Nagpur: Before one comments on the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace, one needs to know a little about the Act, and how city women react on it.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was passed on February 26, 2013. The Bill got the assent of the President on April 23, 2013. The Act came into force from December 9, 2013. This statute superseded the Vishakha Guidelines for prevention of sexual harassment introduced by the Supreme Court of India. It was reported by the International Labour Organization that very few Indian employers were compliant to this statute. Most Indian employers have not implemented the law despite the legal requirement that any workplace with more than 10 employees need to implement it. The government has threatened to take stern action against employers who fail to comply with this law. An Act to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
We are living in the 21st century where everyone irrespective of sex, religion, caste or creed, gets equal opportunities and can avail himself of every opportunity to excel in any professional field. Yes! We are living in a male dominated society. Whether we like it not, women are not accorded with the basic Fundamental Rights mentioned in the Constitution. Women are still looked down as an object, a commodity which men can use, abuse and belittle.
Who gives the men the right to dictate terms on:
- What a women should wear,
- What a women should speak (the choice of words)
- What habits should a women cultivate (smoking or drinking)
- What friend should women be permitted (should it be only another women and not a man). Does it have to construe as romantic only?
- What relationships are permitted, and what is not?
- Which places are OK to be visited by women?
- What extent of time can women be out of home?
Is it OK for men to pass crude statements or call vile names in local vernacular which describes a woman and her assets? No! Definitely Not!! Yet, in most offices where women work, most men pass crude jokes, pass comments depicting women’s assets, or her looks or attire, etc; talk among friends and colleagues in double-entendre words or jokes. Many women also make otherwise objectionable comments at women in work places. Those who repel them or spurn their advances are defamed or gossiped about. If she dares to complain against them, only she is victimized, ridiculed and boycotted from their circle.
Nagpur Today ventured to bring out the sexual harassments that women go through in their workplace. It becomes mandatory for all organizations Government-run or private or even corporate offices that they should have a Women’s Redressal Cell, which redresses the grievances of women in their work place.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Deepali Masirkar while speaking to Nagpur Today said, it is a misconception that sexual harassment does not exist nowadays. While claiming that she is not making a blanket statement, yet there have been instances where men still look down on women. Women immaterial of the professional field in which they are working, are often judged, based on the attire (modern or western) that they don, the habits and the mannerism, etc. However, DCP Deepali Masirkar claimed that the attire/clothes, habits, language-style is entirely personal and that they should be judged only on the quality and quantity of their professional work.
While answering to the lack of Women’s Redressal Cell which is a must in every office (government or private) based on the directives of Supreme Court of India, DCP Deepali Masirkar said, sexual harassment in workplace is not seen as a serious issue, nor is the Women’s Redressal Cell taken on a priority basis. Surprisingly in many offices where the Women’s Redressal Cell exists, all the members of the committee are women, as if to say that they know the issues better and so will do justice. DCP Masirkar claims that men should also be a part of the committee of Women’s Redressal Cell so that there is a balance and the other side is also heard.
As a message to the masses, DCP Deepali Masirkar said that respect to women should start right from the infancy, and that every mother should educate their sons to treat every woman irrespective of their age or psycho-socio-economic status with due respect accorded to every human being.
While speaking to Nagpur Today, Senior Public Relations Executive of OCW Rucha Pande said, at OCW, we do not face sexual harassment at our work stations. However many of our friends working in other corporate sectors do face such problems. This is because of age-old values and customs. Some behavior by men is accepted while a similar behavior by women is not accepted and is interpreted as loose, easily available commodity etc.
She claimed that it would take time to change the behavior of men. Men often look at women as an object or consumable product. Modern working women’s attire, their behavior, their habits (smoking or drinking) is not considered accepted by the men. They are often termed as loose or available for their lust. Who gave the men the right to decide on the attire and other behavior which is strictly their personal choice and nobody has any right whatsoever in commenting or judging them? Rucha too claimed that it is time that mothers teach their boys to respect woman as another human being and not to have any gender bias or any kind. She claimed that it is time that men stop belittling dignity of women.
While speaking to Nagpur Today, Senior Human Resources Executive of OCW Ankita Mankar claimed, many ladies are becoming independent. They do not get cowed down by the vile remarks and comments passed by lecherous men, rather they retaliate. She strongly feels that it is time that they react and react strongly to such gender bias and sexual harassments, etc. She believes that such behavior is not at all an accepted behavior in workplaces, corporate offices or society any more.
While speaking to Nagpur Today, a Woman Police Constable on condition of anonymity claimed that being a cop does not ensure ‘no harassment’ in our work-place. In our work places too we often face direct or indirect sexual harassments. She claimed, “Most senior officers often consider us as their personal commodity. They make advances at us and spurning their advances only aggravates their animosity or grudge against us and we may end up being posted to places or duties not very favourable to us. A complaint against them will promptly be ignored and only we will be transferred to some other place instead of the offending official.”
While speaking to Nagpur Today, a teacher of a reputed school on condition of anonymity claimed that gone are the days when a lady teacher was accorded the same love and respect as that of a mother, today, leave alone the fellow male teachers, even the students pass vile comments, look lasciviously at us. She said that acknowledging the men’s or boys’ look or comments only adds to their pleasure. Ignoring them is the only way that they can be dissuaded from their antics.
– As told to Samuel Gunasekharan, Special correspondent