Sexual harassment is one of the most unfortunate acts that can happen in a workplace. It is a crime in its truest form that puts a woman’s safety and security in question. Sexual harassment is not only difficult to experience, but also an adverse event that is difficult to eliminate. We have heard stories related to sexual harassment in workplaces several times and about female employees getting wrong hints from their male colleagues (managers at times), dirty looks, unwanted dinner invitations, being touched inappropriately or hearing lewd comments. Sexual harassment should be dealt smartly and tactfully. We have listed six such measures to tackle sexual harassment in a workplace:
1. Get in touch with the HR team: Almost every organization has a dedicated Human Resource cell that looks after anti-harassment policies. A woman who falls prey to sexual harassment should immediately get in touch with the anti-harassment team of the HR division for immediate action against the accused and his untoward behavior. Also, the HR team possess good knowledge of anti-harassment policies, which they should implement without any delay.
2. Document the situation: Do not endure sexual harassment and report it immediately. Find out if there are other victims also, gather witnesses and secure the statement of witnesses in written. Also, find out if there are any video recording or CCTV footage of the event. Put all documents and video recordings in front of the HR or top management while complaining.
3. Inform the supervisor: Whoever is harassing you, be it your team member or somebody from other teams, inform your immediate supervisor about the entire incident. Write an official email citing the incident and request the supervisor for a personal meet. A supervisor has the right to know about what is going on with the team members.
4. Draw a line: It is good to engage in jokes and informal talks with colleagues, but do not forget to draw a line and maintain a gap between you and the male colleagues. Be direct and straightforward and speak up when you are not liking their attitude or behaviour towards you. Ask them to stop their 'over-funny' acts and not to cross limits. This will help you tackle sexual harassment in the initial stage right after you get wrong vibes.
5. Talk to the harasser: Do not stay away from the accused and speak with him directly. If he does not apologize and discontinue doing so, let him know that you are going to file an official complaint for being sexually harassed at workplace. If he still continues to harass, take strict and immediate action. Women have the right to go for legal actions too.
6. Get in touch with senior management: If everything fails and your supervisor cannot take any action against the event, get in touch with the senior management of the organization. Put forth all evidences including video footages and written statements and let the senior management know about it. Ensure that the management handle the situation tactfully and take strict steps against the accused.
Many women who are victims of sexual harassment tend to stay quite because of threats or the fear of losing their jobs. However, this is not the solution to prevent sexual harassment. Women must raise their voice if they are molested or sexually abused in their workplaces. Only if their voices are raised, they will get the strength to fight against such ill acts.
Based on a discussion with Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, the DoPT (Department of Personnel & Training) issued fresh guidelines regarding 'sexual harassment of women at workplace' in December 2016. Following are the guidelines the DoPT issued:
1. Brief details of the implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act including the number of cases received and disposed shall form a part of the Annual Report of all ministries/ departments and authorities there under.
2. The enquiry of cases must be completed within 30 days and under any circumstances within 90 days from the date of the complaint.
3. The ministries/ departments etc. have to keep a watch on the complainant so as to ensure that she is not victimized in any manner because of her having filed the complaint. The aggrieved woman has been given further option to send representation to the Secretary or head of the organization in case she feels that she is being victimized because of her complaint. The concerned authority will be required to dispose of this complaint within 15 days.
4. All ministries/ departments etc. are now required to submit a monthly progress report to the Ministry of Women and Child Development so that the progress can be monitored.
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