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What is Sexual Harassment?
- Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexually defined behaviour which can range from misbehaviour of an irritating nature to the most serious forms such as sexual abuse and assault, including rape.
- The Sexual Harassment of Women (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 defines sexual harassment to include any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by implication) namely:
- Physical contact and advances
- A demand or request for sexual favours
- Making sexually coloured remarks
- Showing pornography
- Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
What is sexual harassment at workplace?
Sexual harassment at the workplace is any unwelcome sexually defined behaviour which has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, abusive or offensive working environment.
The Sexual Harassment of Women (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 states that if the following circumstances occur or are present in relation to, or connected with any act or behaviour of sexual harassment, it may amount to sexual harassment at the workplace:
- Implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment in her employment; or
- Implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment; or
III. Implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status; or
- Interference with her work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment for her; or
- Humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety.
Taking a look at some important questions:
- Can an aggrieved file a civil suit in a case of sexual harassment in the workplace?
Yes, a civil suit can be filed for damages under tort laws. The basis for filing the case would be mental anguish, physical harassment, loss of income and employment caused by the sexual harassment.
- Under what circumstances can complaints be filed?
Complaints may be filed under the following circumstances:
- Cases involving individuals from the same organization
- Cases that concern third-party harassment, which implies harassment from an outsider.
- Where can I file a complaint?
- Internal Complaints Committee – if you are an aggrieved woman who has a relationship of work with that specific organization
- Local Complaints Committee – if you are an employee from an establishment where the Internal Complaints Committee has not been constituted due to having less than 10 workers. In the case that the complaint is against the employer himself/herself and the individual feels that the case may be compromised, she can also lodge the complaint in the LCC
- For instances where the LCC may not be immediately accessible, the Act instructs the District officer to designate one nodal officer in every block, taluka and tehsil in rural or tribal area and ward or municipality in the urban area, who will receive the complaint and forward it to the concerned LCC within 7 days.
- Local police station, in case provisions under the Indian Penal Code are applicable.
An Indian Context:
- India has signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
- In 1997 as part of the Vishaka judgment, the Supreme Court drew upon the CEDAW and laid down specific guidelines on the prevention of sexual harassment of women at the workplace.
- The Vishaka guidelines defined sexual harassment and codified preventive measures and redressal mechanisms to be undertaken by employers.
Currently in the News:
- Actor Tanushree Dutta’s had made allegations, in an interview in end-September, of harassment at the hands of actor Nana Patekar on a film set a decade ago.
- There has also been the recent development where at last count, Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar has been accused of sexual harassment by at least 10 women journalists. These accusations with respect to Nana Patekar fall in a large spectrum that range from inappropriate behaviour to acts of physical impropriety, while some date back to more than 15 years.
- In the immediate aftermath of this development, women have been speaking of their experiences and the trauma, mostly on Twitter and Facebook.
- The testimonies that have so far been expressed have mostly concerned the film world and the mainstream media, and cover both the workplace and private spaces.
- These testimonies range from stories of assault to propositioning, suggestiveness to stalking.
- Currently, in India, many questions arise. What is perhaps of even greater disquiet is that for so long an official silence was kept around what were, in many instances, open secrets.
Origins of the MeToo Movement:
- The MeToo hashtag gained currency a year ago in the U.S.
- In the U.S., women came out one after another to first corroborate allegations of sexual assault against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
- There were many allegations levelled and each further account made it clear that there was a systemic pattern of abuse and silence.
A Note on the Due Process:
- Experts believe that there has been an utter failure of due process.
- Unfortunately, victims have written formal complaints and have also tried to get their organisations to act, but they have mostly found themselves facing a system that prefers to be complicit with the perpetrators.
- A couple of cases further illustrate this:
- In the case of the former TERI chairman, R.K. Pachauri, for instance, despite the victim filing a police complaint and compelling the organisation to initiate an inquiry, he not only continued in TERI for another year but was publicly supported by the board members.
