Sexual Harassment: Harassment for Man and Woman

As the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill (SHWB) is expected to be made as a law soon since it is passed in loksabha amidst lot of chaos due to coal-gate scam issue without any debate, I had to sit down with my inquisitive mind to see how far it is going to do any good.

Before we go into analysis, let’s try to understand what is defined as sexual harassment globally, and how other countries are geared up for it. Definition from Wikipedia: “Sexual harassment is intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors.[1] In most modern legal contexts sexual harassment is illegal. As defined by EEOC, “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex.” Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”

It further adds: “Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.”

Most of the countries in the world having this provision, have it as gender neutral, including UK, USA, Australia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Denmark even Pakistan except India.

Some of the key highlights of the bill:

  1. First of all, this can only be used by a woman. So it is assumed that in case your female colleague / boss is asking you for sexual pleasure and you dare to say no and face retaliation, you can not be a victim of sexual harassment at workplace, as you are male.
  2. Once a complain is lodged, the complainant either will enjoy paid leave or be transferred to another location, as per her choice. In case the complain is found out to be a false and fabricated one, the investigating committee may take some action as it might feel fit or may not. In either of the situation, no further report / details would be published. It is even kept out of the ambit of RTI. So easy enjoyment for upto 3 months of paid leave.
  3. It is possible for both the parties to reach out to an amicable mutual solution through financial compensation, in that case, the investigation will be stopped and no further report / details would be published. It is even kept out of the ambit of RTI.
  4. In case the complain is found out to be true, then there are punishments, which may range from 25% of accused salary to termination.

What are the problems with this bill? If this bill is passed and made into a law, this might cause a lot of problems, below is an indicative but not exhaustive list:

  • It would be easily used / misused by unscrupulous women employees to seek unjustified benefits. They would demand leave, promotion, hike, job role anything and everything, and if their demand(s) is / are not met, will simply use this provision to take revenge.
  • It would destroy the harmony and balance of a workplace. Men would not trust / fear communicating with female colleagues.
  • Slowly the organizations will start facing the heat of the imbalance, and it would become difficult for them to maintain and run their business in a decent work environment.
  • Already men are cornered in the society thanks to so many pro-women laws and their rampant misuse, since there is no mechanism to stop their misuse, this law will add fuel to that.
  • Till now, men were subjected to injustice in society, in marriage now they would be in their workplace too.

Problems and solutions of this bill:

IMHO, there are 3 major problems associated with the present version of the bill:

  1. Most important problem is that complaint can be lodged by only women. The word women should be changed to person to make it gender neutral.
  2. Next in case the complaint is found out to be false, the complainant may be punished, as per the bill. The word “may” should be changed to “shall” so that misuse can be prevented.
  3. At the end of the investigation, the conclusion / final report / other details are not to be published, and there are punishments in case it gets published. It is kept out from the ambit of RTI also. It should be changed so that the final report / conclusion / other details could be obtained by anyone, and it must come under the ambit of RTI. This would further prevent the misuse.

Once this is drafted and implemented in a gender neutral manner, and proper awareness is created for this, this bill should come as a great help for those who are subjected to harassment at workplace.

Salary to your wife ?

So now the new icing on the cake is a proposal for salary to your wife, for her contribution to the household works. This is the latest proposal from WCD, after getting success with Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill (SHWB), which got passed without any debate. With the recent declaration came from WCD minister, it well looks like Indian men today are waiting for another law, which according to their claim help in “Women Empowerment”.

So one thing is clear, even after 498A, DV Act, DP Act, 354, 376, 406, 494, 497, 506, SHWB, 5 different maintenance provisions, still WCD feels that all these laws are not competent enough for empowering our women hence another law. 😛

Now a days, we almost regularly get to hear that women are misusing the provisions of the  Dowry / Rape / molestation / maintenance laws, with mother of all being 498A, which according to NCRB statistics is 98 % misused. As a result of that, thousands innocent people (Men and women) are put into jail, loses social status and reputation, suffer financially, mentally and emotionally.

