Women have always been on the receiving end of negative social norms. Be it rape, domestic violence or verbal abuse, women have endured it all. Traditionally, women were exclusively in charge of the household, and still are, but in recent times circumstances have led to them seeking employment to supplement household bills. Still, it has not been an easy journey. Women have to work twice as hard in order to be on the same level as men in the workplace but even then, it is still not enough.
Women who have succeeded in the corporate world are referred to iron ladies, respectfully so, because in a man’s world, you take advantage of the pack of cards you have been dealt with. But those who are still coming up have to fight with the men for the opportunities by all means necessary. Failing to succeed is not an option.
As a result, many women in the workplace have been reduced to sexual objects in the quest for success. Most of them are affected by actions of unwelcome sexual advances like touch and verbal criticisms that scream sexual innuendos and demand for sexual favours in exchange for retaining employment status.
According to the Employment Act, a worker is harassed sexually if the employer or its representative or a co-worker request (directly or indirectly) for any form of sexual favor to get preferential treatment in the workplace; or threaten the worker of detrimental treatment on present or future employment status of the worker. Any kind of sexual behaviour that makes the victim feel uncomfortable, includes using language (written or spoken) or visual material of sexual nature; and showing physical behaviour of sexual nature is considered sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment in the workplace has become the norm with women also making excuses for the men who harass them claiming that is how men are. But in a society that does not respect women, this is not surprising. However, the point here is not to play the blame game. That gets us nowhere. It is how we can stop sexual harassment in a place where employees regard as a haven. A home away from home. Employees should be in an environment where they feel safe and secure to have a chance at growing their career and provide for their families.
Am not disputing the fact that men also suffer from sexual harassment, but it is women who end up on the worst side of the situation. We don’t realize how sexual harassment affects women both psychologically and emotionally and economically. Unfortunately, organizations would rather avoid the scandal than tackling it all together. So, since sexual harassment is unlikely to end anytime soon:
- Let us empower young girls and women to identify, reject and report sexual harassment. This can be done through creating awareness to change the perception that sexual harassment is normal and okay because it is NOT okay.
- Let’s us take all sexual harassment complaints seriously and ensure that they are acted upon.
- We should train all law enforcement officers on how to handle sexual harassment cases. That way, when they get an instance, they know how to go about it.
- Establish a sexual harassment-free environment in the workplace outlining clear policies and consequences in case it is reported.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is real. How long it continues depends on our willingness to stop it. It is high time women are respected in the workplace.