Incidents of sexual harassment at work increase

This is the result that emerged from the latest survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The Commission is preparing to accept the requests for a national inquiry, which will be conducted over the next 12 months, aimed at bringing out more evidence on the issue.

Sexual harassment at work in Australia would be on the rise. This is the alarm launched by the Australian Commissioner on Sexual Discrimination, Kate Jenkins.

The investigations conducted by the Human Rights Commission show an increase in incidents of sexual harassment, so much so that the Commissioner is working to open an investigation at the national level.

Sexual harassment at work has been a crime in Australia for 30 years, yet, Commissioner Jenkins says, the incidence of the problem is increasing.

But what are the causes of this increase? Are the laws in force sufficient? The Commissioner is working to gather material to help answer these questions and also to improve the effectiveness of state and regional agencies dealing with anti-discrimination assistance.

The Commissioner is determined to make sure that the recommendations that come out of this investigation are not in vain and that the situation is under control today and in the future: “We know that the data, which will be published in August, indicate that sexual harassment is We will do another survey for the next three years and compare them with today’s data.”

Jemma Ewin of Melbourne suffered violence from a colleague in 2009 but is still struggling to rebuild her life and her professional career in the financial sector. Here is how he accepted the news of the commission of inquiry: “I appreciate that they have opened an investigation, especially in light of the recent #MeToo movement and of the “moment” in which we find ourselves, where people are actually discussing these difficult topics. painful, ugly and disturbing for people and for work environments”.

For Jamma, denouncing sexual violence is a cathartic act, but also has a very high personal cost: “If nothing happens in the workplace, because this does not protect you, or if the perpetrator of violence is superior and is more respected compared to the person reporting, the situation could actually backfire, damage their career, such as their reputation, without considering the personal injury, precisely because in the presence of such a serious violation of the conduct at work there is no a behaviour that deals with it appropriately”.

According to Commissioner Jenkins, the victims of sexual violence at work, especially among the youngest, are particularly reluctant to report because of the additional cost this may have on their professional careers.

“Laws strongly prohibit sexual harassment, “Jenkins continues, “but then they ask the victims, who are often in junior positions, to file a complaint to enforce the laws, but over time, we have learned that it is very difficult to enforce them. because young people do not want to complain, risking losing their jobs, but this also allows sexual harassment to continue”.

Dr. Heather Nancarrow of ANROWS (Australia’s National Research Organization for Women’s Safety) told SBS microphones that victims must also overcome less obvious barriers, such as language or visa: “Sometimes the way they occur sexual harassment can be quite subtle, so much so that it can be difficult to tell. , language and visa are also potentially a problem. It could be very difficult for those whose residence and possibility of living here depend precisely on the job because it could be permanently compromised because of a sexual harassment complaint, perhaps by an employer, who takes advantage of the power he has over a person’s life”.

There are also cultural barriers that must be overcome to be able to denounce the violence in some circumstances, continues Dr Nancarrow: “This is likely for some women in some cultural groups, where there are problems related to the concept of” “perceived honour of the family, in which a person who has been abused or harassed, and somehow are led to keep it hidden. and again, at various levels, it is also true for all women in Australia, in fact, we often tend to blame the victims rather than the perpetrators”.

Gavin Altus is the founder of Sentrient. The company provides online courses for companies that want to guarantee their employees comply with safety standards to defend them from bullying and violence.

Gavin Altus suggested that we start again with the education and awareness of the employees of what the behaviors are admitted or not, especially as regards sexual harassment, says: “When suddenly there is more media attention, especially around sexual harassment, just as a result of an investigation, I imagine in a way not too dissimilar to what we saw 20 years ago with Occupational Health and Safety, companies they are concerned with educating people about sexual harassment. But what happens if sexual harassment is part of our workplace? What should we put in place? I think, therefore, that there will be greater awareness and interest in finding a solution to deal with sexual harassment in the correct way, rather than on broader topics of bullying, EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity), inclusion or belonging”.

According to Australia Financial Time, this is the first commission of inquiry into sexual violence at work in the world. The works will last 12 months, during which public consultations will be organized in large and small Australian centres. The financing to carry out this investigation amounts to 1.5 million dollars that has been made available by the Federal Government.

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