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COMBATING SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORK PLACE

- By Rohit Garg &Prince Singhal1

ABSTRACT

The entire purpose of this research paper is to consider a study that will help us to determine the
current scenario of Sexual Harassment at Workplace and how to prevent it from happening. Also,
it discusses on why this social issue is becoming so significant in our society while there is already
an act implemented to prevent it. This research paper also focuses on how our system is unable to
fix this i.e. what the reason is behind that, what measures should be taken by the government to
fix it. It also emphasizes on why the discrimination is done on the basis of gender i.e. with females
and with transgender and violence done with them at workplace and in society. It also discusses
about the consequences on psychology of human. As we all know sexual harassment is not good
for culture of our society and also for organizational work culture. AS a part of the society it is our
foremost responsibility to develop zero intolerance against Sexual Harassment at Workplace and
elsewhere respectively because in the society where we are living the Women is one side prayed
as Goddess Durga and at other side she is humiliated with rape, acid attack etc. on the other hand
if we talk about transgender who are evolving in our society as 3rd gender so why don’t we talk
about their rights of them as they are human also and there is no mistake of them that if anybody
take birth as a transgender. So a question arises that why is this grave injustice happening with
them? Also that why we don’t talk about their rights and why we are not accepting them in our
society? A question also arises that if we are taking any action to deal with all this or we are just
expecting with them to stay down and compromise with all this because our society will only
promote men then our society will be happy with being narrow minded.

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Students, F.I.M.T. School of Law, I.P. University, New Delhi
1. INTRODUCTION

Sexual harassment2 is a term that can be defined as an unwanted interaction, behavior or an act
with someone that makes the person feel uncomfortable either directly or by implication namely:

(i) physical contact and advances; or


(ii) a demand or request for sexual favours; or

(iii)making sexually coloured remarks; or

(iv) showing pornography; or

(v) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature;”

It can also be termed as discrimination based on sex. It can be said that it is a social evil that limits
a person to enjoy his/her basic rights and the embarrassment that have to be felt by its victim is
also an injury for him/her. There is an act called as The Sexual Harassment of Women at
Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act, 2013 which aims to make sure that each
person feels comfortable while living in the society and contribute his/her best. And also in our
constitution there are some articles which ensure that these kind of discriminating activities are
not to be entertained. Article14 of Indian Constitution, which guarantees Equality before law.
Article 15 and 21of Indian Constitution which ensure every citizen of India to live freely i.e. to
live without any discrimination and also ensures protection of life and personal liberty and Article
19 (1) (g) gives every citizen of India a right that he/she can practice any profession or any
occupation, trade or business. In the context of Sexual Harassment we can say that it is infringing
the fundamental rights of every citizen of India: in violation of Article 14 the practitioner of Sexual
Harassment is infringing the person to enjoy his/her to being equal in the society by discriminating
on the basis of salaries, perks or by not providing him/her job as he/she is a transgender or a women
; in violation of Article 15 (1) and (2) and Article 21 it can be said that the practitioner is infringing
the victim’s right to live and enjoy his/her personal liberty that he/she can’t opt whatever he/she
want to do and also his/her right to live freely when he/she is able to take his/her own decision ; in

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The Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act,2013

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violation of Article 19 the practitioner infringe the right of victim’s by not giving him/her equal
opportunity as to men to choose his/her own profession or occupation. Though in older times as
people are not much educated so they are unaware of there rights and have narrow mind so they
do not lodge any complaint or doesn’t want to take any corrective action upon it for their justice
but as the time changes people now become little educated and women’s and trans gender’s also
want to compete men and also they know how to exercise their rights but these kind of people are
very few due to fear of one’s life, livelihood, loosing there job, being stigmatized. It can be said
that sexual harassment not only includes violence but also includes serious social and economic
issues which not only effects victim and his/her family and also as like in a business when an asset
got depreciated it somehow effects the overall growth of the business, it also effects the overall
growth of the nation because we human acts as an asset for our nation. The Sexual Harassment of
Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was enacted to ensure
that the society can be made a better place to live in which women can enjoy equal rights and
opportunities as men’s do and no one can deprive them to enjoy their status and safety but as in a
landmark judgement of National Legal Service Authority vs. Union of India supreme court held
that trans gender’s will be now called as third gender in India. When the apex court declared them
as 3rd gender so why don’t we talk about their rights as we see the current scenario majority of
trans gender are engaged in begging they roam here and there for money but as a respected citizen
of India they also have rights which were enjoyed by other people so they can also enjoy their
fundamental rights vested in our constitution. But as we see in our society if people are not giving
equal opportunities to women (although the current scenario is much more better than scenario of
older times) so, it’s like only a fairy tale that we think our society would be ready to accept trans
gender in our society like a trans gender child is learning in the school with other normal genders
or a trans gender being a MP or a MLA of a state or being in a government job or being an employer
employing other people or being a top level management of most reputed company like Reliance
or Tata. These all things are most difficult task to being implemented but not an impossible one
because when we talk about our rights i.e. our life, our choice, our liberty so they also have these
all things which our constitution give to them and according to the law of torts it is a civil wrong
to infringe someone’s fundamental rights and anyone who is depriving a trans gender for enjoying
their fundamental rights is anyhow or somehow is challenging the supremacy of constitution i.e.

