Harassment of Women

Modified: 13th Apr 2017
Wordcount: 3639 words

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Identification of the cause

Harassment covers a wide range of offensive or unwanted behavior in order to make other person uncomfortable. Most often women are the victims of harassment and the offenders are male. Harassment is a form of illegal and discrimination and all the human rights laws prohibit this act but ratio of the harassment is continuously increasing although laws are present in our society

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There are many factors of harassment which varies from situation to situation. The most significant factor is our culture, values and the relative power and status of the men and women in our society. The way women and men are brought up in our society influences their behavior. Women usually lack the confidence because since childhood their behavior is customized to suffer silence and make compromises. On the other hand men are brought up exactly opposite to women. Such patriarchal view creates an atmosphere that allows men the freedom of sexual harassment in the workplace.

In recent years, social and political changes have brought the power game. Advancement of women in career, their independence at work threatened the men. So in the tough times men try to insist on sexual favors in exchange for benefits he can give out due to his position.

Harassment is a worldwide growing problem in every sector whether its government sector, private sector, schools or institute. Harassment hinders with people’s educational path and career and productivity. The effects of harassment can be physical, emotional, and psychological. Harassment at workplace is deepening its roots which cause adverse effects to the growth of economy which leads to lower morale and low productivity, increase in absenteeism and employee turnover that cost a lot to any organization.

Global Overview of Sexual Harassment

In the study of sexual harassment, comparisons across global societies are difficult .This is due to the differences in definition and perception of each society in the world. However, to understand the dynamics of harassment, it is essential to look at trends globally to understand the severity of the matter and why it is important to explore this problem in a different perspective. The discussion below clearly shows that globally, regardless whether in the United States, Europe or Asia; the focus of sexual harassment study is primarily focused on women and in the instances of the sample comprising of both sexes, the study focused on understanding the trends and problems from the victims‟ perspective.

United States

Two major studies were conducted by the US Merit Systems Protection Board among US Federal Government employees. The first study, conducted in 1980, taking a sample group of 23,000 male and female employees which concluded that 42 % of women and 15 % of men were victims of overt sexual harassment in the past two years (Aggarwal, 1992). The other study in 1988 reported that about 36,000 federal employees left their job due to sexual harassment between 1985 and 1987 (Aggarwal, 1992). The US Merit Systems Protection Board estimated that it had cost US$267 million for the Federal Government in replacing employees who have left their jobs due to sexual harassment (Aggarwal, 1992). This figure itself reflects the severity of this issue when it is translated into financial means. In 1988, the other research by Working Women magazine conducted a sexual harassment survey of about 500 manufacturing and service companies in the US. The study concluded that at least 15% employees had been sexually harassed within the last 12 months (Aggarwal, 1992).

In 1990, the study undertaken by the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division showed that 85% of female lawyers and 78% of male lawyers had experienced one form of sexual harassment (Tengku Omar & Maimunah, 2000).

Another report published by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) on a national survey of 2,064 public school students found that 83% of girls compared to 79% of boys reported having experienced sexual harassment (Cummings & Armenta, 2002).

In Seattle, a study of city employees found that more than one-third of all respondents involved in the study (579 respondents) were sexually harassed in the previous 24 months of employment (Gutek, 1985). Dunwoody-Miller and Gutek (1985) found that 20 percent of California State civil service employees reported being sexually harassed at work in the previous 5 years from the date of the research. Gutek (1985) in her study on American women suggested that up to 53 percent of women had been sexually harassed some time in their working life.


Sexual Shakedown : In England 1978, the Sexual Harassment of Women on the Job was published to bring public attention towards sexual harassment and also make people aware of this issue as social problem.In United Kingdom, in 1976, over 9,000 women responded to a survey on sexual harassment conducted by Red Magazine. Which shows that more than 92% of these respondents reported that they perceived sexual harassment as a problem whereby 9-10% of the respondents reported that they had personally experienced one or more forms of unwanted sexual attention at the workplace (Dunwoody-Miller & Gutek, 1985)?

A study carried out in Sweden reported that 17 percent of about 2,000 women surveyed in 1988 stated that they tolerated obscene language, sexual innuendoes, groping, lewd suggestions and outright rape attempts in the workplace.

In Germany, a poll carried out in 1990 in Frankfurt found that 25 percent out of 9,000 women surveyed reported sexual harassment. Another survey in1992 disclosed that two thirds of women reported being regularly harassed, but nearly 50 percent of their male colleagues did not think their behavior was offensive (Earle & Madek, 1993).

Finland, a nationally representive Women‟s Safety study reported that 19.6% of women experienced a range of harassment behaviours over a one year period (Heiskanen & Piispa, 1998).

In a French National Survey on Violence Against Women, which asked about the incidents both at work and in public areas occurring in the last year, 15% of the women reported some form of harassment (Jaspard, 2001).

In Italy, 24.4% of women between the ages of 14 and 59 reported at least one type of sexual harassment in the last three years (Sabbadini, 1998).


