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How to Tackle Sexual Harassment

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 14 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Sex gender sexism sexist sex

Sexual harassment, or offensive conduct related to an individual’s sex/gender, can be insidious and take many forms. Inappropriate sexual attention, advances and requests for sexual favours can all be forms of sexual harassment, as can any conduct, whether verbal or physical, of a sexual nature. Often those who perpetrate this unacceptable behaviour try to excuse it by saying that it was just a joke or that it was meant sincerely, for instance as a compliment, however in reality such conduct can build into a hostile environment for those being harassed. There are laws that protect against sexual harassment in the United Kingdom, and there is much that organisations and individuals can do to fight sexual harassment as well.

Sexual Harassment and the Law

A number of laws outlaw sexual harassment in the United Kingdom. The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 protects individuals from being discriminated against in employment, vocational training, education, the provision and sale of goods, facilities and services, premises and the exercise of public functions due to their sex/gender. The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 also protect the rights of individuals who intend to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment.

In 2005, the Sex Discrimination Act was extended into the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations in order to comply with the European Community’s Equal Treatment Directive. These Regulations have attempted to define sexual harassment as any conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted by the recipient, including verbal, non-verbal and physical behaviours. These Regulations do not regard the intent of the actions, but rather simply that they actions themselves are unwanted. Discrimination against those who are pregnant and primary caregivers is also discussed in the Regulations.

Sexual Harassment and Organisations

In effect, the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations of 2005 have made it an organisation’s or employer’s business to know how his or her students/parishioners/employees are conducting themselves. In order to ensure that everyone knows that sexual discrimination and sexual harassment is not tolerated, organisations and employers should draft and distribute the organisation or company’s policy towards sexism and sexual harassment as well as guidelines for how the organisation or company will deal with and investigate reports of these matters.

Organisations and employers should also designate someone in the company to become up to date with all sexual discrimination and harassment laws and to make sure that the organisation’s or company’s policies all comply with these laws. Finally, organisations and employers should discuss these policies and laws with all individuals to ensure that everyone is aware of the organisation’s or company’s stance toward sexism and sexual harassment and that they understand that it will not be tolerated.

Sexual Harassment and Individuals

Even with laws and policies on the books there are still individuals who will believe that they don’t apply or that they are unenforceable and will feel free to act as they like, even if it is in a discriminatory or harassing manner. Thankfully there is much that each individual can do to keep their workplace free from sexual discrimination and harassment. Individuals can reconsider a stereotype, speak out against discrimination, cease to make sexist jokes and references, tell others that such jokes and references are unacceptable, and otherwise do all that (s)he can to learn from the talents of each individual, regardless of sex/gender. At the most basic level, fighting sexual discrimination and harassment simply means treating everyone with decency, respect and in a fair and just manner. There’s no reason that everyone can not do so.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
For years I have been suffering sexual harassment from my Boss but, never had the courage to do anything about it. As a single mother of 3 children I needed the job in order to provide for my children and I kept it going without report the harasser. He bullied ,stalked , patronised, touched,kissedand pressurised me, sentme emails suggesting trip dates. I feel disgusted of myself and lost my confidence All the time I think of everything I feel sick. Just now I realized how scared I was never to do anything , as a foreigner I don't really know what to do. He knew exactly what he was doing but he was telling me that he just had good intentions and hewanted to best for me and my children . I am nowmentally ill blaming myself for putting up with this unacceptable situation for such a long time. No one deserve to go through this humiliating situation.
Criss - 17-Jun-12 @ 1:28 AM
I have been repeatedly sexually harassed in many work places and treated so badly at one work place I left and have had mallicious gossip said about me by people that I dont even know. I had constant sexual harassment even when I walked out my door. The thing is that I was quite young at the time and was given no support about it. I lived in a low class muslim area and I know that had something to do with it although Im not part of that culture and I did try to explain to the police about that but yet no matter how I tried to make reports to the police about the men that would wait outside my house and try to break in NOTHING WAS DONE. My life was in ruins I lost so much confidence.
Se - 6-Apr-11 @ 5:44 AM
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