By Samaira Jindal
Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) yesterday held a convention on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) of women in the workplace Act, 2013, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act. The event was aimed at raising awareness regarding the two acts and empowering people to come forward and take action against the offenders.
Anil Pratham, IPS, Director General of Police, CID crime, spoke at the event regarding sexual harassment in the workplace and said, “With the help of this act, you are supposed to impart and make women aware so they can fight for themselves at the workplace.” A woman should be aware of what environment they are in and take action if not appropriate.
The POSH act prevents women in the workplace from sexual harassment. POSH training is important to make employees aware of the law and the consequences of violations in the organization. The training should not only be provided to women but men also so that they know what is accepted in the workplace and what is not.
Pooja Badlani, Certified Trainer of POSH, went over various topics about sexual harassment at the event. She gave a brief history behind the act, starting with the vishaka act.
In the year 1992, Bhanwari took up an issue based on the government’s campaign against child marriage. This campaign was subjected to disapproval and ignorance by all the members of the village, even though they were aware of the fact that child marriage is illegal.
In the meantime, the family of Ram Karan Gurjar had made arrangements to perform such a marriage, of his infant daughter. Bhanwari, abiding by the work assigned to her, tried to persuade the family to not perform the marriage but all her attempts resulted in being futile. The family decided to go ahead with the marriage.
On May 5, 1992, the sub-divisional officer (SDO) along with the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) went and stopped the said marriage. However, the marriage was performed the next day and no police action was taken against it. Later, it was established by the villagers that the police visits were a result of Bhanwari Devi’s actions. This led to boycotting Bhanwari Devi and her family. Bhanwari also lost her job amid this boycott.
On September 22, 1992, to seek vengeance, five men i.e, four from the above-mentioned Gurjar family- Ram Sukh Gujjar, Gyarsa Gujjar, Ram Karan Gujjar, and Badri Gujjar along with one Shravan Sharma had attacked Bhanwari Devi’s husband and later brutally gang-raped her.
After that Pooja Badlani went into what actions constitute workplace sexual harassment. Some of the examples she gave were:
- Making physical contact with Advancements
- Demanding or requesting sexual Flavour
- Passing sexually colored comments/remarks
- Addressing as darling, baby, and indirect remarks’
- 5. Placing work conversation in a sexual tone
- Sharing non-veg jokes and obscene stories
- Spreading lies about sexual orientation
- Winking eyes, kissing pouts, etc
Being specific about a workplace is important. A workplace is any space where there are hired personnel visits for the work, including transportation.
- For example:
- Training programs and conferences
- Office buildings ( Including restrooms and cafeterias)
- Personal space of the senior or any type of authority
- Company guest homes or hotels
Now it’s very important to understand who all are covered under this law:
Full-time/ temporary employees, Contractual workers, Daily wage employee, Interview candidates, Interns, Trainees, Housekeeping workers, Security workers, Representation of clients or vendors, volunteers(with or without salary).
The two types of harassment she mentioned were:
- Give and take: Where an employer or senior forces an employee to have a sexual relationship with him/her and then only will give a promotion.
- Hostile work Environment: Unwelcome or offensive behavior in the workplace, which causes one or more employees to feel uncomfortable, scared, or intimidated in their place of employment.
The term ‘Unwelcome’ refers to any action that is done without the consent, or is regarded as ‘offensive’ by the recipient. If the recipient is not complaining, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the action is welcome.
Pooja said that the Impact can be different from the intent. In determining whether a behavior constitutes sexual harassment, the primary concern is the impact of the act on the victim. Joking must be evaluated on its appropriateness and defensiveness as perceived by the recipient.
- There is a lot of impact on the victim of sexual harassment and it interferes with work performances and promotes negative stress.
- Psychological – Humiliation, reduced motivation, low self-esteem, and loss of trust.
- Behavioral- Isolation and Emotional withdrawal, low esteem, and loss of trust.
- Professional- Foregoing career opportunities and leaving employment
There are many ways to prevent sexual harassment like:
- If you are being targeted, let the person know that such behavior will not be tolerated.
- Say NO. If a person makes a lewd comment or action. Ask him not to.
- If you are an observer, you must report it to the manager/ HR immediately, or else you are a party to the crime.
Support your colleague and educate them on the relevant anti-harassment procedures of the organization
Some statistics say that:
- 52% of women claim to have been sexually harassed by a man in workplace
- 1 out of 5 people report the case
- 80% of the women think that the outcome Is poor
- 18% of the women said that the situation worsened after they reported
Now let’s talk about the internal committee:
- IC – A minimum of 50% of the members of the IC should be women
- 1 Presiding officer a senior female designate of the firm/organization
- 2 members people experienced and committed to the social welfare of women. People with legal knowledge over the same could also be included
- 1 external member person from an NGO, working towards the cause of women’s sexual harassment
Brief on the process of filing a complaint:
Firstly the harassment should be reported within 3 months of the incident. The report will be filed to the IC. The IC will update the respondent within 7 days, and you will get a reply within 10 days. If the respondent agrees there will be a settlement or punishment, and the action will be taken within 60 days. But if the respondent doesn’t agree there will be an investigation for 90 days and if the result is true there will be a settlement or punishment and action will be taken in 60 days.
Now for the protection of children in school, there will be a school committee that will consist of a male and female teacher and a male and female student from 8th grade or above. There will also be a dropbox which will be checked every day in case the student doesn’t want to talk about it.
But one question that came to mind was that what if the IC member is harassing an employee?
The answer was that if any employee feels uncomfortable with any member of the IC committee the IC member will be changed.
Now the problem is that what if a woman files a false complaint?
After receiving the complaint of harassment, a due investigation would be done, and the credibility of the complaint would be identified.
And if the complaint is false there will be serious action taken against the woman.
Some measures against sexual harassment during the period of harassment mentioned would be
- Formal written warnings
- Descending from the current designation
- Suspension and termination
Let’s give each other an equal opportunity, stop sexual harassment and not harm anyone physiologically, behaviorally, or professionally.