Whenever we talk about sexual harassment, most of the people tend to think that the woman must be harassed or propositioned by a male co-worker or supervisor. This is not completely wrong- as most of the cases of workplace harassment involve female victims and male perpetrators. But in some cases, it was found that men can also be sexually harassed within the Workplace by female supervisors, colleagues, or subordinates. However, the overwhelming majority of harassment cases are filed by women. In 2018, 2,553 cases of sexual harassment were registered by women during the #metoo movement.
Why Sexual Harassment is Underreported?
As per a survey conducted in 2017 by the Indian Bar Association, 70% of girls said they didn’t report harassment by superiors due to the fear of facing repercussions and negative consequences like being alienated or fired from work. As per a recent study, victims of prior abuse and assault are at a higher risk of being sexually harassed again. There are many reasons that stop women from coming out to speak against workplace sexual harassment. They are mostly scared of what society will think of them, and this type of thinking prevents them from registering a grievance against the accused.
Consequently, there’s a scarcity of data concerning the Women’s Rights and PoSH Act for women. Most of the female workers do not know where to report or whom to contact if facing sexual harassment and what sorts of steps can be taken? Women often attend offices or become part of the committees with the intention of becoming independent, but soon find themselves becoming puppets in the hands of superiors. Our lawyers recommend that if someone is facing inappropriate behaviour at the workplace, she should immediately report the incident to the designated person in the office. This could be the HR or a member of the Internal complaints committee or ICC. There are many steps that one can take:
- Creating a distraction to avoid the situation.
- Ask directly to the perpetrator of his intention.
- Referring to an authority.
- Tell fellow female colleagues regarding sexual harassment.
The most important thing is the actions of the victim in such matters the most. If one person raises their voice against such acts, it pinpoints the matter and helps in creating a safer environment for other women. Today, many reputed companies are out there offering PoSH training to empower women and train them to act on such incidents.
Impacts of Harassment on Women
Sexual harassment at workplace leads to a professional as well as the personal impact on the victim’s mind. Professional loss is led by decreased performance, increased absenteeism from work, reduced interest in work, constantly feeling objectified by male colleagues, zoning out, or feeling the need to quit work and career altogether. All of this hampers the career development of women. This further becomes the reason for the personal impact on women’s mental health. A victim may become prone to depression, losing self-esteem, low self-confidence, and a general feeling of withdrawal. Some might have to take therapy sessions to get over the trauma faced by such situations. This is no good for any woman who has just started her career.
Impact of PoSH Training
Dealing with harassment cases in the working space isn’t easy for any victim. It is an extremely complex emotion to figure out and act. This is where the importance of a well-trained and skilled ICC comes in handy. If the employee knows that the members of the Internal Complaints Committee are well trained in handling such complaints and will truly listen and understand their problem, the victims won’t feel ashamed to come out against sexual harassment. Thus, the impact of PoSH Training for employees, management, and the ICC members becomes really important for any organisation.
The ICC must possess the skills to research properly about any case of sexual harassment with relevant documents as per the PoSH Act 2013. They have to concentrate, write, and analyse the reported incident clearly and understand the views of both parties without any bias to come out with an accurate result during the investigation.
What Can Be Done?
There are ample steps that can be taken by a firm to stop workplace sexual harassment to make the female workforce feel empowered enough to come out and report incidences of sexual harassment.
Notifying Sexual Harassment Policies
It has been seen quite a lot with the organisations that their employees are not aware of the Company’s policies against sexual harassment and appropriate workplace behaviour. This has also been the case with people who have ample experience or employees working at senior levels in the company. This is often the result of companies being complacent about notifying their policies to their employees on a regular basis. The companies should put out charts showing sexual harassment and workplace behaviour policies on notice boards in all the easily accessible positions of the company. This includes the cafeteria, entrance and exits, corridors, etc. The company can also send monthly email reminders stating the company’s policy against instances of sexual harassment.
Training Sessions for ICC, Managers, and Employees
Companies can take help from legal firms who specialise in educating corporate employees regarding the PoSH Act. Once the employees have a clear understanding of the PoSH law, they will be able to differentiate between acts of harassment and appropriate behaviour. This will help in lowering down cases of harassment arising out of any lack of knowledge about appropriate behaviour. The training sessions will also help the female workforce to realise their rights under the act and report any unwanted behaviour fearlessly to the ICC. The lawyers of the legal firms can also help the ICC members in efficient handling of complaints and following all the compliance norms of the PoSH Act. Companies can also hire their external members for the ICC from the legal companies. The external member for PoSH will be of great help in meeting compliance norms and assisting the committee in facing any legal issue.
Organising Regular Staff and HR Meets
HRs act as an intermediary between ICC and the employees in reporting matters of harassment. In the regular meetings with HRs, employees can share their grievances which they didn’t feel the need to share with the ICC. They can also help to resolve small issues arising out of any misunderstanding between the employees.