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challenging the rule of law which is again a crime and when we say anything about enjoying our
fundamental rights so following points can be mentioned:
a) Firstly, if we talk about right of men so, they are enjoying their rights on a highest degree.
b) Secondly, if we talk about women’s rights although the condition is very critical because
we can see the cases of sexual harassment with women very often but besides all this there
is The Sexual Harassment Act 2013 which provides protection to the interest of women. It
can be said that there is lack of implementation of this act.
c) Thirdly, if we talk about third gender so there is no act present which will ensure protection
to their interest and life.
And because of all this mentioned in upper points about men some people might think that male
only are the harassers they do not get harassed by females or by anyone but it is only a perception
which is wrong. There are a number of cases involving female on male workplace sexual
harassment that have resulted in significant awards for the male employee. These include instances
of retaliation for refusing sexual advances, unwelcome touching and caressing, and being
subjected to offensive sexual comments and jokes. Male on male workplace sexual harassment
claims are becoming more common, starting with a 1998 ruling from the United States Supreme
Court that held that men are protected from workplace sexual harassment under Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964. These cases may include both sexual advances from male co-workers
and supervisors and sexual-based hazing that can be equally damaging. There are no exact statistics
on how many men are sexually harassed at work, and how many of these men actually file claims
for sexual harassment. However, it is likely that the cases filed with the EEOC represent just a
portion of the total number of men who are sexually harassed at work. Some men may not report
their harassment or file a claim with the EEOC because they are afraid of being mocked by
coworkers. They may believe that men can’t truly be sexually harassed by a woman, or that being
harassed by another man implicates their own sexuality. They may fear being embarrassed if
details of the harassment were leaked, particularly if they believe that they should be able to handle
the issue themselves. Whatever the reason, it is evident that many men are simply not filing claims
of sexual harassment. If you are a man who is being sexually harassed in the workplace, know that
it is not acceptable and that there are ways to get help. The first step is to contact a seasoned
workplace harassment attorney who knows how to get results. The lawyers of PLBSH have in-

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depth knowledge of workplace harassment laws and EEOC procedure, and can work with you to
ensure that you are protected and get the compensation you deserve.

2. A Case Regarding Sexual Harassment of Men at Workplace3

The article, which has since gone viral, describes in detail the ordeal faced by Nair for months,
which started with someone anonymously posting a sexually explicit tweet on his Twitter profile.
What followed were a series of sexually explicit messages sent by the cyber stalker to Nair over
Whatsapp and email, many of which were also copied to Nair’s friends and acquaintances. When
Nair finally unmasked the identity of his stalker, it was discovered that the stalker in question was
a woman whom Nair was acquainted with. The cyber stalking incident involving Nair is not a lone
incident of a man being sexually harassed by a woman. Sexual harassment incidents committed
against men (with the perpetrator being a woman) are increasingly being reported and make one
wonder whether we need gender neutral sexual harassment laws in India. An article on The Hindu
outlines many instances of sexual harassment faced by Indian men including stalking, sexual
harassment at workplace and sexual assault. In all these cases, the perpetrators were women. Apart
from the lack of any legal recourse available to men in such cases, what emerges is that the male
victims of sexual harassment do not receive emotional support within their social circle either;
friends of male victims of sexual harassment are often dismissive of such incidents and instead
call the victim in question “lucky” to be desired by a woman. The fear of not being taken seriously
is not the only reason which prevents men from reporting sexual harassment cases. The fear that a
female perpetrator may, in fact, use sexual harassment laws to wrongly implicate the male victim
(by alleging that it was the man who sexually harassed her) has led many male victims of sexual
harassment to not formally complain. In some cases, it is also possible that a female perpetrator
may resort to sexual harassment laws against the man where he does not give in to her sexual
overtures. This notion was explored in the Priyanka Chopra and Akshay Kumar starrer Aitraaz
(2004), where the protagonist, Raj Malhotra (played by Akshay Kumar) is sued by his employer’s
wife, Sonia (played by Priyanka Chopra) for rape when Raj refuses to yield to Sonia’s sexual
demands. The idea that a woman can sexually harass a man is still considered inconceivable in the
Indian society. What makes it even more difficult for men to speak about such incidents openly is

