It is the responsibility of employers, educators and housing providers to maintain a sexual harassment free environment. From the human rights perspective, it is not an acceptable practice to remain unaware of sexual harassment, whether a human rights violation claim has been made or not.
Although the number of sexual harassment cases has dropped by 14 percent over the previous year, Andhra Pradesh reports about 42 percent and Maharashtra 12 percent of the total incidences that occurred in 2011, according to the Law Octopus website.
In the case of Andhra Pradesh, it has the highest crime rate of about 4.3 compared to India’s national average of 0.7. Sometimes, the crimes are so heinous that they make national news on Divya Bhaskar.
Considering the astonishing numbers above, it is time that Indian Employers took important steps to prevent and respond to sexual harassment claims in the workplace.
One way of promoting this harassment-free environment is by having a comprehensive, clear anti-sexual harassment policy. When sexual harassment is alleged, the policy alerts all parties about their rights, roles and responsibilities. The policy should be set out to show how sexual harassment will be dealt with efficiently and promptly.
Everyone within the work place area should be made aware about the sexual harassment policy and steps put in place to resolve complaints. This can be achieved by:
- Handing out policy copies to everyone
- Ensure that all employees are aware of the policy by including it in orientation material
- Training individuals on contents of the policy and provide ongoing education on human rights
Employers and other individuals responsible should also have policies on how to deal with sexual harassment by third parties. The procedures should show the expected behavior and the response to harassment, and ensure that any serious ongoing problems are brought to the attention of those in charge.
Contents of An Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy
An effective policy should limit harm while reducing liability. It should also promote the idea of diversity and equity within organizations and make a good business name. The policy should possibly follow the following format:
Have a vision statement setting out the company’s intention to maintain an equitable and fair environment without gender-based and sexual harassment.
Statement of rights and obligations as set out by the National Government.
List of possible grounds of discrimination in the human rights code
The definition of sexual harassment and gender-based harassment.
Explanation of what a poisoned environment is under the code and clear examples of the environment.
Description of unacceptable behavior
Description of who the policy applies to.
How internal complaints will be handled.
Remedies, if the sexual harassment claim is proven, that are available.
A final statement reinforcing the rights of individuals in concern to other types of complaints.
However, professional organizations, associations and unions should also be responsible for ensuring that they are not party to discriminating against or harassing their members. They should ensure that they are in no way the cause or contributing factor to discriminatory actions in the workplace.
Like an employer, a union is liable of been held responsible for actions or policies that are discriminatory. This includes taking part in negotiating a policy that discriminates or does not take the necessary steps to curb workplace sexual harassment.
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