Sexual Harassment and Domestic Violence: A Continuing Challenge to Equality?

Striving for equality and contributing towards the same in a significant manner has been of great interest to me. Fresh out of school, when I joined law school all I knew was that India is a patriarchal country following the system of plutocracy. I was unaware of the dire consequences of such a system until I joined my college. Or maybe I was aware but I actually never thought about it. However during the course of law school, having seen the detrimental impact of patriarchy upon women and plutocracy upon masses I felt the urge to fight against such discrimination and hence I started working with the eminents in the field of anti-discrimination of various kinds.

ALF, being the organization which works for providing the adequate rights to the marginalized sections of the society, I was keen to do an internship here. During the course of my internship, I saw how closely they work with the people from the lower strata of the society. After having done corporate internships, wherein the firms are competing to represent the wealthiest clients, this internship was a totally different experience and completely worth. The work that I enjoyed most was drafting a model code for addressing the issue of sexual harassment and domestic violence in collectives. Being an active member of Jindal Women and Law Society I was quite happy to do this work. While undertaking the research I became aware of how prevalent and apparent the instances sexual harassment at workplace is. In the absence of appropriate remedy women are forced to continue in their job while they are subjected to the trauma on a daily basis. If a woman is bold enough to raise her voice, rest assured she will lose her job. In addition to this she would be portrayed as a liar if the one whom she accused was her senior or a victim who is ostracized if it was committed by her colleague. Her own family would want hush the issue. No steps are taken to ensure that the accused is met with appropriate punishment. Due to these reasons women are often unwilling to come forward and report such issues. Developed countries like US/UK had long back recognized the need for addressing this issue. India with the implementation Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 has taken few initiatives in this direction. But only with the active participation of organizations like ALF will this be implemented instead of being mere paper rules brought into place to gag the mouth of the activists and I am extremely glad that I could be a part of it.

 

With respect to Domestic violence, like the majority I was of the impression that it always happens behind closed doors or within the four walls of the house. However while doing the research I realized that it extends even to workplace and the ideal remedy to combat such an issue is a collective action from the side of the colleagues and the employers. Involvement of such masses and powerful people will deter the perpetrators of such crime from committing it. However the strong notions of patriarchy which binds the Indian society is placing a huge constraint. I am extremely glad that organizations like ALF is actively addressing issues of this nature as it is high time to throw away the outdated notions of patriarchy and bring about equality just like in any other developed country. I am happy that through this internship I could contribute in some way towards the activities committed to eradication of such menaces.  Given the chance again, I would gladly take it up.

By Elizabeth Dominic, ALF Intern