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https://www.firstpost.com/india/vijay-nair-sexual-harassment-case-rising-incidents-against-men-emphasise-
need-for-gender-neutral-laws-in-india-3452286.html

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the tendency of others to perceive male victims of sexual harassment as "feminine" or "weak". The
disbelief surrounding sexual harassment of men by women in India can also be attributed to the
absence of data/statistics on this issue. This, in turn, becomes a vicious cycle where the fear of
being disbelieved may cause a male victim of sexual harassment to not report such incidents,
leading to further lack of statistics in such matters. According to a 2010 survey, conducted by
Economic Times-Synovate, "men are as vulnerable to sexual harassment as women" in India.

Currently, sexual harassment laws in India are not gender-neutral, and, for the most part, recognise
that in sexual harassment cases, the victim is a female and the perpetrator is a male. For instance,
the Section 354 of IPC criminalises assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to outrage
her modesty. Other sections of the IPC include 354A (punishes sexual harassment committed by
a man against a woman), 354B (punishment for intent to disrobe a woman), 354C (voyeurism),
354D (stalking), 375 (criminalises rape of a woman by a man) and section 509 (word, gesture or
act intended to insult the modesty of a woman). Section 377 of the IPC which is widely understood
as an anti-sodomy law recognises male as victims in sexual harassment cases, however, section
377 will have limited application in the kind of sexual harassment cases which are generally faced
by men at the hands of women. It is worth noting that the Justice Verma Committee which was
constituted to recommend reforms to sexual harassment laws in 2013 had proposed gender-neutral
language for sexual offences in India.

However, this suggestion was not eventually incorporated in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act,
2013. Also, while most of the provisions in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act
are gender-neutral with respect to the perpetrator, Section 3 (which criminalises "penetrative
sexual assault") does not apprehend a female perpetrator. Finally, the Sexual Harassment of
Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act is aimed at. Prevention of
sexual harassment directed against women and does not recognize male victims of sexual
harassment at workplace. By contrast, the equivalent law in the US, namely, the regulations of the
US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, treats sexual harassment at workplace as
gender-neutral. Arguably, the first gender-neutral sexual harassment law in India is the UGC
(Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment of Women Employees and Students
in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations 2015 which incorporate a gender neutral meaning
of sexual harassment. Given the incidents of sexual harassment faced by men in India, it is worth

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exploring whether the country needs gender-neutral sexual harassment laws. The first step towards
this could be for the Indian government to conduct nation-wide surveys to determine the statistics
of such crimes in India, and to invite public deliberations on these issues. This would ensure that
a legislation (if any) on this issue is well-informed instead of it being a knee-jerk reaction. The
strongest criticism against such laws would undoubtedly be the potential for misuse of the law by
a man against an innocent woman. However, it must be borne in mind that the danger of misuse
of the legislative machinery cannot by itself be the reason for not enacting laws to protect men
against sexual harassment. Instead, the law must focus on having adequate safeguards in place to
guard it against potential misuse.

3. Cases Regarding Sexual Harassment of Women

3.1- Vishaka ORS vs. State of Rajasthan4

Bhanwari Devi was a saathin (social worker) for the Women’s Development Programme in Bhateri
(Rajasthan, India), working on a campaign to end child marriage. As part of her job, she worked
directly with families to prevent the marriages and report cases to the police when urgent follow-
up action was needed. This included one particular case, where Bhanwari reported a family from
the Gujjar community to the police. They were arranging the marriage of a one-year old infant.
Upset with the intervention, the family rebelled against Bhanwari. After attempting to ostracise
her from her community, five men – Ram Sukh Gujjar, Ram Karan Gujjar, Gyarsa Gujjar, Badri
Gukkar and Shravan Sharma – went to her home. Her husband was attacked and restrained, while
she was gang-raped. Bhanwari and her husband went to the police for help. No thorough
investigation was launched and police delayed taking statements regarding what had happened.
Before the police told her to return home, she was asked to leave her skirt behind as evidence.
Bhanwari was also forced to seek medical attention in Janipur. When she arrived, the doctor only
recorded her age – leaving out any reference to rape in his report. Fifty-two hours passed before a
medical examination was conducted. Determined to receive justice for the brutal acts committed
against her, Bhanwari took her case to a trial court in Jaipur. However, the court acquitted all five
men. In dismissing the case, judges found it highly improbable that an uncle and his nephews
would rape another woman together. They also found it impossible to believe that Bhanwari’s