The new SHWB will easily be used by women employees (much like 498A used by so call ed wives) to seek hike / promotion / transfer, in short will be used as per their will. Reason being, this can only be initiated by a women, against a man / woman, and the accused have to prove his / her innocence. Plus if you (accused) succeed to prove your innocence, in that case the complainant can not be prosecuted further for lodging a false complaint (No punishment for false complaint) – those reports will not be available.

Still, WCD feels this is not enough for empowering our women, as a majority of our women happens to be housewives, so they need to empower them now. And how ? By ensuring the husband gives her a fixed monthly salary (10-20 % is going to be proposed). So she will be getting paid for doing the household works.  So immediately below points  / questions comes to my mind:

1. What will be the difference between a wife and a domestic help / servant? The work that she is doing, is not that her house also, did she charged her father for doing any household work prior marriage ? So if your wife is cooking food and you are eating it, you need to pay her, thought the ingredients coming from your money, she is also eating it. In essence, you are paying just because someone is preparing your food. Gosh! Why the hotels / restaurants are there ? Instead of a wife if you simply hire a domestic help / servant you can get all those jobs done. Plus the added benefit is that you do not need to fear about those matrimonial cases (498A, DV, DP, 406, 497, 494, 506, 125 etc.), though most probably SHWB is going to be there.

2. Apart from that, you would expect sexual pleasure from your wife. And for that till now you do not need to pay anything (I guess this is yet to be explored by WCD :)), but, you are risking all those matrimonial cases, again. On the other hand, you are free to use the alternatives that are available, enjoy and let it go. No matrimonial cases, no SHWB, nothing. Just you need to be a bit careful and bold to do so. Benefits, up to your imagination ! Downside, social breakdown.

3. Next thing that you can get / expect from your wife is a child. Ditto point 2, for this also you are risking all the matrimonial cases. As an alternative, you can either get a surrogate mother or you can simply adopt a child. Benefit, possibly everything you can think of. Max downside, you would be reduced to a single father. When the child grows up, you need to explain him / her about it. Plus social breakdown.

4. While your wife is in existence, you will have no option but to maintain her, apart from the salary you pay. That will include medical expenses, entertainment , holidays, daily fooding and clothing, jewellery, etc etc. If you do not marry, and use 1, 2 and 3 above carefully to your benefit and liking, you know what you get…

But all these has a severe downside in the long run. It would simply cause a social breakdown in our country. Why and how ? You might like to read this blog: Output of feminism.

As a husband, you are already providing for fooding, lodging, clothing, medical facilities, entertainment / recreation etc to your wife, as per your capability. As a wife, she is looking after the household choirs. This is a social balance, this is how things are going on. Now, if we want to account for the household work done by the wife, then we should also account for what the husband is already providing to wife. If the husband has to pay for what wife is doing, then wife should also be held liable to pay her husband for what she is getting from her husband.  We are making laws after laws for husbands responsibilities and liabilities towards wife, but why are we so reluctant to account for the responsibilities of the wife? Do we want to make marriage a liability and responsibility of the husband only?

All over the world, marriage is a bonding / emotional attachment where a parson bonds with another with the aim of spending the rest of their life together, powered by love, affection, strong feelings, trust and emotional attachment. The moment money factor comes in between, it would become a very fragile bond. It would become more of a professional bond rather than a personal and emotional one. Now, a marriage is looked as a sacred affair in India. It is already under a great threat thanks to these biased matrimonial laws. But now, if this new law is also made, the wife will simply feel that I am getting paid for what I am doing, why should I bother to do something extra if the need be ? Why should I compromise a penny if the need be? Why should I listen to anyone, no one can say anything to the wife, as long as she is doing all the work she is supposed to do? …… And what if even after getting her salary she stops doing all and if you dare to complain ? Its simple, be ready to face all the matrimonial cases.

