By- Dr. Jyoti Yadav (Assistant Professor of Law) & Shrish Kumar Singh, LL.M. Scholar, Amity Law School, Amity University Lucknow Campus.


This research paper investigates the concept of empowerment as a multifaceted approach to combat sexual harassment in organizational settings. Through a comprehensive analysis of existing literature, legal frameworks, and case studies, this paper elucidates the intricate dynamics of power, gender, and workplace culture contributing to sexual harassment incidents. Key themes explored include the psychological impacts of harassment, barriers to reporting, and the role of organizational policies and leadership in fostering a safe and inclusive work environment. Furthermore, the paper delves into various empowerment strategies tailored to empower women, such as education and awareness programs, support networks, mentorship initiatives, and advocacy for policy reforms.

Keywords: empowerment, sexual harassment, workplace, gender equality, women's rights.


It seems that the term ‘sexual harassment’ came to be used in the public media only from the year 1975 onwards. Till then no term existed to describe what is now universally called ―sexual harassment, though the phenomenon itself was well known to women.

The term sexual harassment "in a legal sense" seems to have been first coined in the United States of America and subsequently "exported" from there to other industrialized countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and a number of countries in Western Europe.3 These other countries had their first brush with the term sexual harassment in "a formal legal sense" only in the 1980s or at the beginning of the 1990s. The term sexual harassment "as a legal concept" which gained meaningful application in the United States in the mid 1970’s when the US courts held it to be a main form of sex discrimination prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In India, the term ‘sexual harassment’ firstly was defined in a formal legal sense in the year 1997 by the Supreme Court in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan. Other terms used to describe this malady are ‘unwanted intimacy’ in the Netherlands, ‘sexual molestation’ in Italy, ‘sexual blackmail’ in France and ‘sexual solicitation’ in some states of Canada like Ontario and Newfoundland. 

In Malay, words like ‘gatal’ or ‘miang’ (literally meaning ‘itchy’) are employed to describe the phenomenon. Many reports on the working conditions of women also refer to ‘lie down or lay off practices. However, it is the term ‘sexual harassment’ that has acquired the largest acceptance as it more fully denotes the malady than the other terms. 

‘Sexual harassment’ may take diverse and varied forms. It is not limited to demands for sexual favors which are made under threats of adverse job consequences should the recipient refuse to comply with such demands. Victims of sexual harassment are not needed to establish that they were not hired, were denied a promotion or were dismissed from service as a result of their refusal to participate, in sexual activity. This form of harassment, in which where the victim suffers concrete economic loss for failing to submit to sexual demands, is simply one manifestation of sexual harassment, albeit a particularly blatant and ugly one. Sexual harassment also encompasses situations in which sexual demands which are foisted upon unwilling employees or in which employees must endure sexual groping, propositions, and inappropriate comments, but where no tangible economic rewards are attached to involvement in the behavior. Sexual harassment may be subtle and may even involve what would otherwise will constitute normal sexual or social activity. Conduct constituting sexual harassment encompasses both the physical and the psychological form, Milder forms of sexual harassment include verbal innuendos and affectionate gestures that are inappropriate in the circumstances, repeated social invitations for dinner or drinks, or unwelcome flirting where the implicit message is that sexual favors are anticipated or expected. Normal sexual or social activity may become sexual harassment where the power differential exists between the parties. In most of the cases of sexual harassment the perpetrator is a person in a position of authority who abuses that power, both economically and sexually. 

Generally speaking, sexual harassment is “behavior with a sexual connotation that is abusive, injurious and unwelcome”. For the victim, sexual harassment has direct consequences for the maintenance or improvement of his or her living conditions and places him or her in an atmosphere of intimidation, humiliation or hostility. 

Why sexual harassment needs to be combated? 

Sexual harassment in the workplace attacks the dignity and self-respect of the victim both as an employee and as a human being. Therefore, addressing the issue of sexual harassment is directly linked to the core concerns of improved working conditions and respect for the dignity of workers. "Those who have experienced sexual harassment", says an ILO publication, "know that sexual harassment is deeply humiliating and demeaning activity, in fact, the victim often avoids taking action against the harasser, not only for fear of reprisal but also so as not to have to remember and relive the incident or incidents again and again." However, the negative effects of sexual harassment are not confined to the individual alone. Research clearly shows that workplaces in which sexual harassment is allowed to occur tend to have sharply falling productivity. Therefore, "the reasons for eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace are... both human and economic."

‘There are several good reasons", says the ILO, "why employers are taking action to prevent sexual harassment". "Legal compliance", "business morality and ethics", "desire to create a working environment which is conducive to the personal development and high level performance of their employees", litigation costs, desire to protect the company’s image (as the incidence of sexual harassment may have adverse consequences by tarnishing the company image as well as denting the morale, loyalty and productivity of the workforce), and reducing the health costs and absenteeism of victims suffering from stress caused by sexual harassment are some of the main reasons cited by the ILO in this regard. Another important reason cited by the ILO survey (supra) is "changing company structure". As the number of female customers or client increases, it becomes more important for the employer to develop a ‘gender sensitive image’.