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Recently, an airhostess with Air India accused the pilot as well as co-pilot of sexually harassing her aboard the aircraft. According to her report, the two had allegedly molested her mid-air. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, authorities in Air India chargesheeted the airhostess for insubordination, talking to the media and tarnishing the image of the airline!

We don't know what exactly happened, but we know one thing – dealing with sexual harassment can't be easy. Of course, that doesn't mean we ignore it or suck it up just because of the shame or controversy associated with it.

Here's how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace, the right way so you don't land yourself in trouble.

Are you a victim?

The first step to doing something about it is to recognise it exists. You don't necessarily have to be physically assaulted before you realise you have been sexually harassed.

Indian law now cites sexual harassment as a violation of human rights.

The case of Vishaka Vs. State of Rajasthan in 1997 established sexual harassment as illegal. According to the Vishaka Guidelines and Sections 294, 354 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code, sexually harassment includes the following:

a) Physical contact and advances;
b) A demand or request for sexual favours;
c) Sexually coloured remarks;
d) Showing pornography;
e) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature

So while your boss wanting to sleep with you in exchange for a promotion may seem like a clear ase of sexual harassment, even gestures or comments; for instance a colleague who keeps passing lewd comments every time he passes you, amounts to the same.

If you have faced any of the above and do not consent to it, you can and should file a case against the deviant.

What to do?

Don't tolerate
Sometimes we are so used to being groped in trains, that a colleague who casts lecherous glances every other day seems like no biggie. But you shouldn't have to take that, not in your workplace or anywhere else. Stand up to him and show your displeasure towards any advance he makes. This might help nip him in the bud before it's too late.

Complain to authorities
Of course, it's not always that the creep will take you seriously. But don't cower in fear. Go ahead and report him to the senior management. You can even file a formal complaint if your company has an anti-sexual harassment policy.

Approach the law
There are times when the management ignores such cases due to their own vested interests. Either the perpetrator of the crime is in a senior position and they do not want to upset the status quo or they don't want to accept something like that has happened in their organisation. If the harassment continues and the authorities do nothing about it, you must approach the law.

File a criminal case in the metropolitan court. But first:

1) Be ready to stand your ground if the company advises you against it. After all, they do not want a bad name.
2) Remember to keep all records of any improper behaviour – photographs, emails, text messages, letters etc. as proof
3) Having a witness strengthens your case. So if you have a colleague in the office who has witnessed any form of sexual harassment committed against you, their testimony would be good. 4) If you have been physically assaulted, get a medical check up done immediately. Such evidence is concrete proof in the court of law.

Have you been able to stand up to sexual harassment in your workplace or elsewhere? Share your experiences with us by posting a comment below.

(With inputs from Rajesh Sangani, Advocate and Attorney who specialises in criminal law)

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