By Wajeeh Armaghan Asghar
Sexual harassment means any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes, causing interference with work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or the attempt to punish the complainant for refusal to comply to such a request or is made a condition for employment. Harassment is considered one of the most important issues that might negatively affect an organizational environment and the individual as well. The harasser might be a male or female, and it is not necessary to be from the opposite sex. It has some types out of which sexual harassment is the most annoying and prominent. Work place harassment is the type of sexual harassment that may be unlawful when employees are subjected to unwanted actions or comments of sexual nature, sexual stories or innuendos, discussion about employees sex lives, unwanted touching or requesting for sex or sexual material in the workplace. Workplace harassment which has now become very common because the women in the contemporary world have started working in every field of life along with men.
Though sexual harassment at the workplace has assumed serious proportions, women do not report the matter to the concerned authorities in most cases due to fear of reprisal from the harasser, losing one’s livelihood, being stigmatized, or losing professional standing and personal reputation.
Across the globe today, workplace sexual harassment is increasingly understood as a violation of women’s rights and a form of violence against women. Indeed, the social construct of male privileges in society continues to be used to justify violence against women in the private and public sphere. In essence, sexual harassment is a mirror reflecting male power over women that sustains patriarchal relations. In a society where violence against women, both indirect and direct, is borne out of the patriarchal values, women are forced to conform to traditional gender roles. These patriarchal values and attitudes of both women and men pose the greatest challenge in resolution and prevention of sexual harassment. Workplace sexual harassment, like other forms of violence, is not harmless. It involves serious health, human, economic and social costs, which manifests themselves in the overall development indices of a nation.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010 in Pakistan was enacted to ensure safe working spaces for women and to build enabling work environments that respect women’s right to equality of status and opportunity. An effective implementation of the Act will contribute to the realization of their right to gender equality, life and liberty, equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth. Since Pakistani government has identified violence against women as one of the prime issues to be addressed immediately and specific measures are being taken to ensure its complete eradication.
Workplace harassment has impacts on the organization as well as on the individual. It decreases the productivity, job satisfaction and success and increases the team conflict, loss and absenteeism of staff members and expertise. It decreases the individual work place performance, force to resign and makes the person depressed, anxiety and shame. It also losses the victim’s trust from the environment and the people.
These are the important steps to be taken to eradicate harassment: 1. Develop and clearly communicate a harassment policy endorsed by top management. 2. Use a fair complaint procedure to investigate charges of sexual harassment. 3. When it has been determined that sexual harassment has taken place, take corrective actions as soon as possible. 4. Provide sexual harassment education and training to organizational members, including managers. 5. The organization must take some strong steps against the harasser and provide the victim security.
The contributor is a student at National Deference University, Islamabad.