Challenges and Issues with Workplace Sexual Harassment

workplace sexual harassment
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Rest in peace, Justice: Workplace Sexual harassment

Well, you must have already assumed that this is a women-oriented article, but it’s not!

The article talks about workplace sexual harassment faced by the victim irrespective of their gender. Yes, there is no denying in the fact that so many women around us, no matter what their profession is, have experienced sexual harassment in their lives in some form by the sexual predators. This is the reason why most of the stats we see relate to women’s experience and portray their horrifying harassment stories. The female workers lack the sense of security whether they are at their workplace or anywhere else; they feel fear and rage at the same time, even at the single thought of being harassed by someone. But, as fictitious it seems to people, men too experience sexual harassment at the workplace. Though a smaller percentage of men are sexually harassed by women or other men, it does happen. 

First, let me briefly explain to you what exactly is workplace sexual harassment.  The legal definition of sexual harassment states that “sexual harassment constitutes an unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favors or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes an individual feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated (Australian Human Rights Commission).” When this definition is applied to any organization with employment setting, it is termed as “workplace sexual harassment”. Sexual harassment incorporates certain types of behaviors by the wrongdoer:-

  • Unwelcome touching
  • Staring or leering
  • Sexually explicit pictures or posters
  • Unwanted invitations to go out on dates
  • Requests for sex
  • Intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body
  • Unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person
  • Insults or taunts based on sex
  • Sexually explicit physical contact
  • Sexually explicit emails or text messages

These behaviors undoubtedly look incontrovertible on paper. Apart from these, certain behaviors that too amount to sexual harassment can be less obvious and debatable, as they are usually delivered in a more subtle way. In such situations, the perpetrators may excuse their behavior as flattering or flirtatious in a friendly way, somewhat making the victims uncomfortable deep down but at the same time, the victims worry about rocking the boat unnecessarily. But the fact is if the behavior of a sexual nature reasonably makes a person feel offended, humiliated, and intimidated, then unquestionably it is sexual harassment. 

Workplace sexual harassment laws link these behaviors to the employment context – which basically means every employment situation & relationship.  You might be under the impression that the prohibition involves unacceptable behaviors only in the workplace itself, but that is not the case. It also incorporates work-related activities (for example, conferences and parties), and basically all the interactions between the coworkers.

Now, there are some employment settings where sexual harassment is practiced openly as the workers don’t believe their behaviors and actions to be wrong in spite of being unlawful. This comprises a workplace where pornography is not a big deal, a work culture where offensive jokes, casual sexism, and sexual banter are considered normal and are a part of the office routine. But the truth is that such a work environment absolutely corresponds to illicit workplace sexual harassment leaving the victims with disgusting experiences.

Well, after giving you an insight into sexual harassment at the workplace, let’s talk about workplace sexual harassment policies.

Every organization creates its own set of policies & procedures in order to provide a safe and harassment-free work environment to their workers. These policies are formed with the view to promote intolerance of sexual harassment by any person working with the organization, and giving justice to the victim keeping his/her dignity and self-respect intact. But, it has been noticed that up to 80% of sexual harassment incidents go unreported due to certain factors. Doesn’t it make you question why these policies are formulated in the first place then? Well, I know it does make you question the use of such policies leaving you fuming!

Not reporting such vile acts definitely make us question “Do workplace sexual harassment policies really ensure justice to the victims?” Woefully, the answer to this question is NO in some cases. And deep down, all of us are aware of this bitter truth and harsh reality. There is n number of reasons for not reporting sexual harassment which I will talk about some other time. What I am trying to say over here is that whenever the victim shows courage and stands for his/her dignity by raising voice against the vile act and the perpetrator, he/she is compelled to not make a massive scene out of it. The sexual harassment policy papers are tossed aside just like that as if they never existed in the first place. And, then the reality sets in! Often, sexual harassment incidents at the workplace are settled behind closed doors usually convincing the victim by the means of emotional manipulation to compromise in some form. This tactic is used in order to cause no harm to the reputation of the company. Definitely a selfish move!

And, even if details about the incident spread throughout the organization, workers simply make it an interesting topic to gossip about focusing on the salacious details. So insensitive!

Making it worse, there is a lack of protection and support to the victims of sexual harassment. Individuals who display courage by speaking up are often victimized and made uncomfortable by the internal committees as well as by the coworkers.

It is one thing to put policies and procedures on paper, and another thing to actually do right by them. But, looking at the scenario it seems that the righteous policies are just caged in papers with “oh so promising” words, whereas the reality of how these set frameworks function is completely opposite. The rights and philosophies that these policies promise should be fulfilled so that the individuals feel confident while reporting sexual harassment knowing that their allegations will be taken seriously. 

Being safe and comfortable at work, free from sexual harassment is a basic human right that is clearly being violated on a large scale. And, it’s awful!

As you all are now clear about workplace sexual harassment it’s important to focus on its effects. Harassment impacts the mental health of victims as well. Psychowellness Center is a mental health organization that has a team of professional psychologists. The psychologists here are experienced and are members of different communities.

It’s important to make workplace environment friendly and safe for its employees. To ensure this Dr. R.K. Suri with his team and experience provides counseling, carries out sessions and hearings to investigate the underlined issue, and reaches the conclusion with sole honesty, hence delivering justice to the victim and saving the reputation of the organization.

Read also: Redefining Log Kya Kahenge

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