Recognising sexual harassment

Sexual harassment could be difficult to identify due to prevailing and pervasive myths such as

  • 'decently dressed women are not sexually harassed',
  • 'women who object to sexual harassment are over-reacting',
  • 'women keep quiet when harassed because they like eve-teasing', 
  • and sexist attitudes such as 'provocatively dressed women ask to be sexually harassed and have no right to complain'.

The above instances are examples of further victimizing and traumatizing victims of sexual harassment. Attempts to influence/intimidate by linking professional advancement with sexual favours, or creating a hostile work environment through (for instance) sexually coloured conversations, letters, telephone calls and text messages, or making demeaning comments about women's roles in society are all cases of sexual harassment. In short, the definition of sexual harassment is broad enough to include all kinds of offensive, hostile, intimidating, humiliating and exploitative language, gestures and conduct.

Do's and Don't's

  • Don't feel a sense of shame. Tell the harasser very clearly that you find this behaviour offensive.
  • Don't ignore the harassment in the hope that it will stop on its own; come forward and complain.
  • Talk to somebody you trust about the harassment. It will not only give you strength, but also help others to come forward and complain.
  • Keep a detailed record of all incidents related to the sexual harassment. If you feel the need to register a formal complaint later, this record will be helpful.
  • Most importantly, the victim must never blame herself for the harassment.