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Sexual harassment in Gargi college
2/17/2020 12:26:33 AM

Vinod Dikshit

Recently Delhi Police has arrested 10 people, including six students of Delhi University, for allegedly barging into the premises of Gargi College during a cultural festival. It is surprising that after a massive protest led by students, the college reported the incident and an FIR was registered against unknown persons for “trespassing, assault of women and outraging their modesty”. It is very bad that such things allegedly happen in high-profile places. It recognised that despite the prevalence of sexual harassment, very few persons who experienced this were able to report and therefore get a remedy. The media coverage of sexual harassment in the workplace has resonated in the minds and conversations of women throughout this county. Swami Vivekananda said “There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing.” We are living in a country which is witness to innumerable incidents of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a serious issue that has long been ignored and treated with complacency. Sexual harassment cases usually have a marked power imbalance between the victim and the accused. Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace is very real, and it happens every day. Sexual Harassment at workplace”, is a widespread issue and an unwanted social atrocity being committed against a woman. There are numerous women who have faced sexual harassment at some point of time. It might have been at her office, on her way to work or during an official trip. Sexual harassment is that illness which has its effect on every corner of the world. Supreme Court’s historic 1997 judgement and the 2013 law against sexual harassment at the work place haven’t done enough to address deeper systemic problems. The Supreme Court of India in 1997 passed the landmark Vishaka judgement, which clearly defined the ambit of sexual harassment in the workplace. It includes that the acts like Physical contact and advances; a demand or request for sexual favours; sexually coloured remarks; showing pornography; and any other unwelcome physical verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
Although it is heartening to see women making stupendous progress in almost every sphere of activity, one cannot be oblivious to the fact that they continue to be victims of violence of different hues. Every human being has the right to live with dignity and respect. It is noticed that the prevalence of crimes against women in a certain place depends on a large extent to the social ambience of that place. Efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against women should have high priority by way of implementing various measures. The punishment for battering, molestation, sexual molestation and unlawful threat must be increased. Projects must be launched for a better cooperation between the police, the social services and other relevant parties. Government should come out with much more essence and urgency to check the indecent behaviour against women folks, and the need to chart out stern measures on the part of administrative authorities for curbing down such events. While serious law- non-bailable offence is the need of the hour, it should also be taken into consideration that law enforcement agencies work efficiently and diligently in that direction. The Act was enacted to ensure a safe working environment for women. It provides for protection to women at their workplace from any form of sexual harassment and for redressal of any complaints they may have launched. Now-a-days the sexual harassment at workplace is an unlawful act which has been spreading like a wildfire for quite a while now. The mammoth truth also remains that more than half the women percentage of our country, till date, are not very clear about the legal mechanism against combating sexual harassment at workplace.
People also need to come out with determination against such evils and not be a moot spectator wherein a daughter, or a sister, or a wife, or a mother is crying for alms. The fact that the victims of sexual harassment have a law, which was created with the sole intent to hear them out, made a huge difference and brought a much needed respite for the women in workplaces. There is still no proper mechanism in place to address the complaints of sexual harassment of women lawyers in Bar Associations, lady doctors and nurses in the medical clinics and nursing homes, women architects working in offices of the engineers and architects and so on and so forth. Such a ruling will gladden the hearts of many professional women who have learnt the art of swallowing the nonsense they experience at work that is often dismissed as harmless “teasing”. Yes, “eve-teasing” is sexual harassment. The problem is not the law. It is those who ignore it; those who break it; and those, including the government, who give it “lip service”, in the words of the Supreme Court. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe work space for women. This is not only a legal obligation, but is also required for the growth of the organization. Despite increased public awareness, sexual harassment continues to plague Indian workplaces. We need something else which legislation cannot provide — the mindset to understand the fears, compulsions, and pressures on women victims. The sexual harassment law does not permit settlement on condition of payment of monetary compensation, but does allow settlement involving an adverse entry in the employee’s record book as well as deduction from his dues. We talk about equal treatment to all irrespective of gender but sadly this lesson is just to be read in books and it is a distant image when it could actually turn to be a reality. The need of the hour is to change the social attitude towards women and force a comprehensive change in our outlook and thinking regarding women. We need to focus more on this problem, because a lot of men still don’t take it seriously, it happens, because they don’t know the real definition of sexual harassment.
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