In order to prevent sexual harassment we need to first understand what is sexual harassment and why we need to prevent it. It is termed as the unwelcomed acts that are sexual in nature. It can be humiliating, offensive and can be intimidating too.
Sexual harassment towards women is very common. India being one of the most dangerous countries for women. Eve teasing, cat calling, stalking and groping is a part of a woman’s day to day life. As a woman we often heave a sigh of relief if we are not cat called, eve teased, stalked or groped a day. It is very normal for a woman to face any one of these in everyday life.
We need to understand that the acts of sexual harassment cannot be understood by many young women especially when it happens at work, often they might think that they are getting ahead of themselves and the initiator of the harassment might be trying to engage them in a friendly conversation or the gesture might be nothing more than an accident or a friendly gesture. But it is important for women to understand that it might be a friendly gesture but if it makes them uncomfortable then it needs to stop. As many of us think that it is only women who go through the hell, there are many men who choose to remain silent about their experiences when it comes to sexual harassment.
In a patriarchal society, men are always pictured to be tough beings who a not supposed to feel any pain, discomfort and especially harassment. A world where LGBT community has recently being normalized, and people are being aware of the things that were taboo in the society can be exhausting but it is important to know that how one can protect themselves against sexual harassment irrespective of gender.
Before jumping on the classification of what can be harassment and what cannot be, let us make this clear if a gesture is made towards you, especially if physical in nature which makes you uncomfortable and if you feel that the touch is inappropriate then you need to stand up against it. No matter how people around you tell you, they might not feel uncomfortable with a similar gesture that is initiated by the same person, that doesn’t mean that you should keep silent about your discomfort. It can be difficult and might seem like a huge quest but it is you who needs to stand up for yourself.
Following acts and gestures are classified under the acts of sexual harassment:
- Touching, groping, grabbing, or making any kind of physical contact with you against your will or consent.
- Making vulgar comments about you or your body
- Staring at you in a manner that makes you uncomfortable or leering at you.
- Display of vulgar and offensive material to you.
- Jokes that have sexual meaning and are humiliating in nature.
- Openly or discreetly asking for sexual favors in return of an appraisal or offering something valuable or just for the sake of lust.
- Prying about your sexual life or your personal details
- Forceful exposure to pornography.
- Lastly, committing a serious criminal offense by forcing themselves upon you, making a phone call which is vulgar and obscene in nature, or exposing their genitals to you against your consent.
Sexual harassment is gender neutral and both men and women get affected when gone through any kind of unpleasant experience.
A common mental health issue that is developed due to the harassment is PTSD that is post traumatic stress disorder. This is a disorder that survivors of trauma and abuse suffer from. Depression, anxiety, and stress are common results of sexual harassment at work.
Sexual harassment at work place is normal but shouldn’t be normalized. The victims need to understand that it doesn’t matter if they are the only ones who feel uncomfortable and there never have been a case of harassment or complaint before their experience. The very first thing that victims usually do is to question their ability to understand the nature of the act and gesture. The initiator or the abuser often gaslights the victim.
The one thing that you need to keep in mind is that it is you who feels uncomfortable and you need to say no to it.
As an employer one can take the following steps to prevent sexual harassment at work –
- Spread awareness among your employees about sexual harassment and what they can do if the unfortunately come across any situation of similar nature.
- Ensure that you have strict policies against the abusers and the initiators of harassment.
- There should be a zero tolerance policy against sexual harassment & immediate action against the abusers.
- Appoint an individual or create a department to deal with the complaints regarding sexual harassment
- Make sure that the victim is not harassed while being interrogated by the authorities
- The process of filing a complaint should be easy and hassle free so that the victim feels free to approach and file a complaint
- Inform the authorities about the incident and raise your voice against harassment.
If you are facing harassment at your workplace, follow the below mentioned steps:
- The first thing you can do is to confront the person who is harassing you making it clear that their gestures and actions are unwelcomed.
- If the behavior continues then, firstly know about the policies of the organization against the harassment and complaint respectively.
- Make sure you have evidence to back it up and also written accounts of the details of the harassment and the people who were involved or choose to ignore along with the details of how you will defend yourself.
- Always make sure that your close ones are informed about the incidents and the person.
- Immediately inform the authorities and the immediate senior.
Sexual harassment is an act of shame and shouldn’t be dealt with alone, rising your voice against it is important letting the abuser or initiator that they won’t have their way with you or anyone and actions will be taken.
Sexual Harassment has been common issues at workplaces. If any male coworker is harassing and you are not able to raise your voice, we will help you file a case under POSH act on your behalf.
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