- There is another case of rape that one can sight against the former Editor of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal. In spite of being a “fast track” case, five years on, it has only seen a series of adjournments, with no sign of justice on the horizon.
It is important to note that these events, when added to the daily news cycle of multiple rapes, stalking, and harassment from all across the country, have resulted in victims of sexual crimes entirely losing faith in the justice system.
Experts believe that the failure of due process is the success of #MeToo. After decades of witnessing the impunity of the perpetrators, #MeToo is fuelled by an impunity of sorts of the ‘victims’.
Certain areas that need clarity:
- Currently the floodgates have been opened and various kinds of stories are getting expose. These stories range from awkward flirting to physical assault.
- One other factor that is dividing the discussion into two is the nature of consent.
- It is important to note that what needs consent is often a function of society. For example, many aspects of intersexual behaviour especially in the workplace that were acceptable 30 years ago, needless to say, are not tolerated any more.
- However, we observe that with the advent of smartphones and instant messaging, interpersonal behaviour and the definition of consent have undergone a major change in the last decade.
- Thus, stemming from this, it is imperative at this point to understand that consent is not static, but needs to be continuous and incremental.
- The degree and extent of the revelations over the last fortnight have revealed an ugly, festering side to our society.
- We find that social media became the multiplier and aggregator of voices.
- Over the past few weeks, we find that women are raging about how they thought they were lone victims, how they could not speak up for fear of inflicting familial ‘shame’, and how they feared benevolent ‘protection’ would mean confinement at home or being married off.
- Women are revealing how seniors and officials they complained to, reinforced fears- such as that of losing a job, losing face and loosing independence.
- Unfortunately, we find that women have been subjected to humiliation and harassment.
- It is felt that without this massive collation of narratives, single episodes would have remained isolated transgressions that could be defused.
There are certain negative trends also that have been associated with this movement. These are as follows:
- We observe that first-person accounts are dissolving into unverified lists.
- Fakes are jumping onto the bandwagon.
- People are urging disclosures, offering up their timelines almost like a panacea or certificate of courage. It is important to note that this is unwise because vulnerable women might be pressured to think it could be just that.
Further, while being cathartic, disclosures might not always help in either healing or closure, especially in low-profile cases.
- It is important to identify the exact transgression in the various cases that are being expressed, and to ensure that action is taken with due process.
- Further, it is important to note that no one can be deemed guilty only because he had been named and any punishment must be proportionate to the misdemeanour.
- It is also important to consider that many people, especially men, have raised concerns regarding false accusations. This remains valid, and there have been instances of this even in the last 10 days.
- No movement is perfect, and all battles have a certain amount of collateral damage.
- It is important that men be active allies in making the due process a fair and functional one in which all victims, including those of false allegations, can seek justice.
- It is imperative now that the building of a new, fair system that delivers brisk justice, critical to everyone’s interests is initiated.
- In conclusion, we should note that there has been a systemic disregard for making workplaces and common spaces free of harassment.
- What is disturbing is that a thread that binds so many allegations now coming out is that many women thought that their words and feelings would be dismissed, their careers would suffer, or their families would pull them back into the safety of home.
- It is this fear of making a complaint that needs to be overcome in all workspaces, not only the media and the film industry.
- All of society needs to internalise a new normal that protects a woman’s autonomy and her freedom from discrimination at the workplace.
- It is important to note that in the wake of this movement, not just workplaces but men and women will have to go back to the drawing board. For instance, how will we navigate desire? We are sexual beings, and desire is an undercurrent that ripples beneath many of our encounters. Further, desire cannot be moral-policed and judged by age, sex or marital status. Do we want the excision of all expression of sexual interest at workplaces? Or is it possible we will learn a language of trust where desire can be expressed and rejected/accepted without repercussions.
- In the case of men, it would mean subordinating desire to respect and learning that reciprocation is not a divine right. For women, it means learning to reject with confidence, learning how to deploy power.
