It seems women are not safe anywhere, not even in their own office space. In a shocking incident, a Delhi-based lawyer has alleged rape by a senior advocate at his chamber in South Delhi’s Saket court. The incident reportedly occurred on the night of July 14.

The senior advocate, in an inebriated state, reportedly forced himself upon her in his chamber, located in the same complex where she works, DCP (south) Romil Baaniya said.

A judicial space is considered one of the safest places. To sexually assault a woman in such a space is shocking, to say the least.

Despite stringent rape laws, Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act 2013 (POSH Act), the accused advocate — in his 50s — did not flinch from committing the crime.

However, advocates of inclusion and sexual harassment at workplace say that the legal space should not be differentiated from any other industry when it comes to women’s issues.

Legal workplace just like any other

Pallavi Pareek, founder of Ungender who handles issues of sexual harassment at workplace, spoke to SheThePeople.TV about the case. She said, “It is definitely alarming and disturbing when one sees and hears of such incidents from this industry. However, instead of showing surprise, we need to look at these places like any other — with power dynamics at play, gender ratio imbalance, glass ceiling and patriarchy defining the norms.”

“The main problem in today’s time amongst the legal industry is the same as any other industry — denial of the imbalance which further defines rules of the industry. Similar issues of women not speaking about these things openly (until such extreme incidents happen) are letting the industry members believe in the absence of these human tendencies at these workplaces.”

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Sarika Bhattacharya, who runs Beyond Diversity Foundation which leads the discourse around inclusion and diversity at the workplace, agrees with Pareek. “Workplace sexual harassment can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone – there is no exemption with respect to place or person. Whether it’s in a place of worship or education or judiciary in this case, we have seen them all. It’s all about power and how it is misused,” she told SheThePeople.TV.

The question to ask the legal industry right now is how well they themselves are adopting these important pieces of guidelines and contributing towards prevention of such misconducts. Are they ready to take advice on their own legal compliances? Who is watching them as they violate these compliance guidelines and letting such incidents happen?

Legal industry implementing safety guidelines?

Pareek said that while the Vishakha committee is no longer relevant, POSH is significantly impactful with proper implementation. More women are now speaking up about cases of harassment and concerns with management at workplace. “In cases with proper implementation of the POSH Act, 2013, the Committees are having a huge impact.  We can witness more and more women bringing out even the smallest of concerns to the management from their day-to-day experiences. While it keeps the committee members occupied in tackling small issues, it is a positive sign that the system — as intended under this Act — is acting as a trigger to initiate these conversations at workplaces.”

The question to ask the legal industry right now is how well they themselves are adopting these important pieces of guidelines and contributing towards prevention of such misconducts? Are they ready to take advice on their own legal compliances? Who is watching them as they violate these compliance guidelines and letting such incidents happen?”

It is extremely saddening when such cases happen at places least expected, but then lawyers too belong to this society and may have a patriarchal mindset as much as anybody else.

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