Sexual Harassment in workplace-Is ‘provocative dressing’ a causative factor?

Before you start tearing me apart,read the post till the end 🙂

My HRM professor ,in his study material provided to us,says :

It was in 1997 in Vishaka Vs. State of Rajasthan and others, that for the first time sexual harassment had been explicitly- legally defined as an unwelcome sexual gesture or behaviour whether directly or indirectly as

  • 1. Sexually coloured remarks
  • 2. Physical contact and advances
  • 3. Showing pornography
  • 4. A demand or request for sexual favours
  • 5. Any other unwelcome physical, verbal/non-verbal conduct being sexual in nature.

He says that “Body hugging and body revealing dresses” is one of the cause for sexual harassment in workplace.

He list the remedies for SHIW(Sexual Harassment in workplace)

  • Dress appropriately : Avoid skirts,see-through blouses,tight jeans and open shirt
  • Watch what you say -Don’t speak and joke as you (men) always had,while women are in the group
  • Watch your body language:Women should not toss their hair,stare straight into a man’s eyes ,glance sideways and then demurely dropping eyes,rub arms,smile ,touch a man and repeatedly cross ad uncross legs in front of men,because these will send a wrong signal to men about you.
  • Learn the message that females in the workplace are co-workers first,women second and never a sex-partner in the workplace
  • Ask a potential harasser,” how much you love your spouse?”
  • Display photos of your spouse and kids to the potential harasser
  • Know the risk of romance-can wreck the marriage and the career
  • Treat others the way you would like them to treat you.
  • Protect the secrecy of the identity of the victim
  • Restrict/prevent  circulation on obsence literatures,films ,photos etc…

The professor is a good person, a qualified teacher with more than one Phd’s and is working as a teacher since 20+years..While lecturing and during other sessions,I have always noticed that he speaks in favour of women and women empowerment and always urge us to make HR policies in favour of women employees,wherever we get employed in future..

That said,I initially wondered why he said that dressing is a factor of SHIW.And the third points makes me wonder and embarrassed wondering to how many have I already sent ‘that’ message. I initiated a discussion among students,my friends,who are enough and more academically qualified fellows.ALL of them,mainly women, shared the opinion that provocative dressing is a factor for SHIW. I wondered why I get the opposite view when the same discussion is conducted in blogworld.Why is it that real-world and virtual-world contradict each other?Who is pretending ? Is it the real-world-ers who pretend who agree with the normal norm of thinking ,even if they think otherwise,or is it the virtual-world-ers who hide their real mind and lie,in order to get along with the majority group,who think the progressive way? The difference is so huge,that in real-time discussion nobody disagrees that dress is a provocative factor,whereas,in e-world nobody agrees so. Its not just once,but again and again,that I have a feeling that one of the group is pretending or having closed-eyes to a real-life situation..So,there goes a poll,an anonymous poll. Go ahead and cast your choice.I am not bothered about ‘Who” but is bothered about “What”..Please cooperate.. Not a big deal of a question,but I would like to know how contradictory different group of people are..

p.s: Poll questions are not random-borne,but assimilated from some research studies,of which the detalis will be provided later(in case anybody is interested) 🙂

Good day to all.

Related reading :

Why/why not should women dress modestly/provocatively?

  1. I have a problem with the phrasing of the second poll:

    “Females need to realize …when they dress in a sexually oriented manner”

    Particularly the words “Need to realize”. I admit, it would be good for women to know the risks in an objective manner. But by saying “Need to realize”, it implies that the onus for action is on women to modify and pay attention to the way they dress.

    A different way (and I feel the correct one) of phrasing the question would be: “Men need to realize that a woman’s dress isn’t an indication of promiscuity or personality”. This way, the focus is squarely on the perpetrators to change their behavior and not on the victims.

      • Nimmy
      • March 25th, 2010

      🙂 That line was directly copy-pasted from a research report and hence I didn’t tamper with it,though I have my own thoughts in the regard. It is her,the author’s point of we are obliged to follow it. Exactly as you said,it depends on how the receiver perceives it,the statement.But as you said,the sentence is formulated such that ,the implied meaning is that “women need realize” and “women need take care”

    • That’s very well put by Bhagwad Nimmy.

