About 63 per cent of women parliamentarians in Australia say they have experienced sexual harassment during their career. This came according to a study published, on Tuesday, by the Human Rights Commission in Australia. In addition, one in three members of Parliament has experienced bullying, sexual intimidation, or attempted assault. More than 1,700 study participants were questioned, including (former) parliamentarians and parliamentarians.
One anonymous victim describes a culture that tolerates “kissing on the lips”, “patting on the bottom” and “lifting” by male colleagues. She also had to deal with other inappropriate physical contacts. Others report sexually explicit comments in the workplace and via email, text messages, or social media. Some respondents stated that they felt pressure to engage in sexual acts.
Read also: Complainer Australian Prime Minister Morrison fights sexism
The impetus for the investigation was the disclosure of Brittany Higgins, a former employee of former Secretary of Defense Linda Reynolds. Higgins said in February at the age of 24 that he was raped by a colleague in the minister’s office after a night out. When she reported this to Reynolds, she felt compelled to choose between joining the police force and her career in the ministry.
It turns out that Higgins’ sentiment is broader: Following her story, dozens of other (former) female civil servants have shared experiences of sexual assault or intimidation in Australian politics. It sparked nationwide protests against Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In March, about 10,000 Australians took to the streets to protest misogyny, sexism and harassment in the workplace. According to critics, Morrison reacted hesitantly and stuttered to stories of sexual misconduct.
The Prime Minister described the results of the recently published study as “appalling”. The researchers made recommendations for a change in culture: for example, alcohol consumption should be reduced and more consideration should be given to a more equal division of men and women in the workplace.
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