Legal Service Providers In Dhaka

1. Combating Sexual Harassment at workplaces: Bangladesh Trends and responses

1.     Introduction

Sexual harassment is an ugly truth of the business world. It can be described as the unfair power struggles between a working women and men. In broader sense Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. The legal definition of sexual harassment is undesirable verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is harsh or enveloping and affects working conditions and creates an unfriendly working environment. For many businesses, preventing sexual harassment, and protecting employees from sexual harassment charges, has become key goals of legal decision-making. As Bangladesh is developing country, Now-a-day, many new industries are established. Because of those industries, new jobs are created. For this reason, many people get these job opportunities. In the workplace, they have to face many problems but the most common thing they have to suffer is sexual harassment. It’s a curse for the women especially. Because of this problem many times they have to resign from the job.

This essay will illustrate about what is sexual harassment, types of sexual harassment, how to prevent sexual harassment in workplace and also Bangladesh trends and responses about sexual harassment.

2.     What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that can occur at work, school, and university or in social setting. Sexual harassment in the workplace is any form of annoying sexual attention that is, or that you find, disgusting, embarrassing or upsetting that occurs anywhere you carry out any task for your employment. Sexual harassment can be written, verbal or physical. Both males and females can be the victims of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can include:

Unwanted touching, grabbing or other physical contact

Comments that have sexual meanings

Asking for sex or sexual favors

Showing impolite and insulting material

Sexual gestures and body movement

Sexual jokes and comments

Questions about your sex life

Sex based abuse

Unlawful offences such as obscene phone calls and sexual attack

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, manager, or coworker. An employer may even be legally responsible for harassment by a nonemployee (such as a wholesaler or client), depending on the situation.

3.     Types of Sexual Harassment

There are two broad types of legally known way of committing sexual harassment. Those are:-

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment[1]

Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment[2]

3.1.          Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment:

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an employee is offered to be promoted in his/her job in exchange for sexual favors. The person who commits quid pro quo sexual harassment is a person with authority to manipulate the victim’s employment position like a supervisor, manager. An example would be if a manager proposes that an employee goes out with him on a date so often in exchange for retaining her post or be promoted. So, if an employee is made to believe that a promotion is likely if the employee goes on a date with the employee’s supervisor, the employee is probably being subjected to “quid pro quo.

3.2.          Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment:

Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when unwanted behavior of a sexual nature creates a frightening, threatening or insulting working environment or is so severe, continuous or persistent that it affects a person’s capability to contribute in or benefit from an action.  While a person engaging in harassing behavior most often has some form of authority or ability over the person being harassed, that is not always the case. The harasser can be a peer of the individual being harassed. Sometimes the harasser is harassing a person who has influence over them. For example, a supervisee can sexually harass a supervisor.

The sexual harassing behavior could be verbal, non-verbal, visual or physical. Example of a verbal harassing conduct is when one makes a sexual statement about an individual’s clothing, structure or looks. In cases of non-verbal sexually harassing behavior an example would be staring or dazzling at someone. Visual sexually harassing behavior on the other hand could be displaying sexually evocative calendars, photographs, posters or cartoons in the workplace. Physically harassing behavior is when someone gives a massage around the neck or shoulders and the sufferer did not ask for it and regards it as offensive.

The less physically threatening forms of sexually harassing behaviors are also the most frequently reported. These include the following forms of harassment. These include the following forms of harassment:-

Sexual Joking: Sometimes sexual harassment exists where the behavior is unwanted. It can be form of joking to someone which might be intolerable for him.

Sexist Words: Sometimes sexual harassment takes the form of words that are directed at females in general, including: calling a woman “doll,” “babe,” “sweetie,” or “honey”

Sexist Behavior: A harasser’s physical behavior may also contribute to a sexually harassing environment. Examples of sexually harassing conduct without words include:

Looking up and down an individual’s body

Staring at someone

Cornering a person or blocking a person’s path

Following the person

Pulling a person onto one’s lap

Deliberately standing too close to or combing against a person

Touching an individual’s outfits, hair, or body

Requests for Sex: This type of sexually harassing behavior typically occurs when a supervisor proposes or promises benefits, like a promotion or wage boost, if the victim engages in sexual activity. These requests include:

Asking a person to spend the night;

Asking a person to have an illegal affair; or,

Asking a person to have sex or to engage in sexual behavior.

Sexual Criminal Conduct: Less common, but more aggressive, sexually harassing behavior may include:

Threats of harm

Forced sexual touching

Attempted or accomplished sexual attack

All those form can be described as sexual harassment. If anyone committed any form of this than it will be judge as sexual harassment.