  2. We talk more here, against this because we want it translated to real life, the guts to wear what we want.

    To say it honestly, I don’t agree that we initiate sexual harrasment. How we dress is our business… BUT, the men we work with are assholes. simply put. Even fully covered they will stare at a woman’s breasts instead of her eyes while talking.
    I have had this problem more than once and the first time while I avoided the guy, reading more and more about it and discussing it here in the blog-world gave me the courage to tell the other guy to look at my eyes and if I catch his eyes roving around me – I will complain to the HR.
    He stopped for a while and started again, this time – I had the guts to walk down to the HR and tell her. He was warned. and now he has stopped. whatever I wear, I am not looked at anymore.

    This is true Nimmy – while I say and agree that in a country like ours, especially while using public transport – it’s wiser and safer to be “decently” dressed.
    We need more awreness and we need respect. When we have the respect, the molesting and the sexual harrassment will stop.
    This will happen only when we raise a voice, fight for our rights and surge ahead.

    I am proud to say that I use public transport very regularly and haven’t had problems in years! (touchwood)
    I also have fought, bad mouthed and almost hit a guy for trying to get close to me in public…

    But, one thing I did find out – the crossing and uncrossing of a leg, rubbing of arms – are indications that a person is interested in the oposite person – be it a man or a woman. The same rules apply.

    The laws are changing… the people are changing – we need to fight, raise a voice. Most often that not, once they know we are strong enough to defend ourselves, they back off.

    Very though provoking post! I’m stopping now before this looong comment turns into a post!

    • Err… its “thought provoking post”… 😀

      Very well written Nims 🙂

    • This is true Nimmy – while I say and agree that in a country like ours, especially while using public transport – it’s wiser and safer to be “decently” dressed – I think u hv a point there. I do agree that men stare @ us irrespective of what we wear, but still its easier to be dressed the way we like in other countries. While @ a beach in Indonesia recently, I felt so free dressing the way I want bcoz no one there bothers what anyone else is doing/ wearing. Nose poking is one of the main problems here 😛

      • Ron
      • March 27th, 2010

      “How we dress is our business… BUT, the men we work with are assholes. simply put.”

      Right about the second part.
      Wrong about the first one.

      In offices one has to dress professionally. You cannot wear anything u like.


      • Very right Ron! 🙂
        I agree… at work we dress as per the norms, the position we hold etc etc
        But, even when you are completely covered (let’s say a suit), men/boys stare.
        Of course they are not the only ones around, we work with some amazing men as well…

    • Munish Gupta
    • March 26th, 2010

    If a woman’s dress gives a man a right to sexually harass her, I just wonder what would be happening at the nude beaches around the world.

    • It seems the privilege to be excused for misbehavior because of the way another person dresses is reserved for men from some places. Men in bigger cities and cosmopolitan cities and city malls and multiplexes do not get provoked?

      I think the biggest factor here is the culprit knowing he can get away with his crime. So in a crowded bus such men feel safer, they also feel safer in abusing younger girls, or those who look scared (No matter how well they are covered).

      If they know the victim would be blamed for their behaviour, they get provoked very fast.

    • HHa
    • March 26th, 2010

    I have been working in the US for over 20 years (originally from India). In the US they have strict rules about clothes that can be worn in the workplace.

    I have NEVER seen any woman dress provocatively anywhere in the US in the workplace. They only wear provocative dresses in parties and at restaurants. No life in US is NOT like Hollywood movies. US is an extremely religious and conservative country (believe it or not). Within a 5 mile radius of my house there are at least 10 churches of various denominations. The US President always mentions God in any major speech (like the State of the Union Address). Rules for dressing in church are even more strict and conservative than the workplace.

    The only difference is that they know how to use words in the English language smartly. They never say “don’t wear provocative dress”. They say “Please dress PROFESSIONALLY”.

    In schools though girls of certain ages wear extremely provocative dresses (because they have no school uniforms by law in Public schools (govt owned schools that are free like municipla schools in India). US also has among the highest levels of teen pregnancies in the world.

    The resson I mention the US is because the current corporate culture in India is from the US. Previously it was from Britain (I do not know how it is in Britain since I have never worked there).

