“When I was 38 I had a job as a computer programmer. I was the only woman in the office and was harassed until it was unbearable. I was fired after I came in one day and my eyes were red and swollen. I was fired for ‘the good of the company’. They proceeded to ruin my reputation with all the head hunters computer professionals use. I couldn’t get another job. I have been on liability ever since. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my right to work being taken away. I have been on anti-depressants for 20 years. When I had gone to a lawyer he told me either the truth comes out or they all stick together and lie. I knew no one would stand up for me. Of course my doctor said no one would treat someone this way and I must have perceived it wrong. Hence the disability. Enough to pay bills and nothing else. Forget going out to lunch with friends or to the movies or going to the gym. Everyday has a reminder of the horror I had to live through. Everytime I would like to do something and can’t because I haven’t any money. This has created a hatred inside of me that touches everyone I come in contact with much as I try to get rid of it. Hate and sadness are my constant companions, probably until the day I die. It is what it is.”
Preposterous….Is there anything worse that can describe this? Yes…One can use series of not-so-good words to describe this story of harassment of women at work. Harassment of women at work? What kind of expression is this? I thought these women were supposed to be independent economically and that makes a huge difference in the society as this was one of the major reasons as to why women were submissive for centuries. These are the women who are supposed to be “educated”, “aware of their rights”, there “fundamental and moral duties” and “the rules of the society”. But then how did the harassment came in? How can they be mistreated or abused at a place where one expects the culprits to be equally “educated”, “aware of there rights and the rights of the victims”, there “fundamental and moral duties” and “the rules of the society”? What keeps them quite?
Here comes another story….
As an American girl that grew up in the 60’s and 70’s I was encouraged and hopeful that equality for me and other women would become a reality in the USA. I did my school work, did my duty as a citizen, paid my taxes, kept a clean record, and worked at different types of male dominated jobs before joining the military. I thought certainly the military would have to treat me as an equal. That is another story in itself.After meeting and exceeding the requirements of the armed forces, I left the service with honor and awards. I then worked as a legal secretary and then returned to investigations which I have done for several years. I have kept my nose to the grindstone to try to earn the respect and compensation that is promised to those who work hard and pay their dues. I now find myself at 56 years of age struggling to pay the bills and continuing to be confronted with lack of respect and total disregard for my accomplishments and skills. I see my male co-workers who are less experienced and skilled living much higher lifestyles, enjoying respect, higher pay, and opportunities that are denied to me. They are able to provide for their families and put their children through college. While my son and I struggle to keep the lights on and food on the table. My boss’s company has less than 6 employees, so the laws against discrimination do not apply, and he knows it and keeps the company under 6 for that reason. I have run his company and supervised the other investigators for the past 16 years, and yet in his eyes I’ve never “graduated” beyond secretary status. He has turned me down for a raise for the past two years and threatens to fire me if I don’t stop “pressuring” him. The company has made more money each year than the last but he says he cannot “afford” to give me a raise, even though he just bought another new car. As punishment for asking for a raise, he says my wages are “capped”, that I will never receive another raise and if I don’t like it I can leave and he will find someone younger who he can pay half as much.
He is just like his conservative peers, a man who continually says “no” to equality, “no” to respect, and “no” to fair compensation. Even though he is my age, he has no clue that treating me as a second class citizen is wrong. He has not taken anything to heart these past 38 years, has no empathy, no appreciation, and is an elitist, judgmental, spoiled, withholding, greedy, oppressive snob.
The story clearly signifies that the stories of harassment go beyond borders. Infact, United States of America, the military block of the world, the most developed country has victims wherein culprits not only show disregard toward the female co-workers but are fickle minded towards there growth due to reasons that only they can answer, even though people all over the world know that treating anybody as a third class citizen is not allowed, neither morally, socially, economically, politically, nor religiously. There is an interesting fact that came across my research. In India, there is currently is no law against sexual harassment and abuse at work places. The Supreme Court (SC) of India laid down certain guidelines and norms for observance at all work places, in the public or private sector, which are required to be treated as the law under the Indian Constitution. Thus, it is enforceable until a suitable legislation is enacted by the Indian Parliament. A recent ruling by the Bombay High Court on a case of sexual harassment filed by a female employee of a private sector company against her male superior comes as an encouragement for women who been silent on the issue. Yet, there is no law under which women can seek complete redress and that makes it an absolute punishable offence. These women tolerate such kind of harassment only because they have families that demand their salaries. These women either lie in the category of widows who are deprived of the pensions that they are entitled to receive, or those who are forced at homes to supplement the household incomes, or those daughters who have neither fathers nor brothers in a fit condition to work. The maid in my home works as a servant only because her husband who basically runs a local ice-cream vendor, and spends all his money on gambling and boozing. Everytime I see her, I see a new bruise on her face or legs or arms. A woman in her neighbourhood does the same job in some other house as her husband wants her to pay for her stay in his house even though she is his wife and has a complete right over his property. She is ready to work anywhere and everywhere, just to meet with the requirements of her husband. Now it is very easy to exploit women as such.
Actually, I, wanted to write about the harassment of women at work but my research and some experience has left me wondering with two questions. Why? Why only the women form one of the most harassed species? Have we heard the same mishappenings with the males too? Very rarely, though cases about the same have been heard too. The next question is till when will this go on? So many organizations have been established all over the world that work explicitly for women and children, even the human rights commission has come up with certain rights for the women, so where do we lack? Why is the girl in the south and south east part of Asia judged on the basis of her fairness before her marriage? Why are her compulsions at home taken as an excuse for exploiting her at work?
How can a woman who is capable of being your mother, daughter, sister, wife, grandmother and a homemaker be harassed or abused? I saw “the bandit queen” lately, wherein the director has highlighted a quote written or said by Manu Smriti ages ago that says “women, cattle and dogs are meant to be beaten”!!! There is no denying that we have got used to following the various norms laid down by Manu centuries ago. As Tagore has said himself, that women are the ornaments of society, theft of a women is the most fatal of all thefts, thence this shall stop. But the situation is not as grim as it appears to be. In India women have started to realize their rights and their equal association with the worldly chores. I guess this is the reason as to why we have a Kalpana Chawla, a resident of a small town who was able to grip her feet in space, a Sunita Williams to participate in an aerospace project, a Sushma Swaraj to be the spokesperson of a party and Pratiba Patil who is the president of our country. These women can really help the fellow women to stand up for their rights through their awareness and bring them the light of hope for a better future. They can help each other by joining hands and working for each others forthcoming. One such effort is the reservation for women in the parliament that was introduced and is still in process for approval.