- Further, it is important to point out that once the dust settles, substantial solutions are needed.
- Institutional responses must become quicker, wiser, and more robust, but behavioural changes are even more urgent.
- The problem is fundamentally one of socialisation.
- Men have to unlearn a lifetime of imbibed contempt for women.
- It must be pointed out that this can only be addressed by familial and social sensitisation that begins from infancy, creating a society that grants women equality and dignity by default.
- If today’s anger can begin that process, it will have been a success.
The Indo-Russia Dynamic:
Significance of the S-400 air defence system deal:
- Recently, India and Russia reached an agreement on the S-400 air defence system.
- This deal denotes India’s desire to deepen defence cooperation with Russia. It also denotes that India is prepared to do this despite U.S. warnings that the deal could attract sanctions.
- The fact that this deal comes just a month after India signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) for better interoperability with the U.S. military, is a sign that India will not be forced or even persuaded into putting all its eggs in one strategic basket.
- It is believed that more defence deals with Russia will make it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to give India a waiver from sanctions under CAATSA.
- It is also important to note that there exists a general perception that Indian and Russian perspectives today differ on key issues in India’s neighbourhood.
- This includes matters pertaining to Pakistan, Afghanistan and China, and also on India’s strategic linkages with the U.S., including on the Indo-Pacific.
- These issues would certainly have figured in the various meetings.
- Specifically, on Afghanistan, India has expressed support for the “Moscow format”.
- The Moscow format’s main objective is to facilitate the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan and secure peace in that country as soon as possible.
- In the “Moscow format”, Russia involves regional countries and major powers in an effort to draw the Taliban into negotiations with the Afghan leadership. The U.S. has boycotted the initiative of the Moscow format, and has initiated its own dialogue with the Taliban.
India-Russia (Points of Convergence):
- Between India and Russia, there are obvious opportunities for cooperation.
- Russia is natural resources-rich, and India, is resource-hungry.
- It is important to note that whether or not these natural resources are exploited would depend on how well India’s economic ministries, banks and business community understand the ground realities of doing business with Russia.
- It is important to note that even before CAATSA, there was confusion in India about sanctions against Russia.
- It is believed that both on CAATSA and on the U.S.’s proposed sanctions on Iran that go into force on November 4, 2018, India will need to make some tough decisions.
- Further, every potential India-Russia defence deal could be subjected to a determination on applicability of sanctions.
- Experts believe that imposing sanctions would hurt U.S. defence sales to India, which would defeat one of the principal objectives of the legislation. It is important to note that the India-U.S. strategic partnership is based on a strong mutuality of interests, but it was not intended to have the exclusivity of an alliance. India should not have to choose between one strategic partnership and another. The India-Russia dialogue should not get inextricably entangled in the India-U.S. dialogue.
- Currently, India’s relationships with big powers like the U.S., Russia, China and Europe are increasingly being complicated by their rivalries with each other, the country needs to follow its traditional policy of strategic autonomy, focussing on its own vital interests.
- In the India-Russia dynamic, the most important peg for the relationship continues to be defence purchases and technology. Currently, Russia is willing to share things that are not available from other sources — for example, submarine technologies.
- It was a very well-considered decision for India to go ahead with the S-400 deal, which is one of the most effective missile systems. It must be noted that this further cements our relationship as it is a long-term platform.
- In the Indo-Russia relationship, it is important to note that energy could have also been a more important part of the relationship. But, unfortunately, this has not really taken off.
- Apart from a few licences and explorations announced, not much has happened on the energy front.
- The bigger substance of the relationship between India and Russia is strategic. If India’s main challenge is going to be China and how it is reshaping the region and global landscape, then Russia will always be an important partner.
India-US (Post CAATSA)
- With reference to the India-US relationship, in light of the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act?), it is important to note that the U.S. hasn’t formally given India a waiver.