  3. I cant see any poll here 😦

  4. Just a incident of today’s morning bus commute; I was wearing a sleeveless top and my mangalsutra was clearly showing from the round neckline.. Despite that, I had 2 men “accidentally” brushing their palm/hands brushing against my bare upper arm.. and when I stared at them questioningly, all I got a murmuring sorry!!! Clearly, my ‘mangalsutra’, didn’t prevent the repressed desire; how can one think that being a deaf-dumb-talibani doll at a workplace will prevent sexual harassment!!

    Now a days, when the entire Pune girls are covered with head to toe in Scarves/flimsy coats and socks, the more bolder one like me, who like don’t believe in scarves and like the cool breeze in my sleeveless, have to bear the brunt of the glares/stares which just don’t get any fodder for their desires!! 😉

  5. Ah!, its the same top, I am wearing in my gravatar, I am wearing today!!

  6. I have voted and I tend to agree with the real life people.

    • Uzza
    • March 27th, 2010

    Agree completely with Bhagwad and Pixie both.

    Animals are controlled by their instincts: see food = take food; sexual arousal = attempt to mate. What makes humans different is that they are able to control those instincts. A harasser does not exercise this self control, instead he behaves as an animal. Or at best a small child.

    A “man” can and does control his urges. When I see a woman naked or some sexually arousing sight it triggers my animal instincts just as it would for a dog or a monkey, but I also see another individual human, equal to me, with the same rights as me, who desires to be treated the way I would want to be treated. Because I am an adult human being and not a weakling, dog, or monkey, I control those animal urges and treat her with the respect I want for myself.

    Adult women do not need to be told how to dress themselves, immature little boys who misbehave need to be corrected.

  7. I commented about the same in many others blog many times.But most of the time it was moderated\deleted :D…But no issues 🙂 …. I agree with real life people because it is a fact……I will say men or women, we should dress according to the occasion……..I don’t have much to say about it because i believe everyone knows the fact …..

    • Ron
    • June 28th, 2010

    Men are naturally aroused by women, and can be very aroused by a woman in a sleeveless dress or just a little leg and a high heel, or glimpsing a woman’s figure. They need to respect women by controlling their actions. They can feel the arousal, but realize the effect their actions have on a woman. They need to learn to live with the sexual frustration, or use it to be a gentleman, to win a woman. I had a boss at work who was a married 35 year old woman, who wore summer blouses and skirts and high heels, very sensual but professional, too. We had to work in close proximity, but I had to control myself to not stare, even though it was hard, and to concentrate on my work when working with her. With practice, men can learn to control these storn urges, not making them go away, but learning to live with the frustration, and appreciate the aspects of the women around them like their intelligence and personality. It can be hard and embarrassing when young, as I was only 22, but it is necessary training.

    • Amber
    • July 5th, 2010

    Ron is right, men are going to be aroused by women no matter what they wear. But women should realize that too. A woman shouldn’t get upset by a man finding her attractive, but women should dress professionally at work. No school uniforms at work.

    • rameshraju
    • April 26th, 2012

    Indian girls should realize what they are dressing. Dressing sense should please the second person. It should bring respect. A couple of weeks back, I have seen a girl in Hyderabad provocatively walking in Short pant and low neck banyan. I am afriad that some guy will catch her. Its pity that all though women are progressing at good heights, they are loosing respect on the other hand in dressing issue.

    • Ross
    • August 18th, 2012

    Im a man and I definitely would find it quite distracting in the workplace if my female co workers were wearing tight skimpy and low cut tops, push up bras and short skirts. Ive heard that in the last decade or so its become far more common nowadays for women to dress more revealingly in the workplace or in college- women have more freedom and more choice to dress this way at work and other places and the fashion nowadays is on dressing in a more feminine, chic, stylish way at work- a woman can look a bit sexy even in a modern tailored business suit which tend to flatter rather than cover up her curves.
    In the last decade there has been a dramatic increase in women showing their cleavage in work and in many places – you even have the term now “Office Cleavage” – and as a man I would find cleavage tantalising and a distraction at work. Believe you me I dont resent women who dress revealingly or in a titilating way in the workplace because – and the ladies can correct me on this – apparently they do not realise the true effect it has on men. and also the fashion and clothes in the stores is more sexy nowadays- women have told me that business tops are often low cut and tight and skimpy- is that correct.


  1. April 25th, 2010

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