Tackling Sexual Harassment of working women sans legal channel

by Rashmi Singh

It is clear to all of us, even after 60 years of independence going to Indian court for justice is a further harassment of the victim. It takes 10/20/30 or more years to finally get justice. 1.25 billion or 125 crore population of India out of which 60 crore may be females but only one or two cases like that of Vishaka’s! Even if a woman goes to court, it takes endless court procedures, questioning, fees and foremost endless time to get justice. Only most lucky women cases would reach Supreme Court in the time frame of decades and only single will be enlightening like that of Vishaka’s!

I want to know:

  • How many women have gone through sexual harassment at workplace after independence
  • How many of those went ahead and made a complaint
  • How many of those complaints were closed
  • How many of those were suppressed
  • How many of those who made complaint where punished
  • How many of harassed women have had to agree for physical relationship( akin to rape)
  • How many of harassed women were suitably rewarded and compensated
  • How those sexually harassed women lived-on their life, whether bearing the brunt of stigma? Did life for them become a burden?
  • How does it feel to be sexually harassed at workplace, how much helpless a woman becomes in such circumstances?

Countless working women sisters have endured sexual harassment and continue to bear it. Isn’t it an attack on fundamental right of a person? Nobody cares. Only those who are subject to such harassment, bear it silently with humiliation and with the implicit consolation that being a woman in India is no less a curse. It is. Because hardly any working women comes out with a complaint. There are no surveys & tracking. I’m sure this sexual harassment issue is all too common in India and since hardly any complaint is made, and before the dawn of the media in 10-12 years, all such sexual harassment cases were successfully suppressed by the employers where such cases happened.

Some cases of sexual harassment can even go to the level of rape. Why do we not even equal it with rape? Because it does not happen! Does it mean that if no such complaint arises, there aren’t any such cases? Does it mean unless somebody in India claims on a legal document that one is uneducated we zillions of Indian are all educated? No.

So the legal channel or asking for justice in Indian court way is further mental torture and harassment for Indian woman or any female. It is a curse bestowed by male-dominated Indian democracy, to all Indian women who go through sexual harassment anywhere in India – be it household, workplace, school etc. This is crux. If we rely on Indian legal system to get justice we get nowhere. We get lost.

So after 60 years of male dominated India’s independence, true independence of women is yet to come.

Here are my views how we can tackle sexual harassment of working women ( without the help of Indian courts ):

  • Depending on circumstances sexual harassment or forced physical relationship must be made within the purview of “rape”
  • Death sentence for those causing extreme sexual harassment.
  • Minimum 10 year rigorous punishment
  • Since sexual harassment to working women most likely involves all educated people – from the victim side, as well as the employer’s side, the crime to be made punishable by 20 or years of stringent punishment akin to the laws in educated US.
  • We should adopt clear cut guidelines that Employers must encourage working women to come out with sexual harassment complaints. The government guideline that “Women employees should be allowed to raise, discuss issues and complaints” to be replaced with “Women employees must be encouraged to raise & discuss issues and complaints”. The government authorities must regularly see the “proof of encouragements” of the employers.
  • Sexually harassed complaints must be informed by the employer to the government authorities within a day. At minimum the employer must send for example an email to harassment cell from their official email id within 3 hours or so of raising a complaint. If there is any delay then it means the employers may have tried to “cover up” the sexual harassment case and criminal case will need to be filed against the employers.
  • The committee setup to check the sexual harassment case should not have more than one company member. Others should be from other government regulatory authorities, women cell, NGO and human right activists etc.
  • Severe penalties to the point of closure of business, 10 or more years of imprisonment for the company officials found to be in dereliction of duty with regard to sexual harassment prevention.
  • Provision for huge compensation for the victim to be made. For example 10 years of wages/ lacs & crore of compensation etc if she wins in the court. There are chances of misuse, but ultimately it’ll benefit 99% of genuinely harassed women. Otherwise for the fear of it’s misuse by 1% of victims, 99% of victims will suffer due to lack of such provisions. I regularly read if lawsuits filed by women in US for claim of billions of dollars for gender inequality issues, let alone sexual harassment.
  • Provision of a all working women fund setup from a fixed percentage of the income tax of women employees. For example 1% of all income tax paid by women in India to be dedicated to this women fund to fight gender inequality issues of working women. And why not? If a working woman is paying tax, she also needs safe, secured and equal environment to be provided by the government. Why not from her own contribution?
  • Apart from government related laws & legislations we need to setup one strong NGO funded from various quarters except from government. It’s work should be to :
    • Independently monitor sexual harassment cases, issues etc
    • Encourage and loud those who have come forward to raise sexual harassment complaints. Against the social male-dominated ego, work on to project those who come up in good light and as pioneers of our women society.
    • Provide huge interim financial help to those affected based on prima facie case from it’s fund.
    • Provide/arrange for counseling for those affected and can’t bear legal costs etc
    • Work with legislators to make suitable enactments for sexual harassment at workplaces
    • To provide a dedicated 24x7 helpline to register sexual harassment cases. This registration will serve as a proof so that employers do not fully suppress the sexual harassment cases.
    • Most importantly the members should do Gheraos/Dharnas in those companies where a sexual harassment case is reported and analyzed by this NGO team for prima facie facts. We should not wait for all legal channels, enquiry reports & infinite court adjournments and instead proactively attack the company/management so as to sufficiently malign the company image and generate media attention hence resulting in further women right awareness among Indian women. Simply sitting and expecting help from government is like a handicapped person waiting for government help to arrive for him/her, and this must be avoided at all costs for our mission to succeed.
  • Just like driving license is mandatory, it must be made a legal requirement for any working women to do sexual harassment/gender equality awareness course for a day or two prior to joining any company for work.
  • In court all judges or government prosecutors must be women.
  • In police, all harassment cases to be investigated only by women police officers.
  • After sexual harassment complaint is made the victim must be relieved from office duties/work immediately and granted unconditional one week leave so that she can coolly sit in her home, away from prying eyes in the office.

→This article reflects author’s views and not necessarily that of our site’s.

If you also want to contribute any articles to this non profit site, please contact us


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.