- However, experts believe that since India is a major purchaser of U.S. military hardware, and that purchases are expanding, the U.S. won’t want to undercut its relationship. Even if waivers come per transaction, it would make sense for the U.S. to waive sanctions.
- Currently, India is dealing with an unpredictable U.S. President, so we can’t be sure of anything, and the decision is in his hands, but if rational choices are being made, then it doesn’t help the U.S. to punish India for this purchase.
On the Iran Front
- With reference to oil purchases from Iran, experts believe that there could be a lower volume of purchases of oil from Iran, which may be enough to indicate to the U.S. that we take their concerns on board.
- From the experience of the last time there were sanctions on Iran oil purchases (2012-2013), the government had an option to circumvent these sanctions through a rupee-rial mechanism or through banks that don’t have exposure to the U.S.
- Experts believe that this mechanism can be adopted this time around too.
The India-China Dynamic
- It is important to note that there is an expanding asymmetry of power between China and India.
- Where India sees its interests undermined by Chinese actions it must react, but not necessarily provoke a situation of conflict. On the Tibet issue, it is important for us to remember that for decades we followed a certain formulaic policy.
- A departure from this policy came when the Narendra Modi government decided to invite [the Sikyong, the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile] Lobsang Sangay to the Prime Minister’s swearing-in and give the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang an official status, while the Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister referred to [the State’s] boundary with “Tibet, not China”.
- Thus, as a consequence, actions taken, by design or inadvertently, gave the impression that India was moving away from what had been our consistent policy.
- Currently, the government has returned to that old policy, because their policy was not sustainable, given the asymmetry.
- On the issue concerning Doklam, India’s agreement with China was limited to disengagement at the stand-off point.
- Thus, the Chinese have moved from what was a transient presence to a more permanent presence by the PLA. And on the road-building, they agreed to stop extending the road ahead to areas considered sensitive for India. Thus, here we see limited gains for India, but not insignificant ones
- Apart from the above points, it is important to note that at the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2007, China didn’t want to come out openly to oppose the nuclear waiver for India, but in 2016, they were proudly proclaiming that they blocked India’s NSG membership and there was unfortunately nothing that India could do about it.
- Even on areas of convergent interests like climate change, a decade ago China worked with India, even conceding the leadership on the climate change negotiations. At the Paris summit, in contrast, China dealt directly with the U.S. to strike a deal and didn’t consult India.
- So, the change is that China now benchmarks itself with the U.S., and doesn’t look to emerging countries as much. And, at the same time, the U.S. is very different too.
Issues concerning QUAD
- Even when the idea of Quad was first spoken about in 2005, India was cautious about the idea.
- India was cautious because she didn’t want to give the sense that she would be setting up a military alliance against China in the Indo-Pacific.
- The tsunami relief gave India a high naval profile as a country that showed a swift maritime response to the crisis, and the U.S. floated the idea of four democracies working together for a consultative forum.
- It is important to note that the Chinese objected even then.
- It is important to note that whether it is the U.S., China or Russia, each of these nations will try to push India in a direction it likes and it is for us to make our decision on how to balance these contrary pressures, and it is possible to do so.
- India will be an important component of the reshaping of the world, and we have room for manoeuvre and to expand our strategic space.
- It is important to note that India has faced these pulls and pressures all along, and India now has more economic and military power than in the past and can play a more strategic game. Thus, as a consequence, it makes no sense for the U.S. and the EU to isolate Russia in the long term, as China is likely to be the bigger challenge.
- It is also important to note a historical fact that whenever there is a rise in U.S.-China tensions, we have seen a lowering of tensions between India and China.