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http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/vaw/landmark-cases/vishaka-v-state-of-rajasthan/

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husband could have been restrained while watching his wife be raped. Other reasons offered by
the Court included Bhanwari’s delayed report to the police and the lack of medical evidence
identifying the men who had raped her. In response to Bhanwari’s story, Vishaka (Group for
Women’s Education and Research) joined together with four other women’s organisations to file
a petition to the Supreme Court of India on the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. The
injustice and brutal attack Bhanwari suffered would expose the gravity of sexual harassment in the
workplace and the lack of protections women have against it.

3.2- K.M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra5

The accused, Nanavati, at the time of the alleged murder, was second in command of the Indian
Naval Ship “Mysore”. He married Sylvia in 1949 and had three children. Since the time of
marriage, the couple were living at different places having regard to the exigencies of service of
Nanavati. Finally, they shifted to Bombay. In the same city the deceased Ahuja was doing business
in automobiles and in the year 1956, Agniks, who were common friends of Nanavatis and Ahujas,
introduced Ahuja and his sister to Nanavatis. Ahuja was unmarried and was about 34 years of age
at the time of his death. Nanavati, as a Naval Officer, was frequently going away from Bombay in
his ship, leaving his wife and children in Bombay. Gradually, friendship developed between Ahuja
and Sylvia, which culminated in illicit intimacy between them. On April 27, 1959, Sylvia
confessed to Nanavati of her illicit intimacy with Ahuja. Enraged at the conduct of Ahuja, Nanavati
went to his ship, took from the stores of the ship a semi-automatic revolver and six cartridges on a
false pretext, loaded the same, went to the flat of Ahuja entered his bed-room and shot him dead.
Thereafter, the accused surrendered himself to the police. He was put under arrest and in due course
he was committed to the Sessions for facing a charge under s. 302 of the Indian Penal code. But
the defence version was that the accused was away with his ship from April 6, 1959, to April 18,
1959. Immediately after returning to Bombay, he and his wife went to Ahmednagar for about three
days. Thereafter, they returned to Bombay and the accused noticed that his wife was behaving
strangely and was not responsive or affectionate to him. When questioned, she used to evade the
issue. At noon on April 27, 1959, when they were sitting in the sitting-room for the lunch to be
served, the accused put his arm round his wife affectionately, when she seemed to go tense and

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http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1347/k-m-nanavati-v-state-of-maharashtra.html

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unresponsive. After lunch, when he questioned her about her fidelity, she shook her head to
indicate that she was unfaithful to him. He guessed that her paramour was Ahuja. As she did not
even indicate clearly whether Ahuja would marry her and look after the children, he decided to
settle the matter with him. Sylvia pleaded with him not go to Ahuja’s house, as he might shoot
him. Thereafter, he drove his wife, two of his children and a neighbor’s child in his car to a cinema,
dropped them there and promised to come and pick them up at 6 P.M. when the show ended. He
then drove his car to his ship, as he wanted to get medicine for his sick dog, he represented to the
authorities in the ship, that he wanted to draw a revolver and six rounds from the stores of the ship
as he was going to drive alone to Ahmednagar by night, though the real purpose was to shoot
himself. On receiving the revolver and six cartridges, and put it inside a brown envelope. Then he
drove his car to Ahuja’s office, and not finding him there, he drove to Ahuja’s flat, range the door
bell, and, when it was opened by a servant, walked to Ahuja’s bed-room, went into the bed-room
and shut the door behind him. He also carried with him the envelope containing the revolver. The
accused saw the deceased inside the bed-room, called him a filthy swine and asked him whether
he would marry Sylvia and look after the children. The deceased retorted, “Am I to marry every
woman I sleep with?” The accused became enraged, put the envelope containing the revolver on
a cabinet nearby, and threatened to thrash the deceased. The deceased made a sudden move to
grasp at the envelope, when the accused whipped out his revolver and told him to get back. A
struggle ensued between the two and during that struggle two shots went off accidentally and hit
Ahuja resulting in his death. After the shooting the accused went back to his car and drove it to the
police station where he surrendered himself. The trail court convicted under S.304 A of IPC and
in appeal the high court convert it into S.302 of IPC. So the accuse made an appeal before the SC
and at the same time he made an application to governor under Art.161

