We are living in the twenty first century, where woman empowerment is the new mantra. Woman have been fighting for their rights to be treated equally like their male counterparts since the late nineteenth century. The last two centuries have no doubt witnessed a tremendous change in the outlook of society. Today, many places in the world have embraced women in the top notch positions. But the presence of misogynists has always posed intriguing question related to the safety of women. There are different governing bodies who from time to time evaluate the laws to provide a congenial work environment to women.
But do you think it’s women alone who are victims of abuse at work place? No it’s not true. Studies have shown that men too are vulnerable to such crimes. Their cases are not reported because they feel embarrassed to publicly declare their plight.
The abuse at work place can be either in the form of bullying or sexual harassment. Let’s understand how do they differ.
The International Labour Office considers ” physical conduct, physical violence, physical contact, touching, pinching, the use of job-related threats or rewards to solicit sexual favors, verbal conduct, comments on a worker’s appearance, age, private life, sexual comment, stories and jokes, sexual advances, repeated social invitations, insults based on the sex of the worker and condescending or paternalistic remarks all constitute sexual harassment.”
If we look at the definition given by ILO it covers every minute detail under the term sexual harassment where there is no mention of gender in its definition. It covers not only sexual advances of unsolicited nature but also verbal comments on “appearance”, age and private life of an individual.
The International Labour Office says “ repeated and over time offensive behavior through vindictive, cruel, or malicious attempts to humiliate or undermine an individual or groups of workers”
ILO considers bullying as an act of psychological violence. When an employee is criticized for a work, is shouted at, yelled at or humiliated by any such actions he is the victim of bullying. ILO considers the gravity of bullying similar to rape.
Many men and women who have been oppressed by lewd remarks, or are bullied at work place tend to ignore the situation. Most of them are afraid of taking any action as it may harm their social image, or hamper their work promotions. Some are afraid that it may have a detrimental effect on their families. With all these pressures on the individuals, they tend to loose trust and develop a syndrome that deteriorates their health. And in extreme cases people consider suicide as the only recourse.
If you or any of your colleague/ friend is being harassed or bullied, you must resist such occurrences. If any lewd remarks are passed at you, at the very first occurrence you must warn the person to maintain dignity. We must remember that if we fail to resist such miscreants, they will continue to persist.
Though organizations condone bullying in most cases and there are no legal laws to protect the victim but someone affecting your integrity and dignity must be stopped. If a miscreant has this tendency to bully everyone around, you all must unite and raise your voice against that person.
In the case of sexual harassment, it must be reported and legal action be taken. There are legal procedures set to penalize the perpetrators. If we fail to act the perpetrator continues to victimize others.
Every employer must set high ethical standards at work place. Civility and decency must be enforced so that such problems don’t surface. There must be cells established that can be approached to report incidents that disparage employee’s identity, be it in form of bullying or sexual harassment. Strict actions must be taken against people who affect the emotional or physical well-being of an individual. Employers should refrain from being judgmental and offering settlements to suppress the offence. Inquiries should be done without any biases and prior notion about the individuals. Penalizing the offenders will help build trust among other employees.