- Experts believe that the decision to sign the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) with the U.S., in September 2018 was a significant decision and means that India is not slowing down on its desire to strengthen its security relationship with the U.S
- In April this year, the Union government set up a Defence Planning Committee (DPC) to assist in the creation of national security strategy, international defence engagement strategy, roadmap
- Earlier this month, it also decided to revive the Strategic Policy Group (SPG) within the overall National Security Council (NSC) system
- The DPC aims to
- build a defence manufacturing ecosystem
- strategy to boost defence exports
- prioritize capability development plans
Security scenario in India
- India’s national security environment has steadily deteriorated since 2014
- Both the overall violence in Jammu and Kashmir and ceasefire violations on the Line of Control reached a 14-year high in 2017, a trend that refuses to subside in 2018
- There are far more attacks on security forces and security installations in J&K, and militant recruitments and violence against civilians in the State than at any time in the past decade-and-a-half
- The pressure from China is on the rise
- The surgical strikes hardly made any significant gains, and the Chinese forces (by all accounts including a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs) are back in the Doklam plateau with more force
- New Delhi’s neighbourhood policy continues to be in the doldrums and there is a clear absence of vision on how to balance, engage and work with the many great powers in the regional and the broader international scene
Lacunae in India’s defence structure
- India spends close to $50 billion annually on defence and yet there are serious concerns about the level of our defence preparedness
- India might be ill-equipped to fight the wars of the modern age
- There is a little conversation between the armed forces and the political class, and even lesser conversation among the various arms of the forces
- One of the most serious lacunas in our defence management is the absence of jointness in the Indian armed forces
- Our doctrines, command structures, force deployments and defence acquisition continue as though each arm is going to fight a future war on its own
China & Pakistan’s policy vis a vis India
- China has progressed a great deal in military jointmanship, and Pakistan is doing a lot better than India
- In India, talk of appointing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has all but died down
- Even the key post of military adviser in the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) remains vacant
- The NSC, which replicates the membership of the Cabinet Committee on Security, almost never meets under the new regime, and the National Security Advisory Board, initially set up by the Vajpayee government, to seek ‘outside expertise’ on strategic matters, is today a space for retired officials
- As a result, there is little fresh thinking within the government or perspective planning on the country’s national security or defence
Outcomes expected from SPG & DPC
- All that the SPG and DPC would achieve is to further bureaucratise the national security decision making and centralise all national security powers under the PMO
- Top-heavy systems hardly work well unless supported by a well-oiled institutional mechanism
Need of national vision on security
- Many of India’s national security inadequacies stem from the absence of a national security/defence vision
- Ideally, the country should have an overall national security document from which the various agencies and the arms of the armed forces draw their mandate and create their own respective and joint doctrines which would then translate into operational doctrines for tactical engagement
- In the absence of this, as is the case in India today, national strategy is broadly a function of ad hocism and personal preferences
Gandhi: A leader with a Global Cause
- Gandhi is a global figure who is rarely studied and analysed from a global perspective.
- As a global thinker with a trans-historical influence, Gandhi applied his experiments with truth and practice of non-violence, not only at an individual level but also in the process of the global affairs.
- Therefore, as in the case of means and ends, truth and non-violence were interchangeable entities beyond cultural borders and mental ghettos for Gandhi.
Gandhi’s Relevance in Global Politics
- According to Gandhi, non-violence in international politics was a matter of non-violent organization of the world bringing peace and inter-connectedness among cultures and civilizations.
- Gandhi was always concerned with cooperation among nations in terms of mutual understanding, empathetic friendship and non-violent partnership.
Cultural Harmony and Peaceful Co-existence
- The heart of Gandhi’s ethics of inter-connectedness and mutuality was to look within oneself, change oneself and then change the world.
- That is to say, at a more fundamental level, for Gandhi, cultures and nations were not isolated entities, because they all played a special role in the making of human history.
- Therefore, Gandhi rarely spoke in terms of a linear world history. His goal for every culture (including his own) was the same as his goal for every individual: to find the truth and establish peace.
- This was a way for him to open up the world to a harmonic exchange and a transformative dialogue among nations.
- Therefore, at a more philosophical level, Gandhi believed that every culture should learn from others.
