Sexual harassment is a grave issue that women have been facing ever since eras. In order to understand how severe and impinging it is, we first need to understand the sexualisation of women and girls. According to American psychological association (APA), sexualisation occurs “when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behaviour, to the exclusion of other characteristics; or when a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making.” sadly, sexual objectification of women often leads to women experiencing long term psychological problems. Also, sexual assault is an experience of trauma. Along with trauma shows up a sense of fear and helplessness in survivors.
For an instance, imagine the plight of a woman who is going to work and is being ogled at by strangers.
Furthermore, every day when we all flip through the columns of newspapers one can easily site several reports about sexual assault or abuse of women at the workplace, school, college, home, religious places etc. The statistics of sexual harassment worldwide are heart-wrenching.
There is numerous historical evidence of some of the oldest civilisations which prove the existence of ‘rape culture’ at that time too. There are mythological anecdotes where women are taken by Gods as punishment, pleasure or as a conquest. The tales of Greek and Roman mythology are sexist and misogynist to a deep extent. It is quite evident as the rape of women was a common theme throughout Greek mythology.
The chief Greek God is a part of many rape stories. He is believed to have ‘sexually violated’ several women.
Similarly, The Rape of the Sabine Women, also known as The Abduction of the Sabine
Women or the Kidnapping of the Sabine Women was an incident in Roman mythology in which the men of Rome committed a mass abduction of young women from the other cities in the region. It is often normalised as an integral step in Roman history.
Shockingly, even in the Bible, there are passages where Moses encourages soldiers to “take” the virgin daughters of the enemies as wives after killing them.
In Indian mythology, one can find out so many stories of sexual violence. The most popular among them is the story of Draupadi – considered the tragic heroine in the Hindu epic, Mahabharata As once her husband, Yudhisthira staked all his possessions and Draupadi in a gambling match. When he lost Draupadi in the game, she was humiliated by the Kauravas, Shakuni and Karna. When Dushasana tried to disrobe her, Krishna saved her.
Ahalya’s story is another one of the most known ones where Indra disguised himself as her husband Gautama, had sexual relations with her, for which both of them were cursed by Gautama when he found out.
All these mythological stories have a great role to play in exemplifying how rape culture works.
In India, the scenario of women suffering is devastating. India has become a hotspot for major human rights violation. Considering the fact that India is a dangerous place to be a woman. Facts clearly state that a woman/girl is raped in every 16 minutes. The sexual overdrive of the predators has put humanity to shame. It is deeply disturbing to witness a six
months old infant as well as a 100 yr old grandmother getting mercilessly. The increasing rate of child sexual exploitation in India is alarming. Children under the age of 16 are raped. Many cases don’t even get reported as the parents of the survivors feel anxious and fearful about being shamed in society. The social stigma attached to sexual abuse frequently leads to an increase in the rate of suicides. As society tends to believe in the misconception that a woman losses her dignity after getting raped. Survivors struggle with societal pressure.
Victim-blaming also plays a crucial role in a woman not reporting sexual assaults. Most of the times, people due to lack of awareness about sexual harassment often accuse women of being responsible for sexual abuse. Many times, they are assaulted by their own family members and their voices get silenced as the family tries to protect their reputation in society. So, the victim is told not to report the crime. Adding more to this, martial rapes are legal in India. It’s still legal for a husband to have sexual intercourse without her ‘consent’.
All things considered, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India
To ensure women’s safety at the workplace, this Act seeks to protect them from sexual harassment at their place of work.
On a side note, Several artists have produced art and literature pieces related to this social issue. Some of them are listed below
678, a film focusing on the sexual harassment of women in Egypt
Disgrace, a novel about a South African literature professor whose career is ruined after he has an affair with a student.
Hunters Moon, a novel by Karen Robards, deals with a female’s experience of sexual harassment in the workplace
“Sexual Harassment In The Workplace”, an instrumental minor-key blues song by Frank Zappa, from the album Guitar.
Spreading awareness about this thing can be helpful in preventing it. Education Programs at schools, colleges and workplaces can be effective. Children can be taught at home as well. Also, it’s the paramount need of the hour that the media should change the way it portrays women and girls. By becoming aware and spreading awareness among all we can tackle this.
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