Aliaa, a 24 year old IT company employee had been feeling very stressed due to the constant comments made on her work by her supervisor and constant pressure of expelling her if she does not comply with him. She decided to speak to a counsellor about this issue and here is what happened:
Aliaa: My supervisor has been forcing me to do as he says else he would expel me from my job and am very worried about that.
Counsellor: That indeed can be stressful. He seems to be a strict supervisor.
Aliaa: he comments on my work in front of the whole office all the time. Even when the work is done all fine, he criticizes me. All because i refuse to go out for dinner with him!
Counsellor: that is rather unfair on his part. Aliaa, if this is disturbing you a lot, you may want to talk to higher authorities about this and even file a complaint if necessary.
Aliaa: but what do i tell them? he did not touch me. He just says so many bad things to me. How can i file a complaint?
Counsellor: There is more to this issue than just touching. workplace harassment includes other aspects too:
- Making physical advances and contacts,
- Making sexually coloured remarks, showing pornographic content, and
- All sorts of unwelcoming verbal or nonverbal misconduct.
Apart from these, it also includes creating a hostile or offensive work environment and threatening the woman with transfer orders to distant places or posing threat to job prospects.
Aliaa: am scared. what if i lose my job? is there any help available?
Counsellor: Yes, there is legal help and provision for this issue. There is an act called The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work-place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2012, and it was passed in the Lok Sabha in October 2012. It states, “sexual harassment at work-place is not just a physical injury to the woman but anything that violates her fundamental right to life and to live with dignity.” Moreover, many international conventions consider these to be human rights, and were ratified by The Government of India in the year 1993.
Aliaa: Oh! i certainly was not aware of that. thank you. But, am just so disturbed i get nightmares and am always anxious in office. I don’t understand why he does this? he is senior to me. Should he not behave with more responsibility?
Counsellor: it is highly unfortunate Aliaa. Am sorry you had to go through all this. Evolutionary and socio-cultural perspectives suggest that people engage in such behavior to display dominance and to increase their chances of courtship and mating to be considered as dominant males. Sad but true! I hope that answers your ‘why?’.
Aliaa: hmm. i will contact my office administration and report it to them.
Counsellor: Please do that dear. I wish you good luck.
Friends, Aliaa is just one of those hundreds of employees (both males and females) who go through some form of workplace sexual harassment. Incidents are on rampant increase, but official complaints, very few! It is mainly due to fear and lack of awareness about the help available and about what constitutes harassment.
Another shocking yet true aspect to this issue is the threat or actual lodging of false complaints to blackmail a supervisor or a colleague for one’s own benefits.