China had recently begun to undertake a sexual revolution (Farrer, 2000; Sha, Xiong & Gao, 1994) along with the public concern about sexual behavior, media reports also suggest that the estimated growth of sexual harassment has also risen in salience as a societal focus, leading to serious counter-harassment efforts by the government (Fu, 2005).

In 2000, the data taken from the survey conducted by Chinese Health and Family Life, a study was carried out to see the occurrence and the factors for sexual harassment in China. It was the first study conducted to use overall population sample to study all types of harassment committed in China. The sample of 3,821 participants was taken, and it represented the adult population of china between ages of 20-64 years. It resulted 15.1% of urban women reported some form of harassment in the previous year (Parish et.al, 2006).

Sexual harassment in India is also regarded as a serious issue which has always been not reported due to social stigmas. A survey conducted by the Gender Study Group at Delhi University found that most women respondents felt that harassment comprises of male behavior that could be overlooked and ignored; it amounted to sexual harassment only when it crossed the threshold of their tolerance (Report on Sexual Harassment, 1996). A study conducted by the gender group ant took the sample of students of Delhi University and showed that 91.7 per cent of all the hostalite women and 88.2 per cent of the women had faced sexual harassment on the roads and within the campus (Report on Sexual Harassment, 1996). The percentage of Sexual harassment in India is very high and most of the cases are gone unreported. It is high time for the government of India to pass a effective legislation for women harassment and for the restored of sexually harassed women.

Sexual harassment is known as “seku hara” in Japan. In 1989, the first study of sexual harassment was undertaken by a group known as Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Network. They collected data from 70 complainants and found that out of this, 40 had left their jobs due to their experiences. Their harassers were mostly married men with responsible jobs. A report made by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation discovered that 40 percent of working women said that they experienced some form of harassment in their life. Out of this, 2 percent reported that they were forced to have a relationship (Samirah, 1999). In the Asian region too, several countries have adopted legislation to address sexual harassment as well. For example, Sri Lanka amended its Penal Code in 1995 to include sexual harassment, defined according to an „unwelcome‟ standard. The law states whoever, sexually harasses the other person, or by the use any foul language or actions, or causes sexual annoyance or harassment to other person commits the offense of sexual harassment (Action against Sexual Harassment at workplace in Asia, 2001). Elsewhere, Bangladesh enacted the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act in the year 2000. This law states that if any male, trying to illegally satisfy his sexual desires, abuses the modesty of woman or makes any indecent gesture, his act shall be considered as sexual harassment (Action against Sexual Harassment at workplace in Asia, 2001). The Philippines also has an Anti-Sexual Harassment Act, introduced in 1995, to prohibit sexual harassment by anyone having authority, influence, or moral ascendancy over another. A survey conducted in the Philippines reported that 17 percent of 43 unionized and 291 non-unionized establishments had records of cases pertaining to sexual harassment (Action against Sexual Harassment at workplace in Asia, 2001).

In the Republic of Korea, a study conducted by the Law Consumer Union in Seoul in October 2000, constituted of 567 public officers of whom 345 men and 222 women were taken for the survey and they found that almost 70 per cent of women and 30% of men said that they had at some time experienced sexual harassment.

In 1999 the Korean Institute of Criminology concluded that 64% women respondents said they faced verbal harassment, 35 per cent reported physical harassment, and 34 percent had experienced visual harassment.

Current situation in Pakistan

Our society is complex. We claim to be democratic and free; however we never talk about myriad deep rooted issues that have injured our society. We declare to be an Islamic state, then why our women feel safer in Europe and America than this Islamic Islam who claims to give women rights. Our state and people are diplomatic actually, we fight for Aafia Siddiqui who had been tortured and assaulted by American soldiers, but we forget the countless of our Aafias who are assaulted, murdered in the name of honor, sexually harassed, tortured, raped and harassed daily within our beloved country. Many of our women kept themselves quiet over this injustice because they do not want to embarrass their families or to become the gossip of the town in doing so they don’t help to stop harassment. Few months ago, Human Rights regulator reported that 68% women are sexually harassed in Pakistan. If we look at the definition of sexual harassment, you would surely find those behaviors and gestures that are quite familiar in our society. In fact, constant staring, deliberately touching someone’s body, making sexually explicit comments, are all so common that many of us now don’t consider that harassment. Now we consider it daily routine matter.

Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination. Men may be subjected to harassment but majority of the victims are women. In addition to the growing awareness about the adverse impact of sexual harassment there have been increasing efforts are taking place around the world to break the silence and also taking proactive steps in addressing it. Many sexually harassed persons put up with damaging physical and psychological effects because taking action can be frightening especially in the environment that do not provide practical and moral support. Most sufferers are ashamed and embarrassed and worry that they will be labeled as characterless women or otherwise a mistaken behavior and therefore women prefer to keep quiet about it.