Democratization of Cultural Pluralism
- Gandhi’s conception of “enlarged pluralism” took on the task of fostering togetherness and solidarity among cultures and traditions.
- It was in the interest of democratizing modernity and bringing about a more just global order.
Global success of Satyagraha
- Satyagraha turned into a global instrument of non-violent dissent against authoritarianism and a pragmatic tool of the powerless against the powerful.
- There have been several successful experiences of Satyagraha in the past 50 years.
- Many of Gandhi’s followers successfully launched their own Satyagraha against racial, religious and economic injustice and struggled for human rights.
- One could mention names like Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Benigno Aquino, Jr. and many others.
[I] Defying Religion and Ethnicity: Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan
- Gandhian non-violence was already invoked during his lifetime by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as the “Frontier Gandhi”.
- Few people know about Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan as a Muslim proponent of non-violence, who stressed the compatibility of Islam and Satyagraha.
- The recent history of non-violent action around the world has shown us clearly that Satyagraha is a seed that can grow and flourish in other cultures and religions rather than only in the Hindu society.
[II] Defying Racism: Martin Luther King, Jr
- Often labelled as the “American Gandhi”, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized Gandhi’s legacy of non-violence for the effectiveness of his own campaigns in areas such as integration and voting rights.
- He embraced Gandhi’s Satyagraha as a method of struggle for the emancipation of blacks in the US.
- Non-violent action was related to a permanent struggle in human nature between good and evil as per King.
- King adopted two principal tactics of non-cooperation and civil disobedience against racist laws in the US.
- For him, the practical consequence of the belief in Gandhian Satyagraha was an active application of the two concepts of love and community in terms of the concrete realities of black experience in America.
[III] Democratic Deliberations and Civic Participation: Nelson Mandela
- The Gandhian experience of non-violent action found its most authentic exemplification in the African continent with Nelson Mandela.
- Undoubtedly, Mandela’s imprint and influence on our world and times as a non-violent leader remain as powerful as that of Gandhi.
- His release after having served twenty-seven years in prison was celebrated as the triumph of empathetic truth and non-violence over injustice and repression.
- By practicing Gandhian non-violence in South African politics, Mandela became one of the key models for global Gandhism in the 21st century.
Mandela: the unparalleled Gandhi
- Mandel opined that in order to make peace with an enemy, one must work with that enemy, and that enemy becomes your partner.
- This is the clue to Mandela’s Gandhian moment, which puzzled thoughts in the black and in the white communities within South Africa
- Mandela strengthened the institutional bases of the Gandhian moment by engaging his moral capital in the direction of civic participation and democratic deliberation in South Africa.
[IV] Against Autocratic State: Arab Spring
- In the past 30 years, the world witnessed non-violent campaigns and movements in places such as Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, Myanmar, Iran, the Palestinian Territories, Egypt, and Tunisia.
- The non-violent democratic awakenings in West Asia from 2009 to 2012 demonstrated once again that Gandhian non-violence could help to provide the disobedient space that is needed.
- What united Tunisian and Egyptian citizens in their democratic uprisings was freedom from interference and a struggle against the concentration of arbitrary power.
- Their freedom meant putting an end to the unjust accumulation of power and to demand their governments to be based on public accountability and popular sovereignty.
- Though these non-violent social movements were not homogeneous, they provided the West Asian societies with a new Gandhian tool of struggle beyond the rule of political parties.
- In many countries, non-violent civic pressure has been used to fight colonialism and foreign occupation, advance women’s and minority rights, and improve transparency and good governance.
- Gandhian non-violence has been instrumental in political transitions from authoritarian or oppressive rule for many decades.
- Indeed, non-violent revolutions, characterized by civil society organization, mass mobilization, and negotiation, have revolutionized the very concept of revolution.
- Long gone are the days when the very concept of revolution was synonymous with violent struggle from below and armed efforts at state capture or overthrow.
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