Ever since women have entered the workforce in large numbers, the problem of sexual harassment has gained a momentum of its own. Though women may be highly educated, have the requisite qualifications and work shoulder to shoulder with men, almost 60% are subjected to unwelcome sexually determined behavior by the opposite sex. Even women doctors are not exempt, and many are harassed by senior doctors, consultants, interns and male patients. In educational institutions, about 55% of students complain of harassment by teachers or fellow students. One cannot walk on the roads or travel by public transport without being harassed by bullies or eve teasers. Sexual harassment cuts across all socio-economic barriers.
Gender discrimination and role stereotypes are the reason for such behaviour. Some men feel that the biological roles of wife, mother and home maker are violated by women who step out of their homes for employment.
Women too have come out with extreme ideas of playing "super woman." Some aspects of Feminism make men feel distinctly uneasy and paranoid. They try to get even through sexual harassment. After all, they too are victims of stereotyping. Most men think that "good women" don't get sexually harassed. But "bad women" invite trouble by their behaviour and dress.
In the context of this rapidly changing socio-economic scenario, more women are likely to seek employment outside their homes. It is therefore time for society to remember that women are human beings too, and must be allowed the dignity of their rights.
What is sexual harassment?
Every woman is entitled to her own private space. When that space is violated by verbal, non verbal or physical forms of sexually suggestive behaviour, it amounts to harassment. This covers a range of behaviour starting from unwelcome comments about a person's body to sexual abuse and sexual assault. The harasser may be openly sexist in his remarks or present a veneer of respectability, but make sly passes or propositions when the victim is alone.
Types of harassment.
o Predators get their thrills by humiliating women either by innuendos, crank calls, eve teasing or phone sex. They make sexually coloured remarks or unwanted physical contact by pinching, pawing, kissing or groping.
o The most common type is the quid pro quo harassment in which sexual favours are expected in exchange for jobs, promotions, grades or recommendations. This is gross misuse of power by employers, teachers, politicians or film directors with 'casting couch' requirements.
o Some men establish a mentor-like relationship with the victim by pretending to offer professional or academic counseling. But soon their sexual intentions surface.
o Serial harassers are masters at the game. They strike in private so that there are no witnesses. It is just the victim's word against theirs.
o Some use harassment as an ego boost. Victims are subjected to porn films, nude pictures and suggestive language.
o Harassment can be used as a revenge tactic if a person feels rejected or snubbed. These bullies make physical or verbal advances, use obscene language, crack vulgar jokes and create an unpleasant environment.