From the 19th century onwards, women have been fighting for equality and justice, forced into becoming objects of atrocities imposed by a patriarchal society. From domestic violence to facing discrimination at the workplace as well as mental harassment – justice and equality still seem a far-fetched goal. The article will explore the mental, emotional and physical violence still borne by women in the workplace.
A woman faces various forms of abuse at the workplace and all too often they are hesitant to report the same due to the fear of losing their jobs. Sometimes, even if they do express their plight, they are ignored and blamed instead. One of the problems lies in the continued assignment of tasks to women which include low paid, low-status jobs and positions.
Privatisation has further led to readjustment issues in terms of the workplace. Public sector jobs ensured decent pay, pension and benefits. A large section of women have occupied the public sector now. Although discrimination and any form of violence against women are considered a violation of human rights, appropriate action is seldom taken.
In India, 16% of organisations don’t have women at the board level and the country also fares poorly in the Gender Disparity Index.
The many forms of violence prevalent in the workplace are sexual coercion, stigmatisation, social exclusion, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, intimidation, exploitation, trafficking for forced labour, etc. If women do not adhere to the norms then there are chances of mental and emotional harassment, which affects their work drastically and leads to less productivity. In the US, 42% of women have reported having faced gender discrimination at work, however subtle or obvious it may be.
The key to understanding and solving this issue lies in gaining insight into the factors underlying the causes, to understand the characteristics of perpetrators and whether a fraction of women are more prone to victimisation, as compared to others. The behaviour patterns of perpetrators have usually been attributed to psychosocial and aggressive factors concerning their position at the workplace.
Gender-based discrimination has become a persistent culture all over the globe. Along with sexual and verbal violence, one of the most undermined forms of harassment is stalking. It poses threats to physical safety as well as the productivity and morale of women. Such behaviour towards women should end because it violates their rights to safety, causes physical and psychological trauma and deepens the inequality between men and women.
The SH 2013 Act has certain flaws as it addresses harassment as a civil wrong and not a crime.
In India, 16% of organisations don’t have women at the board level and the country also fares poorly in the Gender Disparity Index. Sexual harassment at the workplace means indirect or direct sexual contact. After the charting out of the Vishakha Guidelines, sexual harassment can be defined as, “Any unwelcome sexually determined behavior (whether directly or by implication) as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favors, sexually colored remarks, showing pornography or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature”.
The reasons range from individual perversion to contempt and jealousy, along with disrespect. In India, in 2013, an act came into effect on 9th December known as the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act. This act has certain flaws as it addresses harassment as a civil wrong and not a crime.
A few measures which can be taken to ensure a reduction in dangerous behaviour in the workplace includes encouraging anti-violence programmes, making strict policies to eradicate sexual violence and implement them, give women the confidence to speak up about the violence and discrimination they face, spread awareness and form education unions for the same and encourage leadership and mentoring programmes.
Violence serves the main barrier against further growth and empowerment for women and we can make sure that it does not further go by unnoticed and unresolved, by taking necessary steps against further exploitation of women’s rights.
Also Read: How we perpetuate everyday sexism at our workplace