Unfortunately our society is a male dominated society. A working woman finds herself being harassed by its male colleagues in different ways such as staring, trying to touch her in a way that it doesn’t look awkward, standing too close to them, making them uncomfortable or just make her life miserable in order to show the power of being male. Whether a woman is working in a media channel or in a newspaper, a multinational organization, a fashion industry or in a university as a teacher or a student, women are usually the topic of their jokes. The problem is innate and nearly every third man in our country considers it a form of recreation instead of crime. In fact, when a victim who is most often a woman does speak out against the unwelcome behavior, the focus falls on her demeanor, her appearance and how she carried herself rather than on the assailant, and his shameless behavior. There are many causes but the most common fact is that male colleagues see their female counterpart is working because she is needy and needs money for her family and don’t accept them as their competitor. That’s a misconception because women not only have been stealing the top positions from men in almost every field, but they have also been found more stable under pressure and hardworking than men who tend to lose temperament when pressurized. They take female perspective to matters which give an added advantage to the employers and making the environment more competitive.

So why doesn’t anyone put an end to this menace? Harassment is an entrenched issue in the Pakistan that needs continuous attention and demands secrecy. Although legal and institutional systems are present, but implementing the laws is still remains a challenge in our country. It will take more effort than just passing a law to save the women because until the necessary steps are not taken, women will continue to feel unsafe in our male-dominated society.

Action plan

When it comes to preventing harassment, we must need to look at the root cause of gender inequality and discrimination. There has been a trend that whenever the “gender gap” is greater such as in the condition of women’s health, their participation in the economy, low education levels, and lesser representation in politics. At this scenario women are more likely to experience violence and harassment. That means we need to take a long-term, universal and comprehensive approach that identify and protect women and provide equal human rights. So we must promote a culture of equality between men and women via institutional and legal reform, education, and awareness-raising and with the full cooperation of men and boys.

Proactive steps: Harassment can be prevented at initial stages. Schools and institutes can play an important role to prevents violence and sexual behavior through education and information; develop a learning material to support safety education for children and young people so they are taught about sexual rights and safety skills in their basic schooling. The learning material should be invulnerable to society and our culture. This goal can be accomplished through awareness training and campaigns about gender discrimination and its psychological and physiological effects on people and through teaching skills we can also create empowerment among students to stand up for themselves when they experience any form of harassment.

Training: Training can play a vital role in reducing harassment. We can create awareness about harassment through campaigns and training programmes’ in which they provide information and education about harassment on a regular basis to maintain a healthy environment When the circulation of information, communication and guidance about harassment take place it will strengthen the individuals to break the silence which often surrounds cases of harassment. Information sessions, personnel meetings, group discussion and problem-solving groups can prove very effective in the way of coping with violence by means of procedure and staff development programme on sexual harassment at work.

Anti harassment policy: One should clearly define what constitutes under harassment. The anti harassment policies do not ensure that there would be complaint. In order to have effective policy we must communicate to everyone, clearly mention that all the teachers, students or staff are included so everybody knows what behaviors are intolerable and leads to punishment. Recently, the Government of Pakistan has introduced the law against the women harassment but the implementation is still difficult. So in order to make healthier environment, within the institutes or corporate must have their own anti harassment policies and procedures and ensure that response against harasser must be quick and efficient to stop the culture of despair and freedom of punishment and promote a culture of justice and support.

Small scale implementation

We are going to implement training awareness programmes and anti harassment policy to ensure the healthy environment for women to study. It will also provide protection and support to those who are harassed.

This strategy will implement to public universities where the problem exists and no regulatory system is there to prevent such behaviors. Sometimes female students are being harassed by their male teachers or other male students. Because these institutes do not have any policy to prevent students from harassment in that scenario women have few options either drop the courses or put a stop to their higher education or let things happen the way they are.

The policy applies to everyone whoever experience harassment he or she can go to complaint cell and report the complaint. It is the responsibility of the department to take necessary steps and quickly investigate and deal with all the complaints against harassment.

Anti harassment policy is very important because when a teacher or a student commits harassment the chances of taking stand against them is low because there is no policy to which they can go or discuss the situation. Most women do not want to jeopardize their career so they keep their silence and this allows a male to keep harassing women that causes psychological effects. In order to maintain healthy and competitive environment this policy will help to provide equal opportunities and ways to cope with situation.

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Human resource department must introduce anti harassment department for all the staff and students and ensure the privacy. Clearly communicate the policies and procedure to everyone for dealing with harassment and also mention the consequences of breaking the policy. To ensure the effectiveness of the policy, the controlling department must get feedback from the sufferers. Keep monitoring and revise the policy when necessary and educate and give trainings on regular basis to make certain its effectiveness in the institute.


In order to execute the plan we require personnel, equipment, furniture etc and estimate the monthly cost.

Table: Events:



Training programmes


Table: Personnel:







Female counselor






Table: Equipment:




Personal computer






Air conditioner







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