Sunday, May 3, 2015

How safe are our women at work places?

“I could not say anything. I was the only person supporting my family. It is difficult to explain.” A friend narrated her experience with her boss in an MNC few years back. It was very difficult for her to explain.

Sexual harassments in workplaces are difficult to cope with. The new age of empowerment of woman comes with many compromises. Harassments under excuse of of job security has seen a rise. Many women have taken the matter to the police, but many more fail to do so. Society has conditioned our women to be mute in such matters!

“I protested, and also shared the discomfort with one colleague. But she told me that it is my personal matter and I must face it myself. She was not looking to get into any trouble because of me.” my friend shared this. She somehow picked the courage to mention this incident to senior people at the organisation and the molester was fired from the job. But it took her a long time. She had gone through a difficult phase and was depressed for a while.

Even today many organisations do not have active Sexual Harassment cells and the matter is mostly dealt by the Human Resource department, which most of the time is headed by a male member. “In our office we do not have a specific sexual harassment cell. But we are encouraged to share such incident with the HR department. There are a few posters around the office encouraging us not to keep quite in such matter.” shared another friend who works with an advertising agency.

Sexual harassment is not just about physically molesting. Staring, passing sexist remarks, creating a situation where the person feels helpless and much more can be labelled as sexual harassment. “There are many people in our organisation. We have not come across any case that has been filed but I know about many unreported case. Women, in general, try to avoid such situations.”shared a friend who works with a government organisation.

When a woman avoids confrontation with the harasser at the workplace, it leads to serious consequences not only for one person but for other vulnerable women at the organisation. But absence of sexual harassment committees make it difficult for one person to pursue her case. Also, absence of such committees signal towards less sensitivity of the organisation towards women’s rights. All of this make the situation much more complex that it actually is.

“I have not come across such situation. But if ever it happens with me, I will take a strong step. After all it is not my fault. Why should I feel the guilt of someone else’s sin?” a friend tells me. She has the simplest, yet the most direct solution.

Every person, irrespective of gender, must initiate the process of establishing sexual harassment cell in the organisation, with active participation of people from the office. If for some reason the office does not have a woman at a senior position, then the possibility of having an external member must also be explored.

For a better society, it is important that everybody leads a stress free and threat free life.

This article was first published in LokMarg on April 2, 2015. 

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