Sexual harassment at the workplace is one of the most common yet less discussed issue in most work environments. A report says that one in every five female professionals has at least one experience of sexual harassment by their colleagues, peers, or even boss. The survey revealed that most working women complained about feeling unsafe and uncomfortable in their workplace. Women are not only harassed sexually but also they receive verbal advances, unwelcomed jokes, suggestive remarks, and even demands of sexual favor. The situation is specifically worse for young female employees.
Interestingly, cases of workplace sexual harassment in India have decreased sharply in the last financial year. Several reports consider the new remote working policy following the coronavirus outbreak to hugely contribute to this matter. The total number of complaints of workplace sexual harassment decrease by 38.26% in 44 Indian Nifty companies during 2021, explains an anti-sexual harassment advisory in their annual report. According to the government guidelines and other protocols, most organizations shifted to the work-from-home mode in the wake of this pandemic, especially for their employees’ safety. And, this remote working positively impacts the current situation of unsafe work environments for women.
A member of a renowned Intelligence Group claimed, “We have found that around 44 well-known Nifty companies of India received a total of 739 sexual harassment complaints during 2020 while the same organizations received only 455 complaints till 31st March 2021.” The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, has created a list of various companies and made it mandatory for them to submit an annual report regarding the number of harassment complaints they receive as well as the steps taken for redressal. “We are currently working on the gradual implementation of sexual harassment prevention at different workplaces via webinars and online e-module training,” said Vishal Kedia, PoSH expert, and founder, Complykaro Services. Later, he argued that the work-from-home setting couldn’t eliminate harassment, and several cases of sending inappropriate messages and pornographic images are still occurring.
Sexual harassment at work comes in different forms. Touching a woman without her permission is not the only way to harass her. Making sexual comments on someone’s body or clothes, joking about a colleagues’ sex life, demanding sexual favor, and even circulating pornographic images should also be considered derogatory. Reema Basu, a renowned psychologist of Mumbai, explained, “Most females are afraid to raise their voice against such harassment at workplaces. They may fear that it will affect their work relationships or hit their career prospects badly. The fear of embarrassment is also one of the main reasons that prevents women from protesting against such issues.”
Harassment is closely associated with significant psychological problems, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidality. Sexual harassment is very humiliating for a person, and it can have a huge negative impact on someone’s mental health. The experience can haunt a woman all her life and lead to her being extremely frightened, ashamed, and shattered. Sexual harassment in any form is not acceptable in a modern workplace or society.
*(Name and place changed due to privacy concerns)