4. Scenario of Transgender6

The main problems that are being faced by the transgender community are of discrimination,
unemployment, lack of educational facilities, homelessness, lack of medical facilities: like HIV
care and hygiene, depression, hormone pill abuse, tobacco and alcohol abuse, penectomy, and
problems related to marriage and adoption. In 1994, transgender persons got the voting right but

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http://iasscore.in/national-issues/transgender-rights-in-india

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the task of issuing them voter identity cards got caught up in the male or female question. Several
of them were denied cards with sexual category of their choice. The other fields where this
community feels neglected are inheritance of property or adoption of a child. They are often pushed
to the periphery as a social outcaste and many may end up begging and dancing. This is by all
means human trafficking. Sometimes running out of all options to feed themselves, they even
engage themselves as sex workers for survival. Transgenders have very limited employment
opportunities. Transgenders have no access to bathrooms/toilets and public spaces. The lack of
access to bathrooms and public spaces access is illustrative of discrimination faced by transgenders
in availing each facilities and amenities. They face similar problems in prisons, hospitals and
schools. Most families do not accept if their male child starts behaving in ways that are considered
feminine or inappropriate to the expected gender role. Consequently, family members may
threaten, scold or even assault their son/sibling from behaving or dressing-up like a girl or woman.
Some parents may outright disown and evict their own child for crossing the prescribed gender
norms of the society and for not fulfilling the roles expected from a male child. Parents may
provide several reasons for doing so: bringing disgrace and shame to the family; diminished
chances of their child getting married to a woman in the future and thus end of their generation (if
they have only one male child); and perceived inability on the part of their child to take care of the
family. Thus, later transgender women may find it difficult even to claim their share of the property
or inherit what would be lawfully theirs. Sometimes, the child or teenager may decide to run away
from the family not able to tolerate the discrimination or not wanting to bring shame to one's
family. Some of them may eventually find their way to Hijra communities. This means many
Hijras are not educated or uneducated and consequently find it difficult to get jobs. Moreover, it
is hard to find people who employ Hijras/TG people. Some members of the society ridicule gender-
variant people for being 'different' and they may even be hostile. Even from police, they face
physical and verbal abuse, forced sex, extortion of money and materials; and arrests on false
allegations. Absence of protection from police means ruffians find Hijras/TG people as easy
targets for extorting money and as sexual objects. A 2007 study documented that in the past one
year, the percentage of those MSM and Hijras who reported: forced sex is 46%; physical abuse is
44%; verbal abuse is 56%; blackmail for money is 31%; and threat to life is 24%. Hijras face
discrimination even in the healthcare settings. Types of discrimination reported by Hijras/TG
communities in the healthcare settings include: deliberate use of male pronouns in addressing

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Hijras; registering them as 'males' and admitting them in male wards; humiliation faced in having
to stand in the male queue; verbal harassment by the hospital staff and copatients; and lack of
healthcare providers who are sensitive to and trained on providing treatment/care to transgender
people and even denial of medical services. Discrimination could be due to transgender status, sex
work status or HIV status or a combination of these. Social welfare departments provide a variety
of social welfare schemes for socially and economically disadvantaged groups. However, so far,
no specific schemes are available for Hijras except some rare cases of providing land for Aravanis
in Tamil Nadu. Recently, the state government of Andhra Pradesh has ordered the Minority
Welfare Department to consider 'Hijras' as a minority and develop welfare schemes for them.
Stringent and cumbersome procedures and requirement of address proof, identity proof, and
income certificate hinders even the deserving people from making use of available schemes. In
addition, most Hijras/TG communities do not know much about social welfare schemes available
for them. Only the Department of Social Welfare in the state of Tamil Nadu has recently
established 'Aravanigal/Transgender Women Welfare Board' to address the social welfare issues
of Aravanis/Hijras. No other state has replicated this initiative so far.

5. Conclusion

From this research paper on the topic of ‘Combating Sexual Harassment At Workplace’ it can be
concluded that You do not have to tolerate sexual harassment. You have the right to be treated
with respect and dignity. You should settle for nothing less, especially at your workplace. If you
are the victim of sexual harassment, there are many things you can do to stand up for your rights.
Sexual harassment in a work place is a sensitive issue. It cannot be checked merely providing staff
members information about the sexual harassment policy or relying on disciplinary action. The
organization must play proactive role, provide behavioral support and discuss this aspect as a part
of the work routine. The staff must nurture an inclusive, supportive, and respectful environment in
the office in order to build a congenial working atmosphere. Equally important is that the
organization must support the victim of sexual harassment, and help to overcome the negative
effects of such an experience.

Finally, every working person must know that it is high time to stand up and fight for such
injustices. Its only then sexual harassment in work place can be checked.

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