4.     Effect of Sexual Harassment

Effects of sexual harassment can differ depending on the individual, and the harshness and duration of the harassment. Some of the effects a sexual harassment sufferer can experience are:-

Decreased work performance

Increased absenteeism to stay away from harassment, or because of sickness from the pressure

Loss of trust in environments similar to where the harassment occurred

Loss of trust in the types of people that engage similar positions as the harasser or their colleagues

Loss of job and earnings

Increase the number of suicide

Having to transfer to another city, another job

Being objectified and embarrassed by scrutiny and gossip

Decreased job satisfaction

Decrease in success at meeting financial goals

Increase team conflict

Increased health care costs and sick pay costs because of the health penalty of harassment

5.     How to prevent Sexual Harassment in workplace

There are a number of steps that an organization can take to diminish the risk of sexual harassment taking place in our workplace. Although they may not be able to take all of the steps listed below but they should take as many of them as they can:-

Adopt a clear sexual harassment policy: In every organization, there should be a clear Anti-harassment policy. If the organization follow this policy and inform all the employees about that policy then there will be fewer chances for sexual harassment. That policy should include these following things-

Define sexual harassment[3]

State that you will discipline or fire because of any wrongdoers[4]

Set out a clear practice for filing sexual harassment complaints

A comprehensive outline of the complaint procedure employees should use

A clear understanding and strict rules concerning harassment of or by third parties like clients, customers

A clear statement that anyone found responsible of harassment after investigation will be subject to immediate and suitable disciplinary action

Train employees: At least once a year, conduct training sessions for employees. These sessions should teach employees what sexual harassment is; explain that employees have a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment. It will help them to improve their condition and also aware about sexual harassment which will keep them away from doing sexual harassment.

Train supervisors and managers: At least once a year, perform training sessions for supervisors and managers that are separate from the employee sessions. The sessions should educate the managers and supervisors about sexual harassment and explain how to deal with complaints. If they know what to do then it will be quite easy for them to do their job.

Zero tolerance policy: Organization should adopt a clear zero tolerance policy toward sexual harassment to prevent its occurrence in their workplace. State in no uncertain terms that anyone found guilty of sexual harassment will be terminated immediately, with no exceptions. It will make the employee aware about the situation of the organization and keep them away from doing wrong doing.

Monitor workplace: The organization should also have to monitor the workplace. They have to talk to every employee about conditions in the workplace. Ask them if they have seen any kinds of sexual harassment, and if they seen then take strict action to handle the situation properly. Keep the lines of communication open at all times to prevent sexual harassment from occurring.

It’s not always the organization’s responsibilities to take necessary actions. The government of Bangladesh also has to take necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment. At present, there are some law and punishment for sexual harassment. But, those laws and punishment are not implemented. For this reason, many times people get chance to break the law and committed sexual harassment. Because they know that if they committed any sexual harassment then there will be no punishment. As a result, most of the female employees are harassed. So, if strict laws are imposed and implemented then there will be big possibilities of reducing sexual harassment. And, the most important thing is creating awareness among people. If people are aware about sexual harassment then the harasser will think before act. The private firm like Brac, Asha and others can take necessary steps to create awareness among people. Our TV channel can also plays vital role in this matter. They can create TV commercials showing the consequences of sexual harassment and legitimate actions that going to applied. But the most important thing is changing our attitude.

6.     Conclusion

Sexual harassment continues to be an ongoing issue faced by women in the workplace of Bangladesh. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of sexual harassment claims made by men experiencing unwelcome advances in the workplace. Organizations are responsible for creating a safe work environment, free from sexual harassment. Employers are responsible for creating, distributing, training and enforcing company-wide anti-harassment policies, addressing zero tolerance for sexual harassment. Policy development is only the beginning. Enforcing these policies requires an assurance from the top, as well as all members of the organization in order to be successful. Taking necessary steps to enforce workplace policies concerning sexual harassment can decrease the aggression in workplace, save time, pressure and money, and result in less sexual harassment situations because employees know that all matters are taken seriously, consequences will be strict and sexual harassment will not be tolerated.


1)      Bingham, Clara, Gansler, Laura Leedy (2002) “Class Action: The Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law” New York, Anchor Books

2)      Koss, Mary P (1987) “Changed Lives: The Psychological Impact of Sexual Harassment.” in Paludi, Michele A. ed. Ivory Power: Sexual Harassment on Campus. Albany, NY, State University of New York Press

3)      Langelan, Martha (1993) “Back Off: How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers

4)      Patai, Daphne (1999) “Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism

5)      Roberts S., Barry Mann A., Richard- “Sexual Harassment In The Workplace: A PRIMER”

6)      Watson, Helen (1994) “Red herrings and mystifications: Conflicting perceptions of sexual harassment,” in Brant, Clare, and Too, Yun Lee, eds., Rethinking Sexual Harassment. Boulder, Colorado, Pluto Press

7)      Gallop, Jane (1997) “Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment” Duke University Press

8)      Mary L Boland (2005) “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace”

9)      Andrea, David (1996) “Sexual Harassment Awareness Training” McGraw-Hills

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[1] Sexual harassment occurs when it is declared or implied that an employment decision about an employee depends upon whether the employee submits to perform of a sexual nature

[2] Sexual Harassment which could be verbal, physical or visual forms of harassment, that are sexual in nature, sufficiently harsh, persistent and unwanted

[3] A definition of sexual harassment including both quid pro quo and hostile work environment giving examples

[4] An explanation of penalties (including termination) the employer will impose for substantiated sexual harassment conduct


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