Sexual Harassment basically means a kind of violence against the human rights. It means unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favours and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It is unlawful behaviour which deteriorates one’s right of living the life with dignity. Sexual harassment results to the threat, fear in the life of individual which eventually gives rise to anxiety and depression.
Sexual Harassment at workplace refers to physical abuse, threat, sexual or emotional harassment that exist at the workplace. This kind of activity hampers individual’s right to work in peaceful environment. The problem is rising rapidly and has become the burning issue all over the world. Comparatively, female workers are more likely to be suffered from sexual harassment at workplace than male workers.
“Sexual Harassment is an attack on person’s dignity and privacy. It is a manifestation of power relations.”
As mentioned above, women are more likely to be victim of sexual harassment because they are more in vulnerable and insecure position, they lacks self-confidence comparatively or have been socialized to suffer in alone, many cases of sexual harassment is not recorded just because of these reason.
The problem of sexual harassment at workplace exists also because of the roles given to males and females socially or economically which, in turn, affects women position in the labour market directly or indirectly. The harassment also takes place in the workplace while the male workers tries to express their resentment and try to control when they view women as their economic competitor.
Women working as waitress, secretaries are often given the demeaning name and they are led to believe that certain amount of male domination and sexism is normal and women who work to break this stereotype suffer more intense harassment clearly aimed to leave the job.
Conclusively, we can say that the society defined gender-based role is the major reason of sexual harassment which has created hoarse circumstances for the females at their workplace.
So, what impact does Sexual harassment at workplace results to?
Sexual Harassment at workplace will eventually decrease the self-esteem of a worker to engage in economic activities resulting to negative impact on mental and physical health. The females, in spite of her capacity, will lose her concentration and give up. We are aware about many suicides, depression of the workers (mostly females) just because they could not bear the harassment or violence at their workplace. It not only breaks down them emotionally, but also kills the ability and skills inside them. Further, they are forced to leave the job and the problem of unemployment occurs.
Sexual Harassment at workplace has also been the major cause for not letting females to explore, they are forced to be caged in the four walls of the room killing their dreams and desires.
Is Male worker facing harassment in the office / workplace?
Many male workers at the workplace are also getting harassed by female co-worker or lady supervisor and they don’t refuse due to afraid of job loss. Male worker harassed at workplace thinks about the masculinity and the role given in the society, like if they open up saying they are harassed by a female, the society will take it as a matter of shame or society will not trust in this.
As this has been the burning issue all over the world, our country Nepal is also not away from this problem. Many male and female workers were suffering and they were not ready to open up because there was no specific legislation addressing the harassment. Analyzing the need, Nepal has made the law relating to Sexual Harassment at workplace.
The Government of Nepal has enacted a special legislation The Sexual Harassment at workplace prevention Act, 2015.
What does Nepal’s legal Provision say about Sexual Harassment existing at Workplace?
According to Sexual Harassment at Workplace Prevention Act, 2015, being pursuant to Section 4, the following unsolicited act committed by, or caused to be committed by, any person in abuse of his/her position, power or imposition of any type of coercion, undue influence or enticement would constitute sexual harassment:
- Physical control and advances.
- Showing or displaying of pornographic materials.
- Showing sexual intension in the form of writing, verbally or non-verbally.
- Demand or proposal for sexual favours.
- Flirting or harassing with sexual motive.
The Section further clarifies that, any act done in the course of educational purpose or providing protection to the employees, such act is not deemed to be regarded as sexual harassment.
This act also talks about the Roles and Responsibilities of Employer for the prevention of sexual harassment which may exist in their workplace like:
- Incorporating necessary provision related to prevention of sexual harassment at workplace into internal employment rules.
- the employer should make the necessary arrangements in order to prevent the occurrence of harassment.
- Making an arrangement of victim’s to make complaints.
- Should provide the information about the procedure of filing complaints to the victim and providing victims with necessary psychological treatment.
The complaint mechanism under are of two kinds according to the act, the internal complaint mechanism and the external complaint mechanism. The internal complaint mechanism is handled by the department or organization itself. The employer or head of the department handles the complaint whereas; external complaint mechanism is handled by Chief District Officer (CDO) of concerned district.
The victim can choose any of the complaint mechanism in order to achieve legal remedy.
Now, What is Punishment?
Section-12 under Sexual Harassment Prevention Act provides that any person involved in the act of committing sexual harassment at workplace may be punished with imprisonment of upto 6 months and/or fine upto Nepalese Rupees 50,000.
The organization or employer who fails to comply their Rules and Regulations as per the act, maybe punished with fine upto Nepalese Rupees 25000. If the case of sexual harassment is repeated twice, double the punishment for the offender may be applicable.
External authority of handling the harassment also makes the provision of compensation in case of any physical or mental harm caused to the victim by an offender as a result of harassment and also will be responsible for the expenses of victim in the course of filing and defending his/her complaint.
Hence, The Sexual Harassment Prevention at Workplace Act provides various provisions in order to protect the victim from sexual harassment and create a healthy and peaceful environment at workplace and also encourages victim to file the cases against sexual harassment. This Act of Nepal has secured the economic life of many females and has eliminated gender-based discrimination at work.
Everyone shall have the right to work in peace environment and no one shall be deprived of this right. Further, the State should encourage the compilation of statistics and research on the extent, causes and effects of sexual harassment and on the effectiveness of measures to prevent sexual harassment. The Labour ministry should play an effective role to monitor the employment conditions of workers and the law enforcement officers are essential to provide the justice.