Due to the differences in cultural background, the availability of information and exposure, the understanding of the term sexual harassment is not the same for everyone. The afore-mentioned factors shape an individual’s view sexual harassment. What one person may perceive as sexual harassment will be reasonable behavior for another person. However, one thing that does not change is that anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment, regardless of the gender, may it be at a school, college, office, home, coaching center, or anywhere else.
Even though this is the case, it is difficult to get statistics to see the number of incidents of sexual harassment on men, for one reason. Most incidents of sexual harassment where the victim is a man goes unreported as there are not many laws that protect men against sexual harassment. Even though the Article 14 of the Indian Constitution talks about right to equality, this is not really true in the case of protection against sexual harassment. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 sees only women as the victim of workplace sexual harassment. As per the Act, only women can file a complaint of sexual harassment.
Are There No Laws That Protect Men from Sexual Harassment in India?
Though we mentioned that India lacks laws to protect men against sexual harassment , it’s not as if all laws forbidding sexual harassment in our country are aimed solely at women:
- Section 377 of the IPC criminalizes sodomy without consent. This law recognizes men as victims of rape. But this section is not relevant when the perpetrator is a woman.
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 that criminalizes sexual harassment of anyone under the age of 18 is gender neutral in terms of perpetrator and the victim.
- The Criminal (Amendment) Act 2013, commonly known as the Nirbhaya Act takes a gender-neutral view towards acts like acid attack and attempt to acid attack. Anyone regardless of the gender can file a complaint under the sections for Acid Attack and Attempt to Acid attack.
- University Grants Commission (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment of Women Employees and Students in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2015 – a sexual harassment prevention law which applies to all colleges, universities and deemed to be universities- is also gender-neutral.
Other Reasons for Sexual Harassment Against Men to Go Unreported?
Apart from the lack of gender-neutral laws, most cases of sexual harassment against men inside and outside the workplace go unreported because of two reason:
- Social stigma and fear of humiliation: The society has a very rigid notion on how a man and woman are supposed to act. Men are supposed to be strong, who don’t get hurt and can protect themselves. For the same reason, there is a very high chance for people to ridicule a man when he opens up about sexual harassment by another person or working in a hostile working environment. They are asked to “man up”, “act like a man” and “not to cry”. While men who experienced sexual harassment go through the same emotional trauma that a woman would, they face additional challenges of stereotypes because of the toxic masculinity the society holds on to.
- Lack of awareness: Another reason is that many are not familiar with the concept of a man being a victim of sexual harassment. People make the assumption that there is no way a woman can be the perpetrator in a sexual harassment complaint. The unwillingness to accept that men are vulnerable coupled with the idea that women cannot be perpetrators makes male victims of harassment question their experience. Many men are not sure that what they went through is harassment. They are also worried that their complaints will not be taken seriously because of the perception that “women do not harass”. However, the few data available says otherwise. In a survey conducted by the Economic Times that asked people in various cities about their experiences with sexual harassment at workplace, 29 to 43 percent of the survey participants agreed that they were harassed by female colleagues.
What Can Organizations Do to Prevent Sexual Harassment Against Men?
Organizations can begin by making the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Policy gender neutral. This way anyone who faces sexual harassment at workplace can file a complaint. Though the POSH Act itself is not gender neutral, it does not prevent an organization from having a gender-neutral POSH policy. Organizations that have a gender-neutral POSH policy can redress complaints received from employees of other genders using the organization’s Code of Conduct policy.
Sensitization and awareness creation is the other effective approach against sexual harassment prevention against men. Conduct frequent trainings that cover sexual harassment as a crime against people and not against women alone. Use the training to send a clear message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated irrespective of the gender and designation of the victim and perpetrator. Trainings should also mention the complaining mechanisms that are provided to male employees.
What Can Men Facing Sexual Harassment at The Workplace Do?
Some organizations will have a gender-neutral Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Policy that accepts complaint from anyone. In such organizations, men can report instances of sexual harassment and register complaints with the Human Resources department which will approach the issue as a violation of organization’s Code of Conduct policy. While this is not the same as legal action, it is a start toward putting an end to their experience.
How Can eLearnPOSH Help Organizations in Creating a Safe Environment?
Employee sensitization through sexual harassment prevention training and awareness creation are one of the most important steps organization can take to sexual harassment prevention at workplace. eLearnPOSH provides online POSH Training through interactive eLearning courses for organizations in Bangalore and all parts of India. We have the eLearning courses in 7 different regional languages like: Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu to cater to regional audience. We understand that organization’s requirements are unique and hence our trainings are fully customizable.
Our other POSH trainings include POSH for Manages , POSH for Internal Committee Members, POSH in Higher Educational Institutions and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act eLearning.