For married women, we are very much vocal & clear about her rights. But what about her responsibilities, and what happens when she does not perform them ? As per present legal framework, there is nothing defied as her responsibilities, and hence no punishment / penalty for not doing so. Rather, if you, as a husband raise a question about it, be ready to face the consequences through matrimonial and other women specific laws. So in other words, as a married woman, it does not matter whether you perform any of your duties / responsibilities which are more of a social norm, but you have your rights and claims set up properly. You have rights to claim shared residence, maintenance / alimony, if IrBM is passed then 50 % of husbands property including ancestral properties at the drop of a pin (when the woman feels so).

Not only that, if the husband has to pay salary, then there should be a proper contract with terms and conditions.  there should be provisions for deductions for not doing her work, and a percentage should be fixed for each and every work that a wife is supposed to do. Not only that, it ideally should be linked and defined with the time of marriage, since in normal world, an experienced employee is getting higher payment due to his/her experience.

Another aspect that needs to be considered is the financial background of the family. Reason being, in a poor family, which somehow manages bare minimum amount to fulfill very basic daily needs like food and shelter, there this concept is a luxury. On the other hand, in case of a very rich family, mostly they have servants / maids to take care of most of the household work, including cooking. There, almost no activity is required to be performed by the wife. So, by the logic of WCD, they should not get salary, still the question remains families of which income group should come under this bracket? It is however easier to implement this logic in the middle class families where wives do some amount of work, and there are some balance left to pay off the wife, however this would considerably reduce the savings of the family.

Now, I am 100 % in support for offence redressal in case a married woman is subjected to any improper treatment / injustice. In India, still we have instances like beating / torturing of housewives, bride burning, in those cases all the persons involved should be severely punished, no second thought about that. But what if someone fakes it to fulfill some other interests? How do we stop the misuse of it ? Since past 20 years or so, we have been making ridiculous laws after laws and none of them were effective in addressing the problem it was created for. Rather those were misused left, right and center to harass more men and women also.

It reminds me of a folklore which I read as a kid of a shepherd boy, who everyday used to shout “Help, there’s a tiger eating my sheeps! Nearby villagers would come for his help, only to find they are fooled and the shepherd boy used to laugh thinking he was successful in fooling them. Then one day, actually a tiger attacked his sheeps, and this time, he actually shouted for help. But the villagers, who already had enough of his pranks, thought this as a prank and decided not to go out to help him. Result, all his sheeps were eaten by the tiger.” (Read it here). I feel, soon the same thing is going to happen with this “Women empowerment” but only at the cost of harassment of millions of men and women and wastage of billions of rupees.

Let us look at it this way, if this provision is made into a law, as a man once I am married, I start paying her salary / allowance. If somehow the relationship goes sour, I have to seek divorce and pay her maintenance / alimony. So, as a married man, it does not matter whether you are a good husband or not, you are penalized and as a married woman / wife, even if you are not a good wife, you are rewarded. Will it not going to put a big question mark on the very concept of marriage ?

IMHO, what WCD is missing here is that they are trying to buy love with money, putting a price tag on emotion, fixing a value for the trust and affection. Though I very much doubt how this is going to be successful, as IMHO, they day we will be able to buy love / affection / trust / emotional attachment etc, that will be last day of human civilization, as there will be no difference between a human and a machine; I wish (though I doubt very much) this succeeds else our country would become a very very unfavorable place for women. It would increase more female feticide, prostitution, etc as girls will find it very difficult to marry, parents of a girl will have sleepless nights to marry off his daughter. Reason being, I believe, we men are not fools, if we know how to earn money and amass a asset, we know how to protect it also. If you are bold enough, 4 points discussed above may interest you, and if you want a different path to follow, I feel better look up to Mr. Ratan Tata, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, APJ Abdul Kalam etc.