Putting Men at ease with PoSH – adopting a gender neutral policy

By | Editor

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, commonly known as the ‘POSH’ Act, was enacted on 9th December 2013 to prevent, prohibit and redress acts of sexual harassment against women in workplaces.

The Act places a duty upon every employer to organize workshops, training sessions and awareness programs to sensitize employees with its provisions.

PoSH training has largely been ineffective in preventing sexual harassment at the work place.This ineffectiveness of PoSH training in reducing harassment at the workplace and change in sexist attitudes can be attributed to the fact that many organisations and leaders look at PoSH training being a mere compliance training rather than changing attitudes towards sexual harassment in the workplace.

To be effective, organisations must look at PoSH training beyond legal compliance to creating a culture of trust and safety.

However it is found that there has been a lot of anxiety around the fact that since women are afforded protection under the Act, there is bound to be serious misuse. Men fear that the Act will become an instrument to settle scores at the workplace. Many years on, those apprehensions still remain.

We have seen scores of MeToo cases some time back to the extent that it became a fad till the dust settledThe constant increase in the malicious PoSH complaints, has led many to believe that PoSH act has failed to serve the purpose of building a free society which adheres to the norms of right to equality. Some feel that the PoSH Act has added to the anti-male bias in society which sometimes leads to unnecessary naming & shaming of innocent men in case of malicious complaints. The social judgment and the name & shame culture have continued their rise and many innocent males have fallen victim to the humiliation caused by it.

At the same time, it is observed that employs carry social learning to the workplace unconsciously. Sometimes there are specific behavior which is acceptable in the society, but it is not acceptable at the workplace.

How then do we ensure that men are at ease with PoSH training and creating an environment at the workplace of equality, trust and safety. Here are some tips:

  1. Sensitize employees by ensuring adequate training to all its employees which must include dispelling of myths with respect to the Act, as well as help in gender sensitization, highlight rights, duties and responsibilities of every employee. 
  2. Well trained Internal Committee
  3. Neutral External Members on the Committee
  4. Innocent until proven guilty. Organisations & societies should refrain from naming & shaming at the drop of a hat and ensure that due principles of natural justice is adhered to before pronouncing someone guilty.
  5. For PoSH training to be effective, it must be geared towards bringing behavioral changes rather than mere legal compliance. Effective PoSH training should work towards making employees understand the subtleties and nuances of sexual harassment that might not be covered by the law. 
  6. There have been many debates among the critics of the PoSH law regarding its gender discriminatory nature. PoSH training should aim to treat all genders equitably and organization’s should consider gender neutral sexual harassment policies. Organisations need to look beyond the PoSH Act. While the PoSH Act explicitly protects women from acts of sexual harassment at the workplace, men in the workplace are also victims of sexual harassment. PoSH training will be effective only when it leads to an overall reduction in harassment in the workplace and not just harassment against one section (gender) of the workforce. Infosys, WIPRO are leading in this direction.

Don’t you think that the workplace will be a better place, if organizations treat all genders equally and adopt a gender neutral sexual harassment policy? Don’t you think its about time to UNGENDER ?

Originally published at Ramesh Ranjan’s Linkedin 

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