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Workplace Practices: An Insight into Sexual Harassment and Preventive Measures

“I am obnoxious to each carping tongue

Who says my hand a needle better fits.”

Ann Brad Street

KIET group of institutions is one the pioneer group that follows HR practices strictly and always takes care of proper safeguarding of women employees and maintaining the gender equality at the workplace. The policies are laid down clearly and institution has e-learning modules, poster campaigns and mailers which stress the fact of professional behaviour at workplace and perspective towards women and  Discrimination Against Women Pakhwada.

Have you ever had experienced the overabundance of thoughts bottling up with a lot of unrequited questions and you wish to expose the complex web of power structures operating in society and show your concerns about gender oppression?  It has been my endeavour to bring out this power issue at workplace through this article. Male privilege has been associated with control over power and production, circulation of pleasure and representation of desires. Social patterns have been designed to accommodate male preferences and modes of gratification. Female sexuality has been relegated to a marginalized position to disallow pleasures and gratification; the woman’s body has been inscribed or ‘imprinted’ by ‘his story’. In all the cultures, woman has always been subjugated by ‘male gaze’ and power practices. One such oppressive practice to create disparity at workplace is Sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is one of the many difficulties that employees face. It negatively affects people of both genders, though prominently females. Sexual harassment in the workplace has existed in the workplace for decades. It was considered a ‘workplace hazard’ until the 1960’s when it was first recognized as an issue that needed to be addressed seriously. Sexual harassment is an unwanted conduct that causes the person to become feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated. It’s a term relatively recent that describes an old problem. Sexual harassment can be described as a manifestation of gender discrimination and as a specific form of violence against women and is a violation of the fundamental rights of workers, it constitutes a health and safety problem at work and an unacceptable employment situation.

For the analysis of sexual harassment, it is necessary to formulate two basic concepts:

  • Discrimination against women or gender discrimination: any distinction, exclusion or restriction based on sex that has as its object or result impair or nullify the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women of human rights and freedoms, such as labour rights.
  • Violence against women: any action or behaviour based on their gender feminine that has or can have as resulted in your death, injury or suffering physical, sexual or psychological, as well as the threats of such acts, coercion or deprivation of liberty, even if they produce in public and private life. Violence is the most serious manifestation of violence. discrimination against women.

How does sexual harassment manifest itself?

Sexual harassment can present itself in different ways:

  1. As blackmail: when the victim is conditioned with the obtaining a job benefit −salary increase, promotion or even permanence in employment− so that access behaviours of sexual connotation.
  2. As a hostile work environment in which the conduct gives lead to situations of intimidation or humiliation of the victim.

Behaviours that qualify as sexual harassment can be of nature:

  • Physical: physical violence, touching, unnecessary approaches.
  • Verbal: comments and questions about appearance, style lifestyle, sexual orientation, offensive phone calls.
  • Non-verbal: whistling, gestures of sexual connotation, presentation of pornographic objects.


Who can be targeted of sexual harassment?

Both men and women are subjected to sexual harassment, although studies show that the majority are women. Research shows that the type of the most vulnerable woman to sexual harassment is the young woman, economically dependent, single or divorced and with immigrant status. Regarding men, those who suffer the most harassment are young people, homosexuals and members of ethnic or racial minorities.

Who can harass?

Harassment can come from owners, managers or employees with hierarchy, customers, suppliers and co-workers. They can be men and women, statistically highlighting the harassment of men towards women. Sexual harassment between people of the same sex is recent but with an upward trend. Sexual harassment is a manifestation of power relations. Women are more exposed to be victims of sexual harassment precisely because are in positions of less power, more Vulnerable and insecure, they sometimes have lower self-esteem and less confidence in themselves. But They can also be harassed when they are perceived as competing for power. So, sexual harassment affects women at all levels hierarchical and types of work.

Some associated myths to sexual harassment

  • “Women make false charges of harassment sexual”. False, what happens is that still there is social tolerance towards sexual harassment, since they are considered naturally masculine and sexist behaviours.
  • “Men possess an irrepressible instinct sexual”. False, human sexuality is not exclusive to males; the patterns of traditional or macho masculinity magnify your libido.
  • “Women are to blame for being harassed for being provocative.” False, since men reify women as objects sexual fantasies.
  • “It is normal for men to make jokes with sexual content in public. False, It is part of the sustained gender violence in asymmetric power relations between men and women.

Sexual harassment has a direct impact on health, with psychological repercussions (reactions related to stress such as traumas emotions, anxiety, depression, states of nervousness, feelings of low self-esteem), and physical (sleep disorders, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, hypertension). It is one of the risk factors that appear in occupational health research have contemplated the set of conditions of work and have incorporated the experiences and the voice of the workers.

What barriers, fears and beliefs may they have the victims of sexual harassment?

  • Fear of talking about what happened: human sexuality continues to be a taboo subject about which one does not want to talk or reflect.
  • Fear of being victimized: due to negligence, indifference, clumsiness of the person who receives the demand or complaint.
  • Fear of criticism from peers, work pressure from their superiors and co-workers for presenting the internal complaint or judicial complaint.
  • Ignorance of rights: ignorance or uncertain references of the procedures that must be followed.
  • Fear of not finding evidence: evidentiary difficulties and eventual high cost of subsequent procedures.
  • Distrust in the mechanisms, for ignorance or disrepute of these.
  • Fear of non-confidentiality or secrecy of the fact: publicity of the events in the workplace, which exposes the privacy of those who have been harassed.
  • Misinterpretation: having misinterpreted the events that occurred.
  • Guilt: they feel guilty and are They ask if they did not encourage sexual harassment because of the kind way of relating or by clothing, attitudes, etc.
  • Fear of reprisals: both overt and covert reprisals, including there is more bullying.
  • Loss of opportunity: loss of working conditions, future obstacles to promotions or dismissal.
  • Loss of rights: denial, danger, affectation or loss of rights acquired or expected.

Undoubtedly, sexual harassment is a health and safety issue. at work, and as such, it can and should be considered and integrated into preventive action. In addition to a specific policy of the company and the complaint procedures mentioned, it is necessary to integrate it as a psychosocial risk factor, so that it be evaluated along with other risks; to include health indicators that allow the identification of the risk through health surveillance, especially in surveys and health examinations. To include in the prevention plan, we should plan a set of measures preventive measures that promote a healthy, respectful work environment that promotes equality between women and men.

One of the best steps the HR can take is to adopt a well-documented and clear Sexual harassment policy and then include it as a part of the organization’s standing order. The HR should include the top management in enforcing these policies and take a zero-tolerance approach.


Practices should be made consistent with policies. For this purpose, training of employees should be done to communicate to them which behaviour is acceptable, and which are not. Training for members of complaint committee is also essential and it should include components like gender sensitization, and procedures of taking complaints. The HR should provide employees different routes that she can take to file complaints. Informal methods of resolving conflicts should be focused. Also, complaint committees should be set up to listen to grievances of female employees at all time. The main qualities of its members should be empathy and subjectivity.


Dr. Kavita Tiwari

Assistant Professor, Dept of HSS

KIET Group of Institutions, Delhi-NCR

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