Do you think all cases of sexual harassment of women at the workplace are true?
Do you think the investigation of all PoSH cases should be conducted without any bias against the accused men?
Why a gender-neutral approach in the investigation is necessary to maintain the right to equality given by our constitution?
In the upcoming sections, we will try to find the answers to such questions related to gender equality’s importance and investigate the current situation of gender equality in the workplace. We will also understand the right to equality given by our constitution.
Every Indian citizen has been imparted right to equality under the constitution that protects the citizens from discrimination and issues related to gender inequality in society. However, even this right could not stop the practice of gender-based discrimination in the workplace as women were always subjected to some or other form of discriminatory practices. Sexual harassment of women in the workplace was another major issue which stopped women from joining the workforce of the country. To protect women from the harassment and unfair treatment at work, PoSH Act, 2013 (Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act) was introduced. Let us understand how it worked to empower women to realise their right to equality and bring the focus on gender equality’s importance and discussion on gender equality in the workplace.
Impact of PoSH Act on Gender Equality in the Workplace
The PoSH law seeks to empower women to fight against sexual harassment at workplace. This law has helped many women get justice over the years for sexual harassment they faced in the workplace. However, it has also become a threatening tool for some women to extort money from their organisation’s management. Fake PoSH cases are increasing day by day and internal complaints committees are finding it hard to decrease the no. of fake or malicious cases as they lead to innocent men facing humiliation from the society.
The constant increase in the malicious PoSH complaint has led some thinkers to believe that in some PoSH act has failed to serve the purpose of building a society free which adheres to the norms of right to equality. Even Delhi High Court said while dismissing a fake sexual harassment case in 2018 that women can’t be treated as “innocent gullible victims” while investigation.
However, most of the experts of the PoSH Act still believe that it is an important law to ensure a safe work environment for women. Although provisions for dealing with false cases should be made stricter, it will be an exaggeration to say that POSH law has failed to bring a positive impact or failed to induce discussion on gender equality’s importance in the society.
#MeToo and #HimToo Movement: Discussion on Right to Equality
#MeToo movement was started in 2017 in Hollywood and by the end of 2018, it gained immense momentum in India. It was a movement where working women were naming and shaming the sexual offenders they had faced in their life on social media. Most of the stories were true, and many offenders (generally high-profile men) did apologise for their behaviour in the public domain. But, like the PoSH act, this movement also gave rise to many false claims coming out on social media just for the sake of personal vendetta against the prominent personality or to gain popularity. The result, movements like #HimToo and #MenToo started running on social media to counter the #MeToo movement and false cases of sexual harassment. The rising fear among men due to these movements and PoSH compliance guidelines had again started the discussion on gender equality’s importance, the right to equality in our constitution, and gender equality in the workplace.
A General bias Against Men and the Shame Culture
The discussion of gender equalities’ importance and right to equality brought into light the society’s bias. The society’s bias against the male in such cases was prominent and somehow even the internal complaints committees of the organisations were also working or investigating cases under this social pressure of statements like “A woman can never lie about such things and if she says so…the guy must have done it.”
The social judgement and the name & shame culture has continued its rise and many innocent males have fallen victim to the humiliation caused by it. Sometimes the humiliation becomes unbearable and people tend to take the extreme decision (Case of suicide by the Genpact Senior Official is an example) under its influence.
What Can be Done?
As we saw in the previous sections that PoSH act and #MeToo movements have bought justice to women who have been wronged but unfortunately, they also led to many false complaints and revelations. Thus, what was supposed to decrease the gender inequality in our society and ensure the right to equality to every citizen has instead increased the gap and trust between the genders. Women are still afraid to speak up due to the fear of judgment from the society and men are afraid of false cases of sexual harassment against them that could label them as a sexual offender.
What we can do is to change our approach to address such cases as a society and being less judgemental about it. It could sound like an ideal scenario, but we must be less judgemental about any women filing a complaint and any men facing the charges. We should step away from making a judgement against any complainant or accused before the final resolution of the complaint. Remember the saying
“Until proven guilty, everyone is innocent in the face of law”.
On the other hand, the government and corporates should work to ensure smooth complaint redressal systems and investigation system so that no women should shy away from filing a complaint if she feels violated. Also, the approach of the investigating team should be non-prejudiced, and they should handle the investigation in a gender-neutral manner to ensure that neither the complainant nor the accused feel any injustice. The organisations should organise PoSH training and PoSH compliance sessions for employees and members of the internal complaints committee. The communication among employees to facilitate gender equality in the workplace should be encouraged so that every employee understands gender equality’s importance and the right to equality.