Are you safe at your workplace?

Last Updated : 04 December 2012, 18:00 IST
Last Updated : 04 December 2012, 18:00 IST

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Offices are supposed to be places where one goes to do their assigned work. But there are some who have different ideas and end up doing things which their colleagues disapprove of.

We are referring to sexual harassment, a subject that many shy away from talking about, out of embarrassment.

According to a recent survey, Sexual Harassment at Workplaces in India 2011-2012, done by Oxfam India, 17 per cent of working women have admitted to being sexually harassed.

Metrolife spoke to Delhiites for their take on the issue. Anubhuti Vats­a­yan, project coordinator at Centre for Social Research, an NGO, says, “Anything which has a sexual undertone to it can be referred to as sexual harassment.

We get cases related to sexual harassment at workplace, the most common ones being - ‘meet me outside of office;’ ‘come over, my wife is not at home’ or if a woman protests the man normally replies with, ‘dekh lunga, bahar mil’.”

“Sexual harassment can be verbal, physical or emotional. Men staying away from their families and in other cities for work, also harass colleagues at workplaces,” adds Anubhuti.

A mediaperson who faced violation, still considers the incident scary. “Once a cameraperson tried to film me while the spot boy was fixing a lapel mike on me. I caught him and called authorities. He begged me not to do anything but I too action. Eventually, he was sacked,” shares Shikha Prasad.*

Women routinely face sexual harassment, maybe in office or on way to work. They usually keep quiet because if they complain, they are likely to face more harassment. Men in positions of power usually misuse authority.

While for women it may be irritating, for men, the definition of sexual harassment differs. The most common reaction that Metrolife encountered from men was: “Until it’s physical, it is not sexual harassment. Comments can be passed to tease somebody. Moreover, if a woman flirts and sends out hints, it breaks the barrier automatically. It gives access to men to get personal and close,” says Shubham Batra, a professional.

Usha Kakkarwal recalls a nightmare that her colleague was subjected to, in a government office: “My friend had been hired for a profile not commensurate with her qualifications and the director who had hired her, began calling her to his cabin and making unhealthy comments – full of sexual innuendoes.

Initially, she did not complain for she had just landed a plum job but after a few instances when she could not take it anymore, a letter was sent to higher authorities and he was sacked after an enquiry. So, women should take charge and not be afraid. A single letter made the whole difference for us,” Usha Kakkarwal, a former government servant.

But, if you think that sexual harassment is only happening with women, then you are wrong. There’s a percentage of men too who face harassment at workplace. “My boss is gay and he bites my ear often under the pretext of talking to me. This for me is sexual harassment,” shares an embarrassed Tuhin Sen*, a BPO employee.

Names changed on request*

Published 04 December 2012, 18:00 IST

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