Risky Business: Sexual Harassment at the Office
WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED HARASSMENT AFTER ALL?
Here are some examples:
• Direct or indirect threats or bribes for unwanted sexual activity
• Sexual innuendos and comments
• Intrusive sexually explicit questions
• Sexually suggestive sounds or gestures such as sucking noises, winks, or pelvic thrusts
• Repeatedly asking a person out for dates, or to have sex
• Touching, patting, punching, stroking, squeezing, tickling, or brushing against a person • Rating a person’s sexuality • Ogling or leering, staring at a woman’s breast
• Name-calling and verbal abuse
• Letters, notes, telephone calls, or material of a sexual and/or abusive nature
It happens every day. It happens in every bank, every firm, and every office, not only just around Kathmandu, but establishments all around Nepal, and the globe. Some of us don’t know about it; some of us know; some of us do it, yet most of us choose to ignore its existence, forget about protesting! Harassment in the workplace is an issue that must be brought into light in order to be discussed and solved. TNM takes this opportunity to shed light on this unspoken issue that has troubled women of all classes and walks of life and try to commence this process of making that difference!
Understanding sexual harassment in the workplace can be tricky. There are people who think that casual flirting with a co-worker isn’t harmful. It’s just a man being friendly with a female co-worker. And most of the times, yes, it is. But when the person on the receiving end starts to feel uneasy, that’s when the casual flirting becomes harassment. So to put in a way that even a layman understands, if your words, gestures or actions disturbs a female coworker, makes her feel uncomfortable and insulted on physical, emotional or psychological grounds, we are seeing portrayal of harassment.
“It is needless to say that these inappropriate activities in an office environment are sure to culminate serious effects and consequences, if not catastrophic.”
Now that we have an understanding what harassment in the workplace is, I am sure we have pictured at least one incident that exemplifies such a situation. The manager caressing his secretary’s hand while taking the files to the supervisor, asking her female associate to stay late in office without any valid reason or even flirty compliments from a male coworker to a female counterpart who obviously does not appreciate it: all fall under the definition.
The internet has countless articles on why this problem exists. Most of the researches among them coin the cause to two pointers. The first one is headed by a ‘hostile work environment’. According to this, men are likely to harass their female counterparts with motives to belittle them, insult them or prove them the chauvinistic ideology that they will always be inferior to men in all aspects of life. “I think Priya should take this client, I’m sure she can use her charms to woo him over.”
The other one is ‘quid pro quo’, the most extreme form of harassment one can imagine in a workplace. We have most likely seen in movies, if not heard of, about bosses asking sexual favors to their female employees in return of promotion, advance salary, role in a new project etc. This exchange of favors where one demands sexual benefit is called quid pro quo. This situation has often been a case of controversy in the Nepalese media and movie industry.
It is needless to say that these inappropriate activities in an office environment are sure to culminate serious effects and consequences, if not catastrophic. With repetitive harassments and unhealthy flirting, women are definitely going to experience psychological and emotional turmoil which may lead to physical repercussions as well. Sleep disturbance, stress and depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, loss
of appetite and weight loss due to depression are possible effects. Apart from that, severe depression due to continuous attacks might lead to inefficiency in her job, and ultimately the company which may risk her job. On the other hand, if the girl does not kneel to the harasser’s demands, she is likely to be defamed in the office and community, exposing her to social embarrassment and sexual objectification.
Having discussed so much, it is necessary that laws and regulations be established to combat such issues. As a matter of fact, there are laws and bills and policies addressing this issue. So why isn’t there any progress? Why are women still groped and asked for sexual favors? Why are aspiring actresses plunged into the quicksand of casting couch? The answers lie among us. Women are not speaking up about the torture they are being put through. Why aren’t they publicizing the culprit’s? It’s a free country, and if he is the one in the wrong, women don’t need to be afraid of anything. As for us men, the worm lies in us. Whenever a girl smiles at you, it doesn’t mean she is willing to sleep with you. If she wears provocative dresses, it doesn’t mean she is inviting you to have your way with it. Hold your horses, and straighten your thoughts. If you maintain and preach the notion of a healthy work environment, the workplace will be so, and if you want profanity, lust and tension in the workplace, that can happen too. It’s your choice.
Speaking of the Law
According to the Sexual Harassment Act, 2067,
any complaints of sexual harassment must be made within 7 days to the manager who then needs to investigate the matter and either reconcile the parties or provide information to the complainant regarding a formal complaint within 15 days. Then, the
Chief District Officer must be approached within 90 days after the harassment. The maximum punishment for the guilty is 3 month imprisonment and/or Rs. 25,000 fine.