Sexual harassment has become part of daily conversations following the media coverage of a few high profile cases. How much does it affect women’s daily lives? And where do you draw the line – what actually counts as sexual harassment? Love Matters asked Smitha, Ruchi, Sruti and Priyanka.
LM: Do you think sexual harassment is a serious issue for women at work?
Smitha: The lines for sexual harassment in the work place are very blurred in the media industry. Does a silly joke cracked by a male colleague about women not being in the kitchen count? How wary should I be? Am I making a big deal out of nothing?
These questions kept going through my head in the first few months of working at a reputed news channel. Over time I learnt to establish my own code but organizations must take the initiative to educate their employees about where lines should be drawn.
Ruchi: Yes, I believe sexual harassment at the workplace is a serious issue! Due to the very casual and informal set up of television production houses there’s greater scope for sexual harassment.
Sruti: Yes, I think it’s a serious but underrated issue because a lot of harassment that women face in work situations may not seem like sexual harassment to many people who have become accustomed to ignoring certain kinds of male behaviour. For example, people don’t think that pestering a woman with romantic advances is sexual harassment unless it takes on a violent turn.
Priyanka: I also think sexual harassment at work is a very serious issue for women as it can have grave psychological implications on the victim. Also any such incident can create a hostile environment at work not just for the victim but other women employees as well. But more often than not a woman is blamed for having 'provoked' these incidents and so there is a lot of reluctance in talking about it.
LM: So what sort of behaviour would you say does fall under ‘sexual harassment’ at work?
Smitha: There's the obvious unwelcome and unnecessary physical contact for starters. But there are also a whole bunch of things like Facebook stalking – constant comments & references to your activities online. Or even a senior's random flirting while establishing his power over you. These are the things that blur the lines and leave young women in the workplace feeling uncomfortable and confused.
Ruchi: For me, sexual harassment is not just physical, it is often just comments about a woman’s clothing, or her body. Sometimes it’s also about certain male colleagues feeling insecure about my working relationship with other male colleagues, they try to take it out with snide remarks and loud discussions about who I’m “having an affair” with.
Sruti: In a professional environment, inappropriate comments could constitute sexual harassment. Having worked for a news channel I know this kind of behaviour is common in male colleagues especially when they have to follow instructions from their female colleagues. For example the crew would often call names or make jokes about the physical appearance of the female producers or reporters.
Priyanka: Apart from aggravated behaviour like trying to get sexual favours in return for employment decisions there are many other things that I would consider sexual harassment. For example sending someone inappropriate emails or text messages, putting pressure on a colleague for a date if he or she is not interested, making suggestive remarks would all fall under sexual harassment at work.
Smitha, 25, media professional, Mumbai Ruchi, 26, non-fiction Programming Producer, Mumbai Sruti, 27, media professional, Bangalore Priyanka, 28, journalist, Delhi (Names changed)
Have you had trouble with sexual harassment at work? And where do you draw the line? Leave a comment here or on Facebook.