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Calling Out Harassment of Women in One Voice Because Silence is Not Ok, Writes Minister Bhupender Yadav

By: Bhupender Yadav

Last Updated: July 31, 2022, 16:54 IST

New Delhi, India

Men have to engage as allies in fighting harassment as a basic responsibility of a human being. There has to be an enabling environment for women to be able to live, work and just be themselves as humans, writes minister Bhupender Yadav. (Photo: PTI File)

Men have to engage as allies in fighting harassment as a basic responsibility of a human being. There has to be an enabling environment for women to be able to live, work and just be themselves as humans, writes minister Bhupender Yadav. (Photo: PTI File)

Our goal should be to work for a society that doesn’t need reminding that women are equal. It’s a fact as obvious as the truth that the earth exists, writes minister Bhupender Yadav in his column for News18

In the 21st century, India is rising as a global power, but the realisation of this power wouldn’t be truly complete if women continue to be discriminated against or be subjected to harassment solely because they are women.

The world of work is fast changing. We are seeing an increased participation of women in every sphere. They are conquering the skies as fighter pilots, dominating the sports arena lifting weights, smashing badminton rackets, and punching hard in boxing rings. By doing all this, women are telling the world they are empowered enough to make the country proud and that they are empowered enough to empower many others. It is thus incumbent upon the society to ensure that the giants strides the women are taking are not unnecessarily crowded with roadblocks making their journey to success difficult. Many young, enterprising women say they need no special treatment. All they need is equality and dignity as co-workers in offices and partners in their homes.

It is a sad reality of our times that women face harassment in their homes and work spaces. Many choose silence over speaking out and reporting their perpetrators for the fear of losing jobs, hampering family ties or being judged as ‘trouble makers’. It is expected of women to silently endure harassment if they want to venture out or even to live peacefully in their own homes.

Social conditioning also teaches many women to endure in silence. But India culturally has been a land where women have taken on the mantle to protect not just their dignity but also the dignity of their land and their people. This is the land of Rani Laxmibai, Rani Gaidinliu and Rani Padmavati. None of them were passive onlookers but active participants in the fight for right and justice.

None of them silently endured and that is the reason they are praised, honoured and respected centuries later. The time has come to realise that it is not ok to keep quiet about everyday casual sexism in office or life in general. It is not okay to keep quiet when faced with harassment.

But it is important to realise we just can’t leave the burden of speaking out and fighting harassment and discrimination in all spheres of life purely on women. Men have to engage as allies in fighting harassment as a basic responsibility of a human being. There has to be an enabling environment for women to be able to live, work and just be themselves as humans. The realisation of that enabling environment is everyone’s responsibility.

The onus of fighting this battle is on each one of us and not just women facing harassment. Organisations that encourage a culture where harassment of female staff is routine must be held to account. HR policies must be devised in a way that does not tell women that facing harassment is part of the package.

The Narendra Modi government believes ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ is important for India to become a true global powerhouse. To ensure that women get equality and equity the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Condition Code, 2020 makes provisions to ensure women are entitled to all kinds of work and can work even in night shifts. Consent of women for employing them at night is mandatory and the responsibility of safety of women choosing to work at night has to be borne by the organisation concerned and government.

The Indian government has enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 with the aim to provide safe and secure work environment to women irrespective of their work status.

The Act casts an obligation upon every employer and organisation whether in private or public sector employing 10 or more persons to constitute an internal committee for receiving complaints of sexual harassment.

Under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, maternity leave was raised from 12 to 26 weeks to ensure women do not have to leave the workforce because of bearing a child and so that they get the time to concentrate of their physical well-being.

Laws are important to ensure a system is in place that ensures justice and provides for a redressal mechanism in case someone somewhere is denied justice. But our goal should be to work for a society that doesn’t need reminding that women are equal. It’s a fact as obvious as the truth that the earth exists.

We can begin by unburdening women of the lofty duties ascribed only to them. It is common for us to say women are the epitome of sacrifices. In truth we have denied them their rights, conditioned them to not complain about it and called it sacrifice. Yes, women are working double than most men because they are shouldering the responsibilities both office and homes. It would be nice if men also strive to be the epitome of this sacrifice by sharing responsibilities.

Any value that holds good for women would hold good for men too. They should not get away by heaping praises on women for having the same values that they choose not to have because it doesn’t suit them.

Harassment is not ok. Silence over harassment is not ok. And it is also not ok to expect women to fight this alone. Let us all Call It Out.

Bhupender Yadav is Union Cabinet Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change; and Labour & Employment. He is the author of ‘The Rise of the BJP’. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

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first published:July 31, 2022, 10:44 IST
last updated:July 31, 2022, 16:54 IST