Why don’t women speak up?

We are so used to read the everyday headlines of women being sexually harassed at the workplace, women being raped at the office and so on yet do not understand the gravity of the matter. What modern era are we in? The one where with the increase in the number of opportunities for women in the professional world is equally leading to the increase in the rate of incidents of sexual harassments?   We along with progressing in the employment ratio of women are nowhere behind in the counting of sexual harassments cases. In order to protect women from being sexually harassed at work place, the Gazette of India has had introduced a legislative act in India i.e. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 which came in to force on 9th of December, 2013. The act makes it punishable to sexually harass a woman at the workplace and talks about different ways of how a woman can be sexually assaulted and the remedies available to them. Though the act was a prominent effort by the government of India to reduce the number of sexual harassment cases, very few Indian employers comply with this statute. Most of them do not implement this law despite the legal requirement that any workplace with more than 10 employees needs to comply with this statute. The first requirement for this act to be in notion is to make women aware of such remedies being available to them. Even men should be equally made aware of it so that they can educate their women colleagues, daughters, sisters or any other women acquaintances about it; they fear the consequences of doing any such act and could stand for any women who are being subjected to any such wrongful act. Also, even if women are well aware of it and recognize their powers with respect to it they fail to speak for themselves and standing up for themselves. They find themselves stuck in such a situation that for them it becomes more bearable to stay silent and endure it all than to speak and suffer even serious consequences. There are several reasons due to which women fail to report such incidents.

 No proper understanding 

Women may experience harassment in the form of sexually charged comments, inappropriate physical contacts, unwanted gestures, and advances but sometimes they themselves fail to address the issue seriously because these are the petty things they have become used to in this male-dominated world. They themselves regard them as trivial issues which they become accustomed to and so not find necessary to report it. According to them, it is something which they can bear without making much fuss about it. It is easy for them to ignore such things happening to them than to land themselves into troubles which will come across their path if they speak against it. They feel they could handle it themselves and avoid dealing with the potential blowbacks.

Lack of confidence and ability to speak. 

Women in a typical Indian society have always been taught to behave in a certain manner, to act in their limits, to behave in a way which would save her parents dignity, to live up to the society’s expectations and is always told in every step of her life what to do and what not which makes her so dependent and lacks the ability to decide for herself, to speak up for herself. She lacks the ability to have a stand for herself and can fight for the injustice. She is molded in a way which teaches her that silence is the best therapy. The lack of confidence in them and their fear of the consequences make them think that keeping quiet is the path of least resistance. Even if women could feel that there is something wrong to which they are being subjected and it is something which should be reported, again, could not mutter the courage to do so. They are more concerned about the consequences that would lead to it than their dignity that is being put to stake.

Fear of losing their source of living.

Women working under their superiors if being assaulted sexually either by their fellowmen or superiors is the potentially most dangerous situation for her. Fear of losing their jobs make them suffer silently. They become reluctant to speak against their bosses or superiors for they may end up losing their position at the workplace or simply their jobs. They feel weak to fight against the powerful people they are working for. Even if women themselves are in a superior position and they are being assaulted, she is reluctant to speak in order to save her name unless she has too much power. A woman working to support her family economically or being the only earner in a family resorts an utmost importance to her job which earns her a living. She finds it too difficult to risk it despite being subjected to the most wrongful acts. She would keep finding easy ways to escape it but would hardly speak against it.

Lack of evidence

The other important reason women fail to speak is lack of evidence. Lack of evidence that they are being prone to such activities makes it difficult for them to prove the case. Also, in a professional world, a person is known by its merit and less by its ethics. Even if a person is proved faulty an employer may not be willing to dispense him from work may be because of an important position he may hold in a company or the name he may have earned in years, his loyalty to the work, or the profits he might be bringing or any such reason. It usually becomes a matter of “he said”, “she said” and generally difficult to prove.

Corruption and Sluggish nature of Indian judiciary 

As a matter of fact that the Indian judiciary being sluggish and overburdened with work, cases go on going delayed and pending that prevents women from being reporting it. They may avoid from being stuck in the fuss of court proceedings and the expenses that may come along or at the first place they do not know whom to address their issue to, how to complain, and what procedure to follow. Even if they complain about it, their issue may not be taken seriously by the authorities or may be ignored just for the sake of a reputation a workplace may hold in a society. It has been rightly said that justice delayed is justice ignored. People, in order to prevent themselves from the procedure too complicated and time consuming, decides to handle the matter themselves than to bring it the notice of system. Also, women may receive threats from the powerful people she is working with if she makes an attempt to bring the matter out. We live in a society where corruption dwells in every corner. Sexual complaints are very easily ignored by the police authorities for they feel it a case to trivial to be taken into consideration. They think there are much more important matters in hand to be dealt with. A public survey showed that the sexual harassment of women was the third most common crime in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, yet goes unreported either because police does not register it or people do not believe that police could help.

Mocked by the society

Fear of being judged by the society or being maligned by them is the biggest fear a woman has to deal with. They cannot mutter up the courage to speak against such acts because in a patriarchal society we are living in where people still carry a mentality that a woman must be at fault. It is easy for everyone to blame women, assassinate her character and look down upon her. Sometimes even a woman’s family, friends, peers, close ones fail to stand for her and understand her which makes her too weak to stand up alone for herself. Also, she may be despised if she takes any action against the influential.

people in the society. It may change the attitude of people towards them or influence their thinking towards the victim. Fear of being addressed as “sexual harassment victim” or the sympathies people may impose them prevents them from speaking up. It takes a lot of courage to stand against such acts alone which very less could do.

So it is very clear that women don’t speak up because of both rational and emotional reasons. A woman is not only subjected to these offenses in traditional set-ups or at small workplaces but also in big organizations, firms and companies where people are much educated and aware of its consequences. They just had to much power to pay heed to it.

Other reasons may also include the shame that women may take upon themselves. Even if they did not do anything to invite sexual attention they might feel responsible for it.

There is a fast felt need that we start taking these issues seriously. Much more statutes and acts should be implemented for it and more importantly, men and women both should be made aware of it so that women can work in the safe and harassment-free environment.

Shreya Ahuja

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