Contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment is neither uncommon nor an issue of the past. According to one survey of sexual harassment at workplace conducted by Indian National Bar Association, 38% of women employees had encountered workplace sexual harassment. Of which, nearly 68% of victims did not complain about it, in fear of consequences.
Whether it is an inappropriate touch from a boss or just a rude, sexist comment, a lot of employees (both men and women) deal with harassment on an everyday basis. A number of victims tend to brush aside these severe offenses as silly rivalries. They believe that turning a blind eye or feigning a deaf ear to the rude remarks will eventually make the aggressor lose interest. However, feigning ignorance and failing to act will only make things worse.
The victim’s silence actually emboldens the perpetrator and encourages him/her to slide further down the slippery slope of sexual harassment to commit more heinous crimes. Recently, a friend of mine has been calling me up for a shoulder to cry on. She is very good at her work and so, she was assigned a prestigious project in the company. The manager selected her over a senior employee and this caused a rift.
The senior believed that she has been assigned the coveted project because she’s in an inappropriate relationship with the manager. He started joking about this with other team members and slowly this spread around the company like wildfire. Now, my friend is neither able to face her manager, nor can she work with peace of mind. I told her to let it be, and people will forget in due course of time.
I didn’t realize I was wrong until I attended an eye-opening POSH session last week at Orangescape. Sarada Ramani, the Advisory member of eWit (Empowering Women in IT) & Founder of CI Global Technologies, was with us for the launch of ‘POSH at the workplace’ committee at OrangeScape.
Sarada started the session by enlightening us on the Indian Law on sexual harassment and then went on to cover the following aspects:
- What constitutes sexual harassment at the workplace
- Examples & instances at the workplace that depict harassment
- Defining ‘unwelcome behavior’
- Types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo & hostile environment
- How to file complaints to the internal committee
- What is NOT sexual harassment
- Steps to deter harassment
- Protection against retaliation
The part on what does and what does not constitute sexual harassment was especially enlightening as many of us (both male & female) didn’t know this and also weren’t aware what to do in such situations. This session made us conscious of the unconscious bias hidden deep within us.