The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act (also known as POSH Act), came into force in Dec 2013. Seven years later, the Act continues to call for debates in terms of its interpretation. An organisation with more than 10 employees is suppose to have a committee to build a culture of respect within the organisation. Here are list of eight Myths & Facts around the Act.
Myth Vs Fact 1
There is nothing called harmless flirting. Oft times, flirting has much deeper impact on the receiver than what may be visible at the surface. This is specially true when the power differential between the two individuals is high. Sometime the tone itself may indicate flirting.
Myth Vs Fact 2
If you are the person who forwarded it, you can be held liable, even if you are not the creator or the originator.
Myth Vs Fact 3
Sexual harassment is not gender specific. While, the name of the Act itself is Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace(Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act 2013 but it does not mean that the other genders are ignored.
The recent Calcutta High Court judgement confirms, Same-Gender Sexual Harassment Complaints Maintainable Under POSH Act. According to the judgement “Sexual harassment, as contemplated in the 2013 Act, has to pertain to the dignity of a person, which relates to her/his gender and sexuality. Which does not mean that any person of the same-gender cannot hurt the modesty or dignity as envisaged by the 2013 Act”. The word “respondent” in the act does not specify the gender of the perpetrator
Myth Vs Fact 4
Sexual Harassment is less about sex and sexual desires and more about power. Sexual Harassment is usually perpetuated by people who are in more powerful positions than the person being harassed.
Most people (any gender) who experience harassment do not report because the harasser usually is very powerful in the organisation. The fear of retaliation, fear of losing ones job, fear that nobody will believe all leads to the one being harassed to change their jobs rather than complain.
Myth Vs Fact 5
The list above, of course, is not an exhaustive list
Any statement which makes the other person uncomfortable can be construed as Sexual Harassment. As per the Act, it is about The Impact and not the Intent.
Myth Vs Fact 6
Silence may be treated as consent by the harasser. When a behaviour is uncomfortable, speak up directly to the harasser or report. Studies also indicate, if we keep quiet, the harasser will get the signal that you like it.
Myth Vs Fact 7
Commenting on a picture (even when when your comment is not Lewd), may be construed as Sexual Harassment. Tagging anyone without their consent may cause harm to your career. So next time before tagging, just take their permission. Remember it is the IMPACT & not the INTENT that matters .
Myth Vs Fact 8
The #metoo movement where we saw women (& men) speaking up years after experiencing sexual harassment, itself indicates they did not have the courage or did not feel safe in sharing about their experiences