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Sexual harassment at the workplace: Know your rights

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The sexual harassment case where Tarun Tejpal, a senior journalist and former editor-in-chief of scandal-friendly weekly journal magazine Tehelka was pulled up for harassing a colleague threw light on the topic again. While the fact-finding to determine Tejpal’s guilt is beyond the scope of a health site, sexual harassment in the office is something that needs to be dealt with properly.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (Sexual Harassment Act) to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work was passed by the Parliament in February this year and became a law in April.

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexually determined behaviour, such as:-

Physical contact
A demand or request for sexual favours
Sexually coloured remarks
Showing pornography
Any other physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.
A person is deemed to have caused sexual harassment if he or she -

Subjects another person to an unwelcome act of physical intimacy, like grabbing, brushing, touching, pinching, etc.

Makes an unwelcome demand or request (whether directly or by implication) for sexual favours from another person, and further makes it a condition for employment/payment of wages/increment/promotion etc.

Makes an unwelcome remark with sexual connotations, like sexually explicit compliments/cracking loud jokes with sexual connotations/ making sexist remarks etc.

As per the act, sexual harassment includes any one or more of unwelcome acts or behaviour like physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography.
Dealing with sexual harassment

If you feel you’re being sexually harassed or intimidated you should:

Talk to the perpetrator: Make the person who you think is making unwanted advances remarks or advances know that he/she is making you uncomfortable. The person could be generally interested and you should let it be known that the advances are unwelcome. Don’t ignore the incident hoping it will go away. Sometimes, the concerned person might not realise that he/she is making you uncomfortable. If the problem doesn’t abate, you should…

Inform your superiors: If talking the concerned person doesn’t help, you should inform your boss. If it’s the boss that is harassing you inform your HR department or someone higher up. If it’s a person higher up and the HR refuses to act, you need to file a police case. You can also approach the National Commission for Women. Do not take it lying down. The laws to protect women’s rights are watertight in our country. Remember, no job where you’re uncomfortable is worth it.

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