Sexual Harassment in the Workplace-A Problem from the Past, Present but Not the Future
Sexual Harassment in the work place, is a topic seen way too often and people still need to be reminded of it because it takes place on the daily. This article is not a hot take on the subject but it is simply trying to make men understand that they are not the victim and that women need to respected. To understand the topic, we need to first understand what sexual harassment truly is. ‘Sexual harassment’ is any form of unwelcome sexual behaviour that’s offensive, humiliating or intimidating. Most importantly, it’s against the law. Being sexually harassed affects people in different ways.
Contrary to popular belief sexual harassment is not only physical but it can be verbal too. An office job is already complicated enough and the fear of being sexually harassed should not even be a factor. There is no denying the fact that men too get sexually harassed but there is a much more significant number of women who experience sexual harassment than men. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that in a 2017 report 16.5% of sexual harassment cases were filed by men but the rest 83.5% of sexual harassment cases were filed by women. Its clear that both genders suffer from sexual harassment and because a majority of women suffer from it at that hands of men this article will target that area.
Indian Laws Against Sexual Harassment
- IPC section 354(A): Demanding sexual favors despite indication of disinterest is a crime under IPC section 354(A).
Punishment: The accused can either face jail time ranging from 1-3 years or fine or both.
- IPC section 503: If a woman’s clear refusal to someone’s sexual advances is met but threats to harm her physically or her reputation and property. It is a crime under IPC section 503.
Punishment: The accused can either face jail time ranging from 2 years or fine or both.
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013: A senior colleague demanding sexual favours in exchange for work benefits – promotions or salary hike is an act of sexual harassment as per Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013.
- IPC section 509: Abusing a woman with sexually coloured remarks on social media is a crime under IPC section 509.
Punishment: The man may face jail time of 3 years and fine.
Even though laws have been placed to protect individuals form sexual harassment yet the number of cases is steadily increasing. The reality is that an individual only fears the law if 1. He is going to get caught for the mistake he does 2. He has a guilty conscience for what he has done. The sad reality is that most of the time men don’t believe the acts they commit are not in any form of sexual harassment but simply banter. This attitude is completely wrong. Men often give excuses saying that they are now afraid to show affection to a woman because they are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. The only reason this thought even arises is so that men can walk on that fine line without crossing it.
Now the question occurs of what constitutes as sexual harassment? The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 explains it in the following manner: “sexual harassment” includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) namely:— (i) physical contact and advances; or (ii) a demand or request for sexual favours; or (iii) making sexually coloured remarks; or (iv) showing pornography; or (v) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature;
Often a question arises of where an individual can call a workplace. Not denying the fact that any sexual harassment is wrong but for the purpose of this article it is important to get a clear understanding of the workplace. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 also defines this.
(i) any department, organisation, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, branch or unit which is established, owned, controlled or wholly or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government or the local authority or a Government company or a corporation or a co-operative society;
(ii) any private sector organisation or a private venture, undertaking, enterprise, institution, establishment, society, trust, non-governmental organisation, unit or service provider carrying on commercial, professional, vocational, educational, entertainmental, industrial, health services or financial activities including production, supply, sale, distribution or service;
(iii) hospitals or nursing homes; (iv) any sports institute, stadium, sports complex or competition or games venue, whether residential or not used for training, sports or other activities relating thereto; (v) any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation by the employer for undertaking such journey;
(vi) a dwelling place or a house;
It is clear what the do’s and don’ts are and yet there is no significant change in the cases regarding sexual harassment in the work place. Women get accused of provoking men by wearing ‘revealing’ clothes which is not only a pathetic excuse but an extremely sad one. There simply is no excuse for sexual harassment. There are no loopholes or any justifiable manner in which men can behave with women. A simple rule of thumb to follow is to treat women the same way you would want others to treat your mother.
It is clear from cases like that of Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes and that men with power know that women already face difficulties to be successful in an industry and therefore take every opportunity to exploit that. Often women try so hard to reach the levels that they aspire to be and such disgusting acts by men has become a part of the job. This cannot be a normalized part of society. Sexual harassment at any level should not be tolerated. We have laws in place to protect women against these problems but unless we as a society realize that all human beings deserve respect whatever laws are set in place will be in vain.
Author: Ben Jose Jose,
IFIM law school, 1st year