By Kritika Sharma, Amity Law School
This statement will probably be greeted with a generous amount of skepticism, I agree. However it is true none the less. With the number of rapes and cases of sexual harassment among other crimes against women on the rise it is only natural for our government to pass act after act in furtherance of its goal to provide a safe environment for the women in our country. However, who is going to protect the men? A lot of feminists out there would be quick to point out that, women’s rights are the priority as of now, and a lot of patriarchs not to mention chauvinists out there would scoff at this question, scornfully dismissing it by saying that the men can very well take care of themselves.
Recently, a woman professor at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM Indore) was fired for making false and baseless allegations of sexual harassment against a senior professor.
After years and years , courtesy the Vishaka Case (Bhanwari Devi) the State recognized the need for, and subsequently enacted, “The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention , Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013. This act seemed to be a hasty attempt at trying to rectify an intricately knitted epidemic of harassment of women all at once by granted unbelievably wide interpretations of terms connected to the same. For example the definition of an ‘aggrieved woman’ is so stated, “in relation to a workplace any age whether employed or not employed who alleges to have been subject to any kind of sexual harassment by the respondent.”Thus chances are that if she wishes to, a woman may walk out of an unsuccessful interview claiming to have been harassed sexually, and fall into the category of aggrieved woman. Now a committee formed to inquire into a matter of this kind would be more often than not inclined to rule in favor of the woman, not wanting to malign the company’s public image and goodwill. So odds are , the woman would walk away with a handsome amount while the employer, who in this particular instance was not to blame, would forever live with the stamp of having sexually harassed a prospective employee.
Now, do not get me wrong. I am not in the least bit trying to demean women or trying to portray them as deceitful or conniving. I am simply trying to point out an instance where a human being acted unscrupulously, which unfortunately tends to happen an awful lot in today’s world. It Is important thus that there are safeguards against these, provided to both men and women.
It has been ruled that the complainant shall be prosecuted for leveling false allegations of sexual harassment. This should be implemented in an independent, impartial and impeccably just manner. So that instead of simply acting as a deterrent to the average honest complainant, but instead actually does what it is supposed to do, and protects the male employees from false and baseless allegations. I agree the crimes against women are escalading to impalpable, appalling numbers, however locking up men indiscriminately is surely not the answer to all our grievances? We’re assuming all men rape, or harass women. And that every man accused of such harassment is guilty thereof. Isn’t this in direct contravention to the rights guaranteed by article 21.
So isn’t this just a half hearted attempt at appeasing the general public and diverting their attention from the apparent inability in fining a reasonable and effective solution.
This of course is one aspect. Another is, that given how we have already accepted that human beings, and not just men, in today’s world , have a tendency to act sans all scruples. Shouldn’t men be protected from sexual harassment at their workplaces as well? It is definitely about time we stop behaving like ostriches hiding our heads in the sand and break loose from the primitive notion that men don’t get sexually harassed or abused. The Criminal Amendment Act 2013 has already accepted this to a certain extent and is a step in the right direction. Isn’t it time that the safeguards against sexual harassment in workplaces be extended to men as well? It is about time we realize that we cannot grant one man the use of his fundamental right while taking the same away from another. Another such example is the Marriage Laws Amendment Bill which has created a great uproar. It is about time men stopped being victims of such malignant acts only because they belong to a species that has a long drawn out history of committing crimes against women. Even one wrongly convicted innocent equals a potentially fatal flaw in our system of dispensing justice. For how is it justice where a man or woman for that matter is kept behind bars, deprived of half if not fundamentally all his rights as a human being.
[highlight]So it is time we woke up and stopped taking these half baked stop gap measures and started working on a more permanent, sustainable and effective solution, ensuring true justice to all, men and women alike.[/highlight]