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'Who will protect India's men from sexual harassment?'

Last updated on: September 4, 2012 18:32 IST

'Who will protect India's men from harassment?'

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Vicky Nanjappa

Men's rights organisations have come out strongly against the passing of the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment Bill in the Lok Sabha without any discussion.

Men's Rights Association, a non-governmental group involved in creating awareness about abuse of men, registered a strong protest against the proposed legislation.

On September 3, the Lok Sabha cleared the bill without any discussion.

In a statement, the rights group sought to know, "When over 35 countries have this law gender neutral, why is it anti-male only in India? Why is it being passed without any debate in Lok Sabha?"

"We feel that this proposed law will completely destroy the workplace harmony; will convert professional rivalries and jealousies into frivolous complaints and will become yet another source of extortion of a man's money; will motivate companies to stop hiring of female candidates; will put corporate honchos, bureaucrats, politicians and all male employees at the mercy of women who can simply use (read misuse) this law to cover their incompetence; will create further anti-male gender bias in the workplace and will contribute to more men committing suicides," it said.

The NGO claimed quoting data by the Union Home Ministry indicating that men committed suicides 4 times more than women in workplaces.

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Image: Images used for representational purposes
Photographs: Courtesy latinoman_2009/Photobucket

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'The govt never really intended to provide men a safe atmosphere to work'

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A brief background of the law:

This bill has been proposed in 2007 based on the judgment by the Supreme Court in the Vishakha and others vs Rajasthan case.

The Men's Rights Association had opposed it even at that point of time and the bill was finally sent to a parliamentary standing committee in 2010.

Men's rights activists deposed before the committee in 2011 and based on their representation, the committee recommended the central government to make the bill gender neutral and provide protection to men as well.

In May 2012, the cabinet approved the law without taking into consideration the recommendations made by the parliamentary standing committee.

The MRA states that 'this clearly exposes the double standards of the government and also brings forth the fact that sending it to the parliamentary committee was just eyewash and the government never really intended to provide men a safe atmosphere to work in office'.

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'Even Pakistan has gender neutral sexual harassment policies'

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India is an isolated country

According to the MRA, it is extremely surprising that when most of the countries are moving forward and coming up with gender neutral laws, India is moving back in time and is all set to pass an anti-male and a gender-biased law.

"This law is gender neutral in most of the countries where it is prevalent. According to a report on sexual harassment at the workplace by the United Nations Economic Commission of Europe, around 25 countries in and around Europe and Asia like Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden amd United Kingdom have policies for Sexual Harassment, are gender neutral."

"The US and most countries in ASEAN region also have gender neutral laws. Even neighbouring Pakistan has gender neutral sexual harassment policies."

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'The govt has no intention of studying sexual abuse of men'

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The Ministry of Women and Child Development ministry had on August 21, 2012 announced a study on sexual harassment faced by men. However, the ministry also said that the study was a matter of future and currently the law should be passed as it is.

According to the MRA, "The same ministry went on record to say that, 'protection of men is not their mandate' and now that they are facing opposition from some quarters of the government in getting this biased, anti-male and extortionary law passed; they have started to make hollow claims of promising to study harassment of men."

"Whereas, in reality, when they have already gone on record to say that it is not their mandate to protect men, it is very clear that their intention of studying sexual abuse of men is not at all bonafide and is subject to strong suspicion."

"This announcement is just a diversionary tactic from their side so that the law gets passed the way they want it and later the same can be used to extort and blackmail men at workplaces too," it added.

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Photographs: Courtesy Shutterstock

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Some common forms of harassment of men

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MRA activists say that contrary to popular belief, men do face sexual harassment at workplace and more often than not find unwanted feminine attention overwhelming and discomforting.

The activists listed some common forms of harassment that males face from their female colleagues in the workplace:

* Lewd remarks about the dressing sense of men

* Bold comments about physique and physical appearance of men

* Uncanny close approach by a female colleague towards a male colleague while trying to discuss some official matters

* Calling a male colleague inside a cabin and trying to talk personal matters with him in office hours

* Requesting a male colleague to stay back late at night and accompany or ask for a drop.

* Female colleagues wearing revealing clothes that make the professional atmosphere uncomfortable.

* Talking about sexual matters freely with a male colleague despite his discomfiture to the same and ignoring his warnings at times to not to discuss such matters with him.

* Asking out a male colleague.

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Tags: MRA

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'The society refuses to believe that men can be victims'

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According to the MRA, sexual harassment of men -- more often than not -- go unnoticed and unreported primarily because it is considered unmanly for men to complain of sexual harassment.

"The society refuses to believe that men can be victims of feminine sexual aggression.

Men are socially conditioned to accept welcoming and approaching gestures from females sportingly and in this process their own choices, aspirations and emotions are mercilessly trampled," MRA says.

"The society ridicules men who are uncomfortable in female company by giving them name tags such as boring, fag, sissy, geeky, nerdy, etc. Such social mindsets often force men to look happy in a female company and it also trivialises their concerns from a male sexuality perspective," it added.

"The new bill must be re-drafted by a neutral ministry like the Ministry of Law and Justice or the Human Resources Development ministry. The draft prepared by the WCD ministry must be discarded as a ministry that openly justifies its anti-male stance cannot be allowed trample the constitutional right of men, which entitles them to a safe working environment."

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Photographs: Courtesy screaming_monkey's Flickr

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