“Fight this corruption too” 27 April 2011

It needs a terribly aggrieved woman to come forward and file a writ petition for justice. A harassed woman constable in Chennai filed public- interest litigation in the Madras high court, seeking justice against rampant sexual misconduct and abuse in the state police department at all levels including the thana, sub-divisional, district, range and chief police office levels in Tamil Nadu. The PIL prays for the implementation of the orders of the Supreme Court in the Vishaka case of 1977 and constitute a complaints committee to inquire into cases of sexual harassment at the workplace.

This writ petition, if what the lady constable alleges is true, should not only be an eye opener but a shake- up from their deep slumber of insensitivity, for all those who believe that the concept of sexual harassment at the workplace is a bogey coined by ‘feminist’ women for their selfish benefit; for those that believe that feminists are western influenced rabid male haters; that feminists are out to destroy the fabric of society; that feminists want to create a female dominated world; that feminists are family breakers; that feminists are horribly weird animals from an evil planet. The facts are otherwise for all to see. This recent writ petition tells a lot many stories about the reality pertaining to women. The next defence would typically be that the women ‘provoke’ the men for sexual harassment and that men are lured into misconduct.

A small but aggressive category of men are spreading wrong notions and beliefs about women who demand justice for their lives whether at the workplace or at home. Such men do not believe that women have the right to live with dignity. They do not believe that women are human beings with a sense of self respect and intelligence and that they are equal citizens in the eyes of the law. They do not believe that in spite of the constitutional equality women are a culturally disadvantaged group that has been oppressed for generations in their personal and social lives. These men are propagandist in nature and content spreading canard about any- body and every- body who will stand up for injustice against women. They only vindicate our conviction about the negative attitudes that men harbor about women in general. They help reinforce the age old belief about women being secondary citizens. But this article is not about them.

This is about women and for those women who have the courage to pick up cudgels against society and its guardians and demand justice and a right to live with dignity. The benefit of their struggle of course goes to all women although all women do not have the guts to speak out. As women’s numbers swell in the workforce the sexual harassment bill at the workplace has become a necessity. It is not a fancy piece of legislation to make a show of equality but a genuine need for all working women.

This current writ petition is truly a shocker- if the allegations prove true, that women legitimately working in the law enforcement agencies/ police are themselves victims of the department what should be the plight of women who go to the police stations to seek justice? What should be the plight of the general female public who come in contact with the police for this or that reason? The oppressive behavior of the police against its own female employees reflects their deep-rooted attitudes towards women.

Its time all this nonsense changed. If we call ourselves a civilized society everyone should be shocked by such petitions which reveal the truth. Each civilized and conscientious citizen should raise his/her voice against such blatant abuse against women and give women their place of honor. Each sensible woman should join in too and protest loudly against such harassment of working women. They should not leave the dirty work to a few gutsy women who risk it all to demand justice. Let it be a movement like the one against corruption. For this is also a very serious type of corruption- of the mind, of the attitudes, of the conscience and of your soul. It certainly needs to be cleansed with full force and vigor.

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