“My boss today touched me at back. He immediately said sorry and pretended as if it happened mistakenly. But this was not first time. I am getting negative vibes at my office,” a friend working in a media organisation told me this few months back.
She was not the only one, I have heard this from several girls, so many times.
I remember another friend working in a well-known media organisation, once told me that his boss used to call girls for interviews even when there were no vacancies.
Incidents of bad touch, unwelcome sexual conduct, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature at workplaces are quite common world-wide.
However, they don’t get reported at such extent as people who indulge in such a disgusting crime are often powerful and influential.
Also, we, as a society are not in the practice at this task.
But this year in 2017, the much needed debate on sexual abuse and harassment at workplace started. Thanks to few high profile cases that came in public domain and turned the attention of entire world towards this very serious issue.
In a country like India where rapes have become almost a ‘tradition’, people, especially our women, need to be aware.
There are existing laws that protect them from such workplace horrors.
Vishaka Guidelines 1997
In a landmark decision in 1997, the Supreme Court clearly defined the ambit of sexual harassment at the workplace.
These guidelines said, “Physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, sexual coloured remarks, showing pornography, and any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal
Conduct of sexual nature” comes in the ambit of sexual harassment.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and redressal) Act, 2013
In 2013, the Manmohan Singh government passed India’s first law against sexual harassment at workplace.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and redressal) Act defined sexual harassment beyond Vishaka guidelines.
Now, “presence or occurrence of circumstances of implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in employment, threat of detrimental treatment in employment, threat about present or future employment, interference with work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment, or humiliating treatment likely to affect the lady employee’s health or safety could also amount to sexual harassment”.
Under the law, employers having more than 10 staff were asked to set up an Internal Committee (IC) to address the complaints and grievances of victims in a safe environment.
If they don’t set up an IC, there is a provision of fine of Rs 5o thousand.
So, all the working ladies out there, break the social barriers, don’t bear such misconduct in your office any more. Go raise your voice and report to IC if you have ever faced this.