There has been a whole lot of talk going on about sexual harassment throughout the world and people have rightly come out very strongly against the identified offenders.
Contrary to what some old-school folks might believe, sexual harassment isn’t limited to workplace. People have been encountering sexual harassment within families, public transport, diners, hang out places etc.
There is a very thin line between being friendly and becoming a sexual harasser. No one likes becoming uncomfortable and the lack of courage to stop the unwanted behavior towards themselves actually encourages the offender.
To understand what actually makes an activity as an act of sexual harassment, here are the top 5 things you should NEVER DO!
Staring and Giving Inappropriate Looks
Sexual harassment always begins with your eyes. Staring at someone is universally considered as a rude act. Why is starring rude and offensive? The only purpose of a sexual harasser while staring is to “check out” the body of the other person. How can this knowledge make someone feel comfortable?
At the same time, giving someone inappropriate looks without them noticing counts in the same line of offense. It is by all means an act which no one would welcome or encourage. This is exactly where sexual harassment begins.
If you really like someone, it is better to just speak with the person to get a “Yes” or “No” instead of making them feel uncomfortable and generally scared of your existence.
Touching someone you know/don’t know without their consent
No one likes being touched without their consent. We need to seriously understand the concept of “unwanted touching” and the integrity of someone else’s personal space, a.k.a the body.
Giving someone a high five or a hand shake with co-workers and friends is fine but here is the tricky part that most people either genuinely don’t consider or choose to ignore: putting your hand on the other person’s thigh, touching their back, putting your hand on their shoulder, hugging them without permission etc. are all acts of “unwanted touching.”
No matter how good a friend you are with someone, respect their privacy, intimacy and feelings. A person’s body is a very sacred object for them. Respect their respect for themselves!
Making Comments About Someone’s Body
Sexual harassment is obviously all about a person’s body and the offender’s interest in it. Doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, be very careful about complimenting someone.
Avoid giving compliments to colleagues unless they are about their work. Also be mindful that under Pakistani law (much like many other countries around the world) complimenting a colleague on his/her appearance and giving unwanted attention can very well be claimed as harassment.
And frankly, there’s no need to talk about someone’s body unless you are married to that person or if you are in a relationship and know for a fact that it wouldn’t be hurtful or discomforting for that person.
Not taking no for an answer
We all need to learn how to take NO for an answer. Pursuing someone you have interest in when they have clearly said NO to you will only result in them becoming very uncomfortable with you and will put you straight in the list of sexual harassers.
This includes incessant messaging on social media, unwelcome texting or face to face interaction.
If you have ever done that or are doing it right now, then stop immediately! And remember: NO MEANS NO!
Using your position of power and authority
This unfortunately happens quite commonly in work places across industries and professional sectors. Through the #Metoo and #TimesUp movements we have heard numerous stories of workplace harassment by bosses or co-workers.
This just goes to show the sadistic state of the offender’s mind where s/he has to stoop so low to actually make a subordinate uncomfortable and insecure.
It needs to be borne in mind that only unwelcome physical contact in such a case does not warrant sexual harassment but asking a subordinate to unnecessarily stay back late after work, texting or ringing them up for reasons not directly associated with work and asking them to accompany you to parties or social gatherings where they have no interest in going are just some of the examples of sexual harassment at workplaces.
Sexual harassment isn’t about gender. It isn’t necessarily from a man to a female. We are failing to accept the reality; sexual harassment is everywhere. Men and women are equally the victims.
We have shared some on the actions which makes one a sexual harasser. There are numerous other acts which are considered as sexual harassment and if you are facing any one of the offensive acts then please, don’t just ignore or stay quiet. Raise your voice, if you are at work facing sexual harassment. Go up to your superiors and save others as well, you may not be the only victim. If you are facing anything like this on the streets then take help from the people around you and the law enforcement authorities. If you are facing this issue at home from your extended family then inform your immediate family.
The only way to stop sexual harassers is to stand up against them. Silence is never the solution.
Our prayers to everyone out there. Stay safe!