Since large numbers of women entered the world of work, the problem of sexual harassment has gained its own momentum. Although women are highly educated, have the necessary qualifications and work shoulder to shoulder with men, nearly 60% are exposed to undesirable sexually determined behavior by the opposite sex. Even female doctors are not exempt and many are harassed by senior doctors, consultants, interns and male patients. In educational institutions, around 55% of students report harassment from teachers or classmates. You can’t walk on the street or travel on public transport without being harassed by bullies or teasers. Sexual harassment overcomes all socio-economic barriers.
Gender discrimination and role stereotypes are the cause of such behavior. Some men feel that the biological roles of women, mothers and handyman are violated by women stepping out of their homes to find employment.
Women too have extreme ideas of playing “superwoman”. Some aspects of feminism clearly make men feel uncomfortable and paranoid. They try to make up for sexual harassment. After all, they too are victims of stereotypes. Most men think that “good women” are not sexually harassed. But “bad women” invite trouble through their behavior and clothing.
Given this rapidly changing socio-economic scenario, more women are likely to seek employment outside their homes. It is time, therefore, that society remembered that women are human too and that they must maintain the dignity of their rights.
What is sexual harassment?
Every woman is entitled to her own private space. If this space is violated by verbal, non-verbal or physical forms of sexually suggestive behavior, it amounts to harassment. This encompasses a range of behaviors ranging from unsolicited comments about a person’s body to sexual abuse and assault. The harasser may be openly sexist in his or her statements or present a veneer of seriousness, but be clever or make suggestions when the victim is alone.
Types of harassment.
o Predators get their thrill from humiliating women through either innuendos, crank calls, teasing, or phone sex. They make sexually tinted remarks or unwanted physical contact by pinching, pawing, kissing, or groping.
o The most common type is consideration for harassment, where sexual favors are expected in exchange for jobs, promotions, grades, or referrals. This is a gross abuse of power by employers, teachers, politicians or film directors with the requirements of a “casting couch”.
o Some men create a mentor-like relationship with the victim by pretending to offer professional or academic advice. But soon her sexual intentions show up.
o Series harassment dominate the game. They strike privately so that there are no witnesses. It’s just the word of the sacrifice against theirs.
o Some use harassment as an ego boost. The victims are exposed to porn films, nude pictures and suggestive language.
o Harassment can be used as a tactic of revenge when a person feels rejected or verbally abused. These bullies make physical or verbal progress, use obscene language, make vulgar jokes, and create an uncomfortable environment.
o There are stalkers who observe, follow, flash or bomb the victim with letters or e-mails.
o Many work in groups and harass women on buses, trains or in the street by pulling on their clothes or touching their breasts or buttocks.
Effects of Sexual Harassment.
Psychologists believe that chronic sexual harassment has the same effect as rape or sexual assault. The message that molesters send is, “You are not a person. You don’t matter. That’s why I can molest you.”
– Many victims perform poorly at work or at university
– Some move to another city, another job, or another college.
– The victim feels humiliated and frustrated that they have no control over the situation.
– Depression, anxiety, headache or tiredness can follow. Some may go insane or attempt suicide.
How to deal with sexual harassment.
This is a criminal offense and each country has its own laws. Every woman should be aware of her legal rights. Sexual harassment should be recognized and not ignored. The victim must resist and show dislike for such behavior. She can have a frank conversation with her molester and tell him to fire himself.
This can lead to unpleasant effects, especially if he’s the boss. He can start finding bugs in her job, sending her memos or withholding referrals, and making her life miserable.
The victim should not get into self-doubt and lose confidence in themselves. By not questioning sexual harassment, she can undermine her position. She should keep going to work or college. However, it should also document incidents of harassment, date, time, place and the people and witnesses involved. She should make a written complaint with specific details to whoever is on the surveillance squad.
It is good to talk to women who have been similarly harassed and form a supportive group. There are many women’s groups and NGOs who take care of the victim when management does not help.
If serious harassment occurs in a public place, the matter should be brought to the attention of the police.
– Employers in the public and private sectors must take steps to prevent sexual harassment.
– There should be a definitive policy on this matter that should be published and distributed to all staff.
– A procedure for lodging complaints should be established. This should be time-bound and the victim should be guaranteed confidentiality and protection.
– A complaints committee headed by a woman should examine the complaint. If possible, the committee should consist of 50% women.
– Disciplinary action should be taken against the harasser. If his behavior falls under criminal law, he should be reported to the police.
Any woman who complains about sexual harassment must expect a backlash. She risks hostility, isolation, denigration of character, or even physical harm.
It must be the goal and responsibility of society to eliminate sexual harassment at all levels and in all situations in order to preserve the dignity of women.