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Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) — we all claim to know what this is about, and so this is a niggling question in everyone’s mind. Why does the messaging have to be reinforced?
In actuality, POSH isn’t just a one-time affair. Why?
Let’s take a closer look at our own country India. It is a diverse nation with a slew of different cultures. Each has its peculiar mannerisms and beliefs. And as Jyoti Grover (credentials) aptly put it in a recent webinar for Kelp HR, we need to imbibe language sensitivity. What may be okay in one culture may be sexual harassment in another.
Cultural sensitivity is the bigger umbrella of language sensitivity. As our cultural nuances evolve, so do we and so does our awareness and our sense of propriety. Hence, the POSH messaging needs to evolve too.
What is POSH? Can you really answer this in a single sentence?
An innocuous WhatsApp joke, a lewd email, or even a verbal or physical gesture might be perceived as sexual harassment, yet it may not. We go by the thumb rule that the onus lies on the receiver. One can only be responsible enough to ensure their messaging isn’t hurtful. This is part of a larger cultural change; one that will begin from our homes and carry forward to our external connections. School children, who are the most vulnerable to be attacked, are educated about good and bad touch. While this is great, one needs to be mindful of how the message is delivered. Eventually, it all boils down to showing sensitivity to the recipient.
Workplaces in cities are pretty gender diverse and gender agnostic. Does this dilute POSH’s essential thrust?
Jyoti Grover, in her involvement with the Labour Court also shares how we, the white-collar office goers, are living in a gender-diverse bubble blissfully unaware of the lower echelons of the workforce. It is our blue-collar workforce that still lacks the awareness and the importance of a gender-diverse workforce. Hence, the key messaging needs to reach them in a simple and illustrative way, which has to be relatable.
When it’s genuine, it’s definitely not easy. What will make it easier to speak up for POSH?
If a woman were to raise a POSH issue, there are several thoughts that would crop up in her mind. Before and during the process. What if a man were to raise it, what would he undergo? Would anyone even believe he was harassed? These initial barriers have often led many redressals to not materialize at all. Punitha Sathyamurali (credentials) emphasizes that any organization needs to state in no lesser terms that POSH is the same for everyone regardless of their gender, designation, culture, et al. The first step to lodge a complaint is a company’s Internal Committee. This forum has the humongous responsibility of creating and maintaining faith in itself.
However, it is a dual responsibility. There is an onus on the complainants as well, to word their complaint in such a way that it reveals the true nature of the offense. These are stepping-stones towards getting justice.
The way Indian laws are worded, it would be easier to crack the Rubik’s cube.
Mr. Vasudevan Wishwanath (credentials) has a strong background in law and feels that instead of getting into the rigmarole of fighting a POSH battle, it’s better to nip it in the bud. Your workplace induction kit can have a separate section on POSH. Nowadays, we can even share micro-learning units via common social media platforms such as WhatsApp. People can complete their training on the go.
Our Indian law is the most exhaustive with regards to POSH. We have various forums such as the Labour Court as well as the Industrial Relations code that is bigger and more powerful. Even if your organization does not have an internal committee, one can always approach these forums. But ask your organization why it does not have an internal committee? That should be the first port of call.
Given that POSH is such a complex structure, we are all urged to keep this in mind before signing the dotted line. POSH is totally non-negotiable regardless of who you may be.
You lodged a POSH complaint, but then what happened? Did the errant get their due? Did they not? Or worse, were there ramifications in your personal and professional life? In an ideal world, and as we are fed in various parables, principles of natural justice would prevail. But does this always happen? Frankly, no. A habitual offender may need a long time to reform. They may never reform. You may have to fight for justice long and hard till it finally comes to you. But that should not dissuade you from raising your voice.
The webinar on POSH was an eye-opener and has changed my perspective and heightened my sensitivity toward the topic. I would encourage them to have many such sessions going forward.