gender (i.e. both men and women) may experience sexual harassment, but women face a relatively higher risk than men due to inequality in pay, lower authority, and lower status in their respective jobs. Similarly, women in power also may experience the issue of sexual harassment. Sometimes sexual harassment might take place in any workplace, so the purpose of reinforcing the traditional gender role which can be referred to as gender-based harassment.
Procedure to report the crime:
Different organizations have different rules of procedure which are to be followed while reporting any crime with regard to sexual harassment. And therefore, it is always best to follow the procedure prescribed by one’s respected organization. However, a victim can always talk to their boss, the HR representative, or the supervisor whoever they are comfortable with in order to organize a formal meeting to address the issue of sexual harassment that has been taking place in their workplace. Also, it is important that the victim submits their claim in writing to anyone of the above-mentioned people and it is essential to have a copy of the letter with oneself as proof to show that the victim has taken the matter to the authorities in power. On legal grounds, the organization has to open an investigation against the perpetrator once a sexual harassment complaint has been made. The authorities cannot retaliate on the issue yet if they do so the victim is eligible to file a claim against the predator with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, there is a deadline within which the victim has to report the crime to the EEOC. The crime must be reported within a period of 45 days. On reporting the crime, if there is any personal action taken against the victim (e.g. dismissal) then the victim is entitled to contact the EEO counselor and the report can be filed against the respective person who acted against the victim. And this has to be carried out within 45 days from which the personal action against the victim takes effect. EEOC acts as a negotiating instrument between the employer and the victim and tries to resolve the issue. When EEOC fails to resolve then they issue a notice viz. “right to sue” This gives the victim the power to file a complaint against the discriminator in the court of law, by which they are entitled to receive damages for the physical and mental suffering, to which they were subjected. Thus, EEOC protects the victim against any retaliation.
Guidelines formulated in Vishaka v state of Rajasthan and Ors.:
Vishaka Vs State of Rajasthan and Ors. is a landmark case viz. known for violation of human rights and their standards, as it threatens the dignity of a person under the title of sexual harassment. The simple facts of the case display Bhanwari Devi an employee in Rajasthan State Government during the 1990s who tried to prevent child marriage which was a part of her duty as a worker of the women's development program who was raped by the landlords of the community. The offenders were acquitted by the trial court which inspired several other women groups to file a Writ Petition in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
The case being a landmark judgment for sexual harassment the Supreme Court stated that “Every instant of sexual harassment is a violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14,15 and 21 of the Constitution of India. It also amounts to a violation of the ‘Right to Freedom’ under Article 19”.
1. Duty of Employer:
It is deemed to be an essential duty of the employer or other authoritative persons in the workplace to prevent the commission of any act which will amount to sexual harassment. It is also the duty of the employer to provide accurate rules of procedure for the settlement, resolution, or prosecution of the acts when committed.
2. Preventive Steps:
The employers or every person who is in power in a respective workplace be it the public sector or private sector organization are entitled to take appropriate steps and measures to prevent and discourage sexual harassment. It is also the duty of the people in power to ensure that any women working in their respective organizations should not have any reason to feel hostile in their work environment. No woman should feel disadvantaged by her employment or employer. The rules and regulations prohibiting sexual harassment were included in the rules and regulations of the Government and other Public Sector bodies relating to the conduct of a person at work. It also provided appropriate penalties which will be imposed on the offender when violated. Appropriate ways are to be adopted to notify, publish and circulate the express prohibition of sexual harassment.
3. Criminal Proceedings:
The employer is entitled to initiate and take appropriate action against the offender in accordance with the law by way of making a complaint with the appropriate authority when the conduct or behavior of a person amounts to an offense under the Indian Penal Code or any other law prescribed. The liability of ensuring that appropriate steps are being taken when any case of sexual harassment is reported lies to the employer. The offender also has to face other disciplinary action put against him by the employer.
4. Complaint Mechanism:
The employer is entitled to create an appropriate complaint mechanism for the purpose of redressal of the complaint which will be put forth by the victim. Time-bound treatment for the complaints has to be ensured by the complaint mechanism that is created by the employer. The efficiency of the complaint mechanism should be to that level where they have adequate means to provide, wherever necessary, a special counselor, complaints committee, or other special support services, which will also include confidentiality. Usually, the complaints committee should be headed by a woman, and also that not less than half of its members should be women. It is essential for a complaints committee to involve a third party who may be a member of an NGO or any other body which is aware of the issues of sexual harassment. This involvement of a third party is to ensure that there is no undue influence or pressure from the senior levels to the complaints committee.
5. Third-Party Harassment:
The victim is entitled to receive all the necessary and reasonable assistance from the employer in terms of support and preventive actions when the issue of sexual harassment occurs as a result of the conduct of a third party.
A request was made to the Central and the State Governments to adopt adequate measures which includes legislation to ensure that the guidelines prescribed were observed by the employers in the Private Sector as well.
Sexual harassment is a serious problem across all industrial sectors and workplaces (institutes such as educational, medical, banking and etc.) and this problem still remains to be a greater threat despite all the attention, legislation, research, and awareness. It is a great misfortune that there is no industrial sector that remains unharmed by the issue of sexual harassment. It is to be understood that any form of sexual harassment is a great threat to the victim. The damages that sexual harassment is bound to cause are health, finance, opportunities at work, lack of career development, low morale, lack of productivity, etc. When the issue of sexual harassment is not being dealt with, that is, when a particular institution is ignorant towards it, then the issue becomes normalized in the institution. Such negligence will not only affect the victim but also the organization at large and this situation can be overcome with the help of legislation that is readily available to the victims to punish the predator and the organization as well. Therefore, to overcome the problem of sexual harassment every institution under every industry has to lay down a clear and effective employment policy which will ensure to keep a check on any such issue and will reduce the vulnerability of employees.”