Tejpal and sexual assault: What's the road ahead?

The reaction to the scandal involving Tehelka’s editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal has so far focused purely on punitive action. From the state machinery to society, the focus has been on ensuring justice for Tejpal's victim but once the dust settles it will perhaps be as important to note how such instances can be prevented in the future, and if they do take place how to tackle them.

The case of Tejpal could, as controversial Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal believes, affect the hiring of women on a larger scale since men could fear similar cases.

“I had feared that the new law could lead to a situation in which senior officials would avoid appointing women as their secretaries or assistants. This is happening. I have come across a number of top officials wary of appointing a woman to work under them," he was quoted as saying.

However, while Agarwal seems to have found a patriarchal route to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, it is hardly the most practical one in an age when more women are entering the workplace.

 Tejpal and sexual assault: Whats the road ahead?

The debate around the scandal surrounding Tejpal has largely revolved around punishing him. AFP

A long term solution would involve greater education about what constitutes sexual harassment and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Managing director of Biocon, points out it first requires a sea change in attitudes.

In an editorial in today’s Indian Express, she says this case offers us  the chance to sensitise the corporate world and Indian society about the need for mutual respect between men and women, particularly when they are employees and employers.

She says:

It is imperative that employers and employees understand the importance of a moral code of conduct that is key to building an equitable work environment, which offers equal opportunities to men and women. After all, we live in a time when technology has created an open society, where there should be no gender barriers.

According to her, it isn’t enough to talk merely of regulation and punishment of perpetrators of sexual harassment and instead support a culture that allows for greater understanding.

Read the complete Indian Express editorial here

Updated Date: Nov 29, 